Choosing your Handguards
Most high level gymnasts wear handgaurds. So gymnasts should get used to using guards early in their career because that is the most time efficient way to do it. While gymnasts may not need hand guards for doing simple skills like doing upstarts, they will most likely want guards for learning and practicing skills like forward and back giants and other circling skills on the bars. Gymnasts with small hands can actually catch release moves better with the dowel grips to help them clamp on and hold on better. Dowel guards are designed with a leather or rubber dowel positioned on the guards to help gymnasts have a better hold on the bar during circling skills and catching release moves. Many gymnasts have small hands, in relation to the size of the bar, and the dowel handguard helps them maintain their grip on the bar better. Guards are also useful for extending the amount of time you can work bars. If you want to be able to learn high level skills, you will have to be able to work bars for long periods of time. You will either have to learn to work through the pain of rips or wear guards in order to be able to spend enough time practicing on bars.
Almost all gymnasts get blisters and rips on their hands from doing bars. Gymnasts who wear guards only tend to get them around the edges of their hand guards and on their wrists from the straps. Gymnasts who don’t wear guards get blisters all over their hands directly on the parts of the hands that need to hold onto the bar.
As gymnasts get older and grow, they tend to switch to wearing guards because their hands rip more when they are taller and weigh more. It is easier to learn to wear guards when you are younger and at a lower level of bar difficulty skills than to switch later. If you think it is hard to get used to guards doing up starts, you will really have trouble later switching to guards and getting used to them doing skills like giant, pirouettes and release moves.
What Kind of Hand Guards are There?
There are three main types of women’s uneven bar guards. There are Beginner palm guards, Velcro closure guards and Buckle closure guards. Men have different kinds of guards for different events – high bar and rings.
Palm guards simply provide friction protection to help protect against rips. They do not have dowels, so they do not help with a grip. Once gymnasts are swinging skills at or approaching horizontal, dowel guards are useful for improving the ability to grip the bars. Dowel handgaurds come with either Velcro closures, Buckle straps or combi fastening (Velcro and Buckle).
Some guards come with built in foam wrist protectors. Guards have many variables which give gymnasts many choices, including thickness of leather, width of the palm leather, shape of the palm leather, softness of the leather, finger hole flaps, finger locking systems, colors, wrist padding options, etc. There are often too many choices for new gymnasts to know which to pick.
Do I Need Hand Guards?
If you are getting more and more blisters and it is getting to the point where it is interfering with your bar training, then that is one clear sign that it is time to consider getting handguards. If you are definitely going to start or continue a gymnastics competitive career and you don’t want to have to relearn a lot of skills with guards, then you should consider grips. And if you are starting to do circling skills like giants or even swinging at or above the level of the bar, dowel guards are a safety grip consideration.
Which Handguards Should Gymnasts Buy?
Many coaches and gymnasts are very particular about which guards they want. To some degree it is true that gymnasts can and will adapt to any handguards over a period of time. It is also true that when first wearing guards, it is a big adjustment for gymnasts to make changing from bare hands to grips. In general, it is too expensive and time consuming to try, break-in and test each type of guards, so gymnasts tend to use the guards their friends or coach recommend. There is nothing wrong with doing that.
Usually we recomend for the younger gymnasts to buy first pair of handgaurds which are easy to break in and narrow (Hot Shot style, Pixie, Bailie Narrow guards or Reisport Junior). These guards are very easy to get used to and they allow good hand to bar contact (due to being narrow).
More advanced gymnasts may want to use wider styles like: Millennium, Omega, RKO, Bailie and of course well known Reisport - Swiss Performance.
Velcro vs. Buckle Grips
While handguard manufactures now often use Velcro that is tested for up to 10,000 uses, Velcro can lose its ability to hook and stay hooked given the extreme pressures during high level circling and release skills. The chance that Velcro guards could come loose during a critical high difficulty skill leads some gymnasts to purchase and use buckle handguards. Because Velcro guards are so much easier to undo and readjust, like between turns in a gymnastics bar practice, far more gymnasts prefer Velcro grips. Older gymnasts, may like buckle and double buckle grips because they may be able to tighten down tighter and therefore slide up and down the wrist less. Now you can also Get the best of both words with added security of buckle and strap. A unique design only offered by Bailie combination of Buckle and Velcro fastening.
Advantages to All Squad Members Wearing the Same Guards
It is not uncommon for coaches to recommend that all their gymnasts wear some kind of guard or another. While coaches may have a definite opinion, gymnasts are the ones wearing the guards and every gymnast should be comfortable with the guards they are wearing. There are some advantages to almost everyone in a squad buying the same kind of guards or at least from the same company.There likely will be someone in the gym, or the gym may have one full set of Handguards in all of the sizes, so that gymnasts can try on the actual guards they are considering buying to get the all-important fit correct. Having the whole squad wear the same grips also makes it possible that if a gymnast forgets their guartds for an important competition, that one of the other gymnasts in their squad will have guards or back-up guards that fit that they can borrow.
