TEN-O Gymnastics

Recreational Rings for Boys Gymnastics

aiden-joOne of the most frequent inquiries we get at Ten-o is, “What first piece of equipment should I buy for my boy’s rec program.” That’s an excellent question! We’re glad you asked!

Many gymnastics gyms and clubs, out there in the community, have a really popular, very strong girl’s gymnastics program. It’s unfortunate that boy’s gymnastics is not as popular, but, alas, them’s the facts.

Understandably, gym owners who aren’t specifically focused on boy’s gymnastics, especially competitive boy’s gymnastics, are reluctant to invest a lot of money into equipment that’s not going to be as frequently used or will not be a part of their competition gymnastics offerings.

Yet, gym owners still have parents asking to bring their boys in to do recreation gymnastics, particularly, if they’ve already got a girl in their gymnastics programming.

Also, Ninja Programs and Parties have become a big hit for both boys and girls and a strong selling point for gym owners, so rings make for a great addition to those programs.

Recreational gymnastics for boys and girls offers a great way for kids to burn off some of that extra energy before settling in to dinner, homework, bath then bed. Kids learn to face and conquer their fears, wait their turn in line and participate with team and program mates. In short, gymnastics at both the rec and competition levels gets kids moving, building both strength of body and character.

Our recommendation for a gymnastics club or gym with a rec program, a ninja program or a gymnastics club that wants to explore expanding their offerings into boy’s competitive gymnastics is to start off with a set of rings.

As astounding as they look at the competition level, rings are the easiest piece of equipment for boys to pick up and play around with. Boys gymnastics events such as pommel horse, high bar and parallel bars all involve more advanced skills and strength than rings do, at the beginner level.

Another advantage to rings for ninja and boys recreational programs is that rings can be easily adjusted to accommodate smaller boys with less strength. Add in a rope and pulley system and they can be quickly stored up, up and away — saving you valuable space in your gym. Plus, responsible gym owners, schools and recreational sports programs can ensure they are safely Out of The Way when additional supervisory staff isn’t available. Everybody wins!

A value-conscious, first investment would include a set of ceiling mounted rings. Ceiling mounted rings are, typically, hung from a steel I-beam by a clamp. Our adjustable I beam clamps accommodate widths between 4 and 9 inches.

Ok. How high? How wide?

Well, to get some perspective, let’s talk competition ring specs for comparison. Competition ring specs demand the rings be 50cm wide (about 19 3/4 in.) and are 110 inches above the floor. This is entirely too wide and too high for beginners or boys not looking to invest the time and commitment it takes to develop the skills and musculature of a competitive male gymnast. The wider apart the rings are placed, the more strength it takes to support one’s self. (Those Iron Crosses are no joke!) Further, keeping your gymnastics rings closer to the floor means coaches don’t have to lift as high to set the gymnast into them and they come off as less imposing to the younger kids.

Most gyms are in warehouse type buildings and therein have a ceiling that’s about 25 feet high. At GMR, we can customize your cables to accommodate your gym and your gymnast’s needs. Want them 7 feet above the ground? 8? We got you. FIG spec competitive rings height is 9 feet 2 inches. We do that, too!

Want to mix it up? Our self-hoist solution lets you adjust the height of the rings to the skill level of the gymnast: low for beginners and the little ones, mid-height for intermediate gymnasts or competition height for the more advanced.

Conversely, we sell a set of rings  and adjustable straps that don’t involve cables at all! They include straps, rings and a delta quick link! These are great for home conditioning and rec programs. Our adjustable strap rings can be hung from a joist in your home basement! Naturally, you’ll always want some matting underneath and supervision for the young ones!

Other considerations for determining the height at which to set your rings is where you’re going to hang them and what type of matting you’re going to need underneath. Over a spring floor makes for a good choice. If you go that route, you’ll still want at least a 4 and 3/4 in. landing mat or an 8 to 12 inch skill cushion. Where to hang and the thickness of the matting you’ll want underneath are important factors to your decision of how high to hang ‘em. It just so happens we know how to figure that out!

Of course, the longer the cable, the more swing they pick up. For recreational gymnastics, this isn’t a big concern, but if you’re looking to explore boys’ competition gymnastics you’ll want to think about getting a swivel spring rings and/or a ring frame— more on those later.

Our easy stow, starter solution for recreational gyms, clubs is a self-hoist mechanism. We can help you with that or you can go to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot and purchase a 1/4 inch rope and pulley system with a snap bolt to raise and secure it out of the way.

Naturally, you’ll need a counter weight to get them back down, as the rings are so light. We sell sandbags for this purpose, but a barbell weight or a spotting belt will do the trick! Every gym has a spotting belt, the downside being that if it’s hanging from the ceiling, you can’t use it to spot…

The next level rings, if you will, is our set of swivel spring rings. More advanced skills entail greater forces at the bottom of the swing. The greater the force, the bigger the jolt to the athlete’s body: to help offset this force, we recommend a set of rings that not only swivel, but also include a spring for added shock absorption.

