What are Grips?
Grips are leather devices worn on the hands of gymnasts while they perform on the bars. They are basically a piece of leather material that covers the palm of the hand. The grips are attached at the wrist and secured on the fingers with holes. Female gymnasts use them on the Uneven Bars. Male gymnasts use grips on High Bar and Still Rings. Grips are used to help the gymnast grip the bar and to prevent blisters or “rips” to the gymnast’s hands. Rips are friction injuries where the outer layers of skin rip or tear away from the hand.
Beginner gymnasts don’t always wear grips, but many start wearing them when they start to get rips and blisters. Most competitive gymnasts wear grips.
There are two kinds of grips for women: dowel grips and non-dowel grips. Dowel grips are used by competitive gymnasts doing high level circling elements like giants. The dowel is a rod near the gymnast’s fingers that helps her get a better grip on the bar. Beginner gymnasts don’t need this and so they use a non-dowel simpler grip.
Men have different grips for rings, high bar and parallel bars. This article is about women’s grips.
As a gymnast starts her career she will likely want beginner grips. Once she becomes a mid-level gymnast she might want a thinner leather grip that is easy to break in, so that she can still have a good feel for the bar. As she becomes a high-level gymnast she will most likely want a thicker leather grip that takes longer to break in, but that will be able to hold up during advanced skills.
Do I Need Grips?
Deciding whether or not you should start using grips is a decision that is usually made with your coach. Most coaches want their gymnasts using grips by the time they are starting to learn circling elements like clear-hip circles and giants.
If you’re a beginner gymnast, and your hands hurt while you are practicing bars there is no reason not to try them as long as your coach doesn’t object.
Things to Consider when Buying Grips
So you’ve decided to buy grips. You need to consider whether you are going to get dowel or non-dowel grips first. And then you need to consider the shape of the grip, whether you will get buckle grips or Velcro grips and what brand you will buy.
Dowel vs. Non-Dowel Beginner Grips
The first thing you need to consider when you decide to buy grips is whether you want a basic non-dowel beginner grip or a dowel grip. If you are a beginner gymnast learning basic bar skills then you want a non-dowel beginner grip. They all come in basically the same shape with two holes for your fingers. Here are Nastia Liukin Beginner Grips and another basic beginner grip.
Dowel grips come in different shapes — skinny, straight and curved.
- Skinny Grips: Skinny grips are good for being able to better feel the bar. Here is Nastia’s Big Swinger grip, which is an example of a skinny grip.
- Straight Grip: The straight dowel grip is a Russian design. It’s good because it covers more of the hand. Here is Nastia’s Russian Heritage grip, which is the straight dowel grip design.
- Curved Grip: The curved dowel grip is a nice combination of the two. It covers more of the hand than the skinny grip, while allowing you better feel for the bar than the straight grip. Here is an example of a curved grip. Most gymnasts use curved grips.
Some dowel grips come with a rubber band attached. The rubber band can be used to help hold the grip more securely to your finger. If you don’t like it on the grip you can always cut it off.
Bailie Beginner Dowel Grips
If this is your first time getting a pair of dowel grips, and you are a gymnast with small hands, you might want to consider the Bailie Beginner Dowel Grip (the first link is hook and loop, here they are in buckle). They are a great first pair of dowel grips because they are narrower and smaller than a standard grip. The leather is easier to break in, and they let the gymnast keep more of their hand on the bar so they can feel their swing.
Reisport Protec Grips
Reisport Protec grips are a little different than normal grips. They are recommended for Level 9, 10 or Elite girls who are frequently breaking or over stretching their grips. They are different from normal grips in that they have stronger leather that stretches less.
Buckle vs. Hook & Loop
Grips are secured around the wrist with either a buckle or hook and loop. The issue of buckle versus hook & loop grips can be a personal preference. Buckle grips can offer more wrist support and will give you piece of mind that they won’t come undone. Many high-level gymnasts prefer buckle grips because of this; they don’t want to risk hook & loop grips coming undone during a high level skill. However, hook & loop grips tend to be more popular among beginner to mid-level gymnasts. Hook & loop grips are easier to tighten and can be adjusted exactly to your wrist.
While there are many grip brands, I will give you the benefits of the most popular.
- Nastia Grips: Nastia Liukin has created a great line of grips. She has a nice beginner grip, a curved dowel grip and a Russian heritage straight grip.
- Reisport Grips: Reisport grips are internationally well-known and very respected. They are known for their red Velcro strap.
- Bailie Grips: Bailie grips have been around a long time and are often thought of as long-lasting, heavier leather. They may take longer to break in than other thinner leather grips.
What Size Gymnastics Grips Do I Need?
Gymnastics grips generally come in sizes 0-3. Each company will have a different sizing chart. Generally to determine what size grip you will need, measure from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the palm. Look this measurement up on the sizing chart. The finger holes will come relatively small and then you will need to widen them to achieve your perfect, snug fit. To widen them, use sandpaper wrapped around a pencil. Make sure to not make the finger holes too big because the leather will stretch over time.
Where Can You Buy Gymnastics Grips Online?
How Do I Care for My Grips?
When you first get your grips, make sure you break them in slowly. Break them in by doing simple skills, or swinging on the bars. The purpose of breaking your grips in is to get the leather molded to your hand and the bar. You should also always have a back up pair of broken in grips during competitions, in case one pair breaks.
Take care of your gymnastics grips by storing them in a grip bag. Also try not to cake too much chalk and water on the grips; this can make them wear out faster. Use a grip brush on the surface of the leather if it gets too smooth. If your grips get too smooth, it could cause you to slip on the bar.
The grip brush will break up some of the caked on chalk and roughen up the leather.
How do I care for My Hands?
Even with grips, your hands still need some attention especially if you do bars several times a week. The key to rip prevention is to keep excess callous from building up by using a pumice stone, and to keep your hands moisturized. Once you have ripped, you need to protect the damaged area from the elements so that it has time to heal. The Ript 3 Phase Hand Care Kit has what you need to protect your hands.
Also check out my Guide to Rip Prevention and Care.
What Else Do I Need?
- Cloth: Cloth wristbands are nice because they come in a bunch of sizes and colors and can be washed when they get too chalky, sweaty and gross. However, they aren’t as durable and they don’t last as long as neoprene wristbands.
- Neoprene: Neoprene wristbands last longer than cloth wristbands, but they can start to smell from sweat and chalk.
- 2.5 inches: If you bought a beginner grip then these small wristbands will be fine.
- 4-6 inches: If you bought a dowel grip you will need longer wristbands so that the grip doesn’t chafe your arm.
Other Items for your Grip Bag:
- Pre-Wrap: You will need pre-wrap and tape if you get rips. You will wrap your hand first with pre-wrap so the open wound is protected, before putting the athletic tape on top.
- Tape: Athletic tape is needed for wrapping rips, but can also be used to make adjustments to your grip finger holes or straps.
- Grip Brush: A grip brush is used to prevent the grips from getting too slick over time from being caked with chalk. Use the grip brush to make the grip surface rough again.
- Grip Bag: You will need a grip bag to hold your grips, wrist bands and grip brush.
Are you still confused about which grips to get? Take this Quiz to Find Out the Best Grips for You or watch the video above!