Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Home Gym Equipment for Gymnasts

It's a common debate in the "gymnastics world" whether or not parents should establish a home gym and allow their kids to practice their sport at home. One the one hand, having a floor beam and a single bar in the basement or rec room allows gymnasts extra practice time and serves as a fun activity to do at home. On the other hand, there are some safety issues involved when practicing without a coach and without proper landing mats. These are a few factors to take into consideration when deciding whether a home gym is a good idea for you or your kids. Another thing to think about is how often the gym equipment will actually be used, and whether the use will be worth the cost. This stuff can get pretty pricey, so for most people, the decision to buy home gym equipment is not one they make on a whim.

Other considerations:

  • Amount of available floor space, and type of flooring. Mats and roll-up beams can slide on wooden floors. If you don't have a lot of space but still want a beam at home, you can consider buying a 4", 6", or 8" beam rather than a 10" or 12" beam, but your gymnast might not be able to perform a full routine on a shorter balance beam.
  • Ceiling height. Often a gymnast on a floor beam will hit the ceiling just doing a simple jump. If you have an open area with higher ceilings that is carpeted, that will be the best place for your home gym. Medium height and high beams are available online, though I don't generally recommend those anyway because of safety, but floor beams will fit best in the average house.
  • Size of equipment and available storage. Most floor mats will fold up nicely to be stored in a closet, and you can do the same with roll-up beams. Solid beams, bars, or pommel trainers will be more difficult to find storage space for. You can do like I used to and hide the beam behind the couch when company comes, but sometimes there is no real great solution to this dilemma.
  • Can you make do without? A mat is a mat, but a line of tape on the floor can serve as a floor beam and do what it's meant to do with absolutely no cost. No harm in getting a little creative!
  • Is it too much of a good thing? Some parents think the gymnastics should stay in the gym; time at home is family time and it reminds the gymnast that their sport is not their whole life. I tend to agree with this to an extent. One piece of gym equipment is fun to play on at home, but gym life, school life, and home life sometimes need to be separated. I don't advise parents to try to coach their kids at home - although they love gymnastics, they are under a lot of pressure and stress at the gym, and home needs to be a sanctuary.
  • Supervision. Any gymnastics at home should be supervised at all times, and the gymnast shouldn't be doing anything they aren't absolutely confident in doing without a spot.

If you do decide to purchase some equipment for home, I would recommend both a mat and a floor beam. I am hesitant to recommend anything further for safety reasons. A lot of parents want to get their kids a single kip bar, but with a lack of safety equipment and with the bar not being bolted to the ground, anything above level 4 skills becomes pretty dangerous. The bar is not sturdy enough to hold very much weight, nor much swinging movement.

Here are some of the most reputable sites to get quality gym equipment for home.

American Gymnast

This site has your basic 1.5"-2" floor mats, kip bars, floor and low beams, pommel trainers, etc. They also have "hand, hand, foot, foot" cartwheel mats for the littles. This is a very reputable company. I haven't used any of their home products personally but I would assume this is as close as you could get to a beam that has the same width, texture, and squishiness as a regulation beam.

The Beam Store

The Beam Store has bars, floor beams, raised beams with metal legs, and mats. For the boys they do have some mini parallel bars or parallets. The thing I really love about this site is that it is SO safety-conscious. It has a lot of beam/mat combos, which is great. Their beams also have a wide and long foundation under them, making them a whole lot safer (granted, more expensive) than a stand-alone kip bar. I have an 8-inch beam from this site. It feels a little wider than a regulation beam just because the foam and the suede they cover it with is a little thicker, but it serves its purpose. Most of the beams come in assorted colors, as well, which can be cute.

Gym Supply

This site has more than just home gym equipment. They've got some institutional equipment, grips, gifts, apparel, etc., but they also have the basic beams, mats, and bars. They have some strength training equipment that could be used for anybody wanting to work out at home, not just gymnasts. They also carry all of the Nastia Liukin products! In her line, there is a pirouette bar which is great for home use as well as a 9" beginner beam (and it's pink!).


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