Another built-in element to reduce the jolt incurred at the bottom of a strong swing comes in our competition ring frame. Our ring tower is a standalone piece of equipment constructed such that the uprights and the top flex — adding to the shock absorption of the swivel spring rings. The ring tower makes for a great solution for gym’s whose ceilings are simply too high to mount them there. Our ring tower meets FIG specifications for competition, so you’re already in the game!

But, what about the rings themselves? At GMR, we offer wood and polycarbonate constructed rings. What’s the difference? Polycarbonate is cheaper, very strong, but are generally not the type of rings used in gymnastics competitions. We carry polycarbonate rings in both junior and FIG competition sizes. They’re excellent for a recreational department or gymnastics gym that’s not looking to compete.

Our wood rings meet FIG competition specifications and are extremely strong, as a result of our 30-ply construction technique! Starting out with wood rings, will enable your gymnasts to begin meet ready, as they will already be fully familiar with the feel of the rings they’d use in competitions.

From simply laughing and swinging with their friends, to turning upside down or “Skin the Cat” all the way up to the iconic Iron Cross, By GMR is happy to help you and your gymnasts swing as hard and as high as you like!

A brief history of the gymnastics pommel horse

vintage-pommel-handlesMen’s artistic gymnastics pommel horse began as a practice proxy for the actual, living animal: equus caballus. The history of the pommel horse goes as far back as Alexander The Great and his Macedonian soldiers who used an early pommel horse to practice mounting the beasts they would ride into battle somewhere around 315 BC.

The early pommel horse did not have the handles we see today in men’s gymnastics competition. Nor, did it offer the comfort of padding and leather. Instead, it was a simple wooden structure modeled after the animal’s back where the rider would sit. The Roman army, also, used the ancient predecessor to today’s sports pommel horse for practice mounting and dismounting living horses employed in military maneuvers.

Gymnastics as a whole has a long history of influence on the military and vice versa, as the sport became a way for soldiers to develop the physical conditioning and dexterity for hand-to-hand combat.

In history, and in the military, the pommel horse resurfaces in the efforts of the knights of the 17th century who took to the form to improve theirs, as they practiced for and engaged in horse ridden battles and sporting events: pommel horse equestrianism gains a strong foothold in both up until the late 18th century.

Enter: Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, a German and a former member of the Prussian military. Jahn is widely regarded as the father of modern gymnastics. Though gymnastics itself enjoyed a much earlier beginning in the Greek Olympic games, it was, at one point outlawed in those ancient times, and therein abandoned by much of the world until revived by Jahn in the 19th century.

Prussian defeat by Napoleon had left Jahn’s native country in poor spirits. His surviving writings reveal that he thought a return toward physical vigor and mental prowess through the practice of gymnastics would set his countrymen on the higher path. He is said to have opened the first gymnastics club, The Turnplatz, which was an open air gymnasium dedicated to the sport.

From Jahn’s time onward until 1936, the pommel horse took many forms which more and less mimic the uneven planes and curves of the actual four-legged animal to the symmetrical planes that more closely resemble the gymnastics pommel horse we see today.

An asymmetrical, more horse like shape was found to be more difficult for male gymnasts to engage in wandering type movements becoming more popular in the sport of gymnastics, though they did still attempt them on the sloping shaped pommel horses.

According to gymmedia.com, “A 1926 model of the pommel horse had a more sleek look to the torso and the lower part slightly curves upwards. This type of horse was still used at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It was only 71 inches (180cm) long. Gymnasts already competed swinging elements on the neck as well as the rump.”

It wasn’t until the Americans introduced their fully symmetrical version in 1948, that we see today’s form take shape and solidify as the gymnastics standard. The 63 inch (160cm) fully symmetrical pommel horse was certified by the International Gymnastics Federation in 1956.

“But, what about the pommel’s,” you ask? Their appearance depended on the intended use and user of the horse, itself. If the horse was employed for military practice or equestrian acrobatics, the pommels offered little benefit.

When intended for gymnastics, the raised handles or pommels, offered the gymnast more opportunities for support and variation of movements, transitions and combinations.

Gymmedia offers details, “But once gymnasts began swinging in the support position – first with one leg, and in the middle of the 19th century the two-legged swing became popular- this influenced the form of the pommels. Swiss gymnastics was particularly progressive during this period and in the 1880s the pommel horse spread into German gym clubs as well.”

“The standard pommel was hollow, mostly made from iron in the beginning, but in later years wood was also used. Some of the pommels were covered in leather. The pommels of the horse used at the 1936 Olympics were noticeably flatter in comparison to the earlier ones.”

As with most pieces of equipment, artists and their technique had a significant influence on its development. Pommel horse gymnastics greats like Grant Schaginjan and “Yu Lifeng of China with his circles on one pommel at the 1962 world championships in Prague or pommel horse specialist Russel Mills, who showed circles in cross support on one pommel in 1964. Then, of course, Miroslav Cerar, Zoltan Magyar… The call for pommels that allowed for a fleeting double hold/grip at an equal height of the pommels became louder and louder. In 1974 the pommels were lengthened from 11 to 12 inches (280 to 310mm).”