Back-Up Hand Guards
Serious gymnasts, meaning gymnasts who compete in serious competitions, should have a set of back-up guards that are already broken in. Imagine that you are at the most important competition of your life and in warm-ups, your guards completely tear through. Without a set of back-up handguards that are broken in, you are left to compete without guards. While buying two sets of guards is obviously more expensive, if a gymnast’s hands are not growing, over time the two sets of guards will last almost as long as buying two sets one after another. It is equally important that if a gymnast does have a back-up set of handguards that they be broken in already when they are needed for emergency use. Especially if the guards are made from the thicker leather that is harder to break in, it will be almost as useless to have a back up set of guards that are not broken in as it would be to not have a back-up set at all.
Guard sizing is important because the wrong type of guards (ring guards being used on high bar) or the wrong size of grips can be a serous danger for the safety of gymnasts. The wrong guards or the wrong size of guards can lock on the bar so that the gymnast rotates but their wrists do not. This is not a common injury but it is a severe and painful injury, so careful care should be taken in the sizing of grips. Handgaurds that are too large can get in the way and make it more difficult to catch the bar.
It is very important to note and understand that each brand of grip has its own sizing system. There is no universal system for the sizing of grips. While all handguard companies have gymnasts (or coaches) measure the hand (the underside - palm up) in the same
way – the number of inches from the heel of the hand to the tip of the middle finger. The size of handguard (which range from 000 to a 4) will vary enough that you can’t just say “Oh, my daughter used to wear a 2.” Coaches are and should be the best ones to do the measuring of guards since over a number of years they will be the only ones who can gain enough experience to make the call if measurements don’t exactly match the sizing on the grip company charts. In general, if there is not an exact match, gymnast should order the smaller size since grips will stretch with use. Even after measuring a gymnast’s hand to size grips, such a flat one-dimensional measurement cannot guarantee the right size, so gymnasts will need to check when their grips arrive to see if the grips are truly right for them.
Gymnastic Planet will allow you to return guards that don’t fit if they are in resaleable condition. Basically that means you can try them on, but not use or chalk them and wash your hands before you try them on so you don’t get them dirty. Gymnastic Planet don’t take liability responsibility for incorrectly sized grips. Gymnasts and
coaches must always check hadnguards after they are received and before they are used on bars.
Breaking In Your Hand Guards
All guards are going to require some break-in time before you can go all out and do all of your skills using them. Most gymnasts break in grips just by swinging. If gymnasts can do basic gymnastics warm-ups and bar moves wearing new guards. The purpose of breaking in guards is to both form them to the individual’s hand and form them to the bars. Guards start out with a straight flat piece of leather and should end up after the break in period to be curved to exactly fit the gymnast’s hand and the type of bar they train on. If you are breaking in a back-up set of guards, wear them doing basic bar warm-ups and then switch to do the harder skills in your bar practice. Do this until the guards are broken in and then you can store them until you need them. Don’t do any skills during which you feel out of control because of the guards. Take your time and be smart so as to avoid injury when breaking in your handgaurds. You can also help grips to be broken in by storing them correctly. They can be wrapped around a short dowel the same thickness as a bar overnights. Put them in the same position around the bar that they would be if you are wearing them and rubber band them into place. We always had those bar size sections cut up in the gym. You can do the same break-in process (wrapping them up with a rubber band in the correct hand position) without the bar. The correct finger hole size is also part of the fit and breaking in process. The finger holes may be either too big or too small. If the finger holes are too big, you can use a combination of foam or tape to make them smaller and or use a rubber band to help hold
them in place.
If the grip finger holes are too small, first of all, remember that the finger holes will stretch with use just like the grips will stretch. You don’t want to make finger holes that
were too small to big and have the reverse problem. The finger holes can be sanded with rolled-up sandpaper or filed with a small round file. Do not cut the grip holes or pull on the holes to stretch them as this can lead to tearing later. You should initially just makev your grip holes just big enough so your fingers don’t turn blue, but leave them tight so they can stretch to the right size.
Care after your Handguards
If you put water on your grips, you will want to check them daily before you use them for rips or tears, problems with the stitching and to make sure they have not stretched and become too long. If you see problems, take the safe route and start wearing your back-up grips or at least order new grips immediately. Many gymnasts will want to brush chalk off their guards from time to time using a guard brush. Brush across the guard, not up and down. This is a good care of the
grips but don’t brush the stitching of the guards. You will want to store your grips in a clean, dry grip bag to keep from getting chalk on everything else in your gym bag or locker
Accessories that you may need with your handguards:
Magnesium Carbonate chalk
Working Hands Cream (Handcare Cream)
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