What is a Grip?A grip is worn on each hand when a gymnast performs on the uneven bars, rings or high bar. It has a strip of leather that covers the palm of a gymnast's hand, secured by a Velcro or buckle wrist strap at the bottom and by the gymnast's fingers at the top. Most competitive gymnasts wear grips with a wooden dowel to help them grip the bar or rings more easily.
Who Wears Grips?Almost every top-level artistic gymnast wears grips. Most novice gymnasts progress from using their bare hands, to beginner grips without dowels, to dowel grips, as they advance in skill level.
It varies from gymnast to gymnast, however. Some coaches prefer for their gymnasts to wear grips from a young age to get the feel of them, while others wait until their gymnasts are performing difficult skills. A few gymnasts would rather not wear grips at all, and perform very successfully without them.
How Do I Know If I Need Grips?If and when you should wear grips is a decision that you and your coach have to make together. If you have reached the point where you are performing a lot of swinging elements, such as clear hip circles or giants, grips can help you stay securely on the bar and perform these skills with more confidence. Though they don't prevent rips, grips can also help protect your hands so you get fewer rips.
Which Grips Should I Buy?Many coaches are very specific on the brands of grips they like their gymnasts to use. For this reason, you should talk to your coach about what brand to purchase. Gymnasts are also picky about which grips they like to buy: some like softer grips that are easier to break in, while others like heavier grips. It's important to find the brand and type that feels most comfortable to you.
Oftentimes, once you have both decided you are ready for grips, your coach will order them for you through the gymnastics club -- another great reason to talk to your coach before purchasing a pair!
There are many well-respected brands of grips. Some of the most popular are:
Ten. 0 Grips: Well-known for their durability, Ten. 0 grips are sometimes a little harder to "break in." They last and last though, and many gymnasts are very loyal to this brand.
Bailie Grips: Similar in many ways to Ten. 0 grips, these are often characterized as long-lasting and heavier.
Reisport Grips: These grips are in the middle -- they are usually softer and easier to break in, but don't last as long.
U.S. Glove Grips: These grips are generally the lightest and easiest to break in.
Grip SizingIt's very important that you are accurately sized for the grips you purchase. When you choose the brand you wish to buy, pay close attention to their sizing instructions. Though it is a rare occurrence, there is a risk of severe injury to your wrists and forearms if your grips are too long, or if you wear the wrong type of grip (e.g. an uneven bar grip on the high bar). This is most common in men's high bar, when a grip can become "locked" on the bar and the gymnast's momentum continues while the grip is stuck, causing injury.
What Else Do I Need?Be sure to pick up a pair of wrist bands to wear under your grips to prevent chafing on your wrists. Like grips, this is a matter of personal preference. Some gymnasts like to wear thick cotton ones, others simply cut the tops off of old tube socks, while still others invest in neoprene wrist bands which offer the most protection from cuts on the wrists.
Breaking In Your GripsAs noted above, some grips are easier to break in than others. Almost all grips, however, require some break-in time. Because of this, it's a good idea to have two pairs of grips on hand in case one pair breaks during competition or at another bad time.
Most gymnasts break in their grips by performing simple skills until their grips feel ready for the more difficult ones. You should be very careful during this time to not try complicated skills before your grips feel good. If your grips are very stiff you can also try rolling the leather part around the dowel. This will mimic the shape of the bar or ring and can help you break them in more quickly.
The finger holes can be expanded with rolled-up sand paper if they feel too tight. Avoid pulling or cutting the holes – this can damage the grips very quickly.