Safety Part Two: Safe Use of Gymnastics Equipment

Last month, we talked about safety – specifically, practicing gymnastics safely at home. This month, we’re going to zoom in a little bit and focus on just one of the areas we talked about in the previous post.

With the opening of our new online store, there’s going to be a lot more training gear floating around Springfield, MO. Gymnastics equipment can be dangerous if not used properly, but trying to fake it with makeshift equipment is even more dangerous. We cannot stress enough: A fence rail is NOT a balance beam. Your concrete basement floor may be roomy, but it’s not soft enough to practice on. And no matter how many classes big sister has been to, she isn’t qualified to spot little sister.

With that said, we’ll go over the three main pieces of gymnastics equipment available in our store: practice beams, floor mats, and tumbling trainers.

Practice Beam

We have two different low beams for practice. The first is the 9’ Folding Practice Beam. It’s two inches high, which makes it great for new and younger gymnasts who still have trouble staying on the beam.

The second, the 8-ft Pre-Elite Low Beam, stands a little taller at six inches, and it’s suede-covered to simulate an actual beam used in competition.

No matter which you choose, the safety precautions are basically the same.

  • The beam should always be placed on level ground. Uneven footing makes it more difficult to land stunts, which could result in injury. Besides, there’s never been an inclined beam competition, and we don’t see them starting any time soon.
  • Only use the beam on a soft floor. Falling from two inches is still falling, and concrete hurts. Make sure you have something soft to land on. If all you have is concrete, try getting a carpeted mat (below) and laying the beam out on top of it.
  • Check your clearance. Six inches of extra height doesn’t seem like much – that is, until you’re doing a walkover. Don’t forget that your little gymnast is going to be about two feet taller when she’s standing on her hands. For a five-foot kid, a six- or seven-foot ceiling just isn’t going to cut it. And don’t forget to watch out for ceiling fans!
  • No jumping. Jumping from a four-inch-wide surface and landing back on the same surface after performing a stunt is extremely difficult. The gym is equipped with high ceilings, soft floors, and trained personnel so that when Ginny the Gymnast falls while practicing that jump (and she will) she won’t get hurt.
  • No dismounts! We’re serious. There’s a world of difference between jumping off a beam and landing a double backflip, and doing the same thing from six inches up with an eight-foot ceiling. These are complicated stunts that should only be attempted with a trainer present.

Floor Mats

We offer a number of different floor mats, all of which are used in the same way. The only differences are the thickness and the surface material. The safety precautions are the same.

  • Watch the ceiling. Again, anything that involves jumping or handstands runs the risk of running into a low ceiling, which will totally mess up Ginny’s performance for grandma.
  • Don’t stack the mats. If two inches of padding is good, four inches must be better, right? Wrong. Except for the carpeted one, the mats are wrapped in vinyl, which tends to be slippery when it comes into contact with vinyl. Putting one on top of another can cause the mats to slide out from under your child. The exception to that is the carpeted mat. It’s specifically made so that vinyl mats won’t slip as easily.
  • Keep clear of walls. There should be plenty of clearance between the mat and the nearest wall. Gymnasts of all skill levels have a nasty habit of overshooting their landings, which can cause problems if there’s something solid between them and the new landing zone.
  • Don’t try anything new. We covered this last month, but it bears repeating. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever let your gymnast attempt a new stunt at home. Ever.

Tumbling Trainer

We offer one tumbling trainer, the Home Use 26” Smarter Spotter.

  • This does not replace a human spotter! Don’t let the name fool you. It’s actually just foam, which is not smarter than a real spotter. Ginny should still not try anything new. This is only intended for practicing what she’s already learned.
  • Pay attention to the height restrictions. This isn’t like giving your 2-year-old a toy that’s generally for 3+. It’s more like putting that same 2-year-old on a roller coaster where the safety restraints don’t come down far enough to hold him in. If your gymnast is too tall or too short, she could get hurt. Find a different trainer. We’d rather you buy it from someone else than risk injury.
  • Only use the trainer on level ground. It’s designed to roll with your gymnast. ‘Nuff said?

These pieces of equipment can help improve your gymnast’s technique and confidence if they’re used properly. If they’re used wrong, they could get your kid hurt. We want to see safe training all across Nixa. Gymnastics is incredibly fun and great exercise, but only if you do it safely.

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