Today, we manufacture our pommel horse to FIG standards of: http://www.ten-o.com/Gymnastics-Pommel-Horse.html. The pommel handles you see pictured here are from, we estimate, the 1920’s or ’30’s. They’re made of a good,  strong, solid steel and are upholstered in leather and mounted on a brass base. GMR’s president, Mike Raines says, “I got these from a YMCA somewhere back in the ’80’s. I used to see antique parallel bars, horses and high bars all the time when I’d go to different schools, clubs or Y’s to do installations.The gym owners thought they were junk and would just stash them away in a closet or basement.  I always thought they were pretty neat! At the time, I didn’t have a place to store them or I’d have taken them in. Now, it turns out they’re pretty valuable and go for a tidy little sum on the Internet. I imagine bars or restaurants buy them for decor. I saw one in the window in Disneyland once!”  

Beginning Palm Guards for Little Hands

g902_r_1549f30cJust as gymnastics is best learned in progressions, gymnasts should adjust to wearing grips in progressive succession, also.

We suggest young gymnasts, unaccustomed to executing their skills wearing something on their hands, begin with a palm guard before advancing to the, well, more advanced dowel style grip.

Gymnasts will definitely benefit from having a barrier between their hand and the bars or rings. While no grip fully protects against what is known in gymnastics world as a “rip” — a tear in the skin of the  palm due to heat and friction from the forces exerted in performing bar skills — palm guards and dowel grips do a lot to reduce wear and tear on an athlete’s hands from uneven bars, parallel bars and rings work.

To start out, we recommend our lightweight leather in our Lightweight 1st Palm Guard, our Pink Pixie and our Gecko Palm Guard styles. These beginner gymnastic grips use an easy on-off velcro hook and loop closure and are made with our softest leather we like to call our “baby suede”. Super easy to break in and wear, your beginning gymnast should begin wearing these one to two days a week in their workout.

The lightweight leather comes in three styles and several colors for both male and female gymnasts, all with the two finger holes design. Their small size and two finger hole design are perfect for little hands!

Female gymnasts usually continue to use two finger hole designs through out their progressions as gymnasts and wearers of grips. Male gymnasts will likely want to transition to a three finger hole style on high bar, as their hands grow larger.

As with all grips and guards, you’ll want to customize the finger holes, very carefully, to fit your little one’s fingers. We strongly suggest you use sand paper to do this. Attempting to cut them will tear the holes making them unwearable, unsafe and violates our and your manufacturer’s warranty excluding them from our return policy.

Gently sliding a piece of rolled sandpaper through the hole will do the trick. It just takes a bit of time and a little patience with frequent sizing checks. It’s worth it, though, as once they’re too big, they can’t be made smaller.

Though they may be little and only a beginner, your gymnast will begin to feel like the bigger gymnasts once they get their very own first pair of palm guards!

Sizing Your Gymnastics Palm Guards


Your beginning gymnast is ready to strap on a palm guard and tackle bars, rings and the horizontal bar! They’re ready to make the transition from bare hands to a gymnastics grip that puts a barrier in between the equipment and the skin of their palm; thus helping to protect them from the infamous gymnastics “Rip”!

A gymnastics “Rip” is a blister and/or subsequent tearing of the skin of the palm that results from the forces present when a gymnastics swings their body weight from bars and rings. While they’re widely regarded as fact of life and a rite of passage in the life of a gymnast, they’re still not fun.

Wearing gymnastics grips or gymnastics palm guards can help reduce the wear and, literal, tear of the skin by serving as a barrier between their hands and the equipment.

Just as gymnasts don’t come in standard sizes, grips and guards don’t either. To ensure the safety and effectiveness of your gymnast’s palm guards, you’re going to want to measure your athlete’s hands to do your best to get them into the proper sized grip.

We say, “do your best” because, unfortunately, there isn’t an exact science to sizing a gymnastics palm guard grip. It’s more of an art that isn’t fully finished until the grip gets to you and your individual gymnast tries it on in the place and manner they will wear it.

There are several places on the wrist to wear a grip and each gymnast has their own preference. Additionally, there are dimensions to the topology of the hand that can’t be taken into account in a 2D measurement.

When we first started making and selling grips and guards, we had our customers trace their hand and fax or mail that tracing into us for sizing. Old school, right?!

However, after close to 40 years in the business, we’ve fit a lot of grips and guards on a great many hands, and over the years. we saw patters emerge that led us to develop our Ten-o grips specific size charts that come as close as you can get to trying them on… until you can try them on.

The development of our size charts helped to speed up the process and ensure your gymnastics grips get there by your next meet! We still do accept and welcome hand tracings, though, if you’d like to add that little extra pinch of measurement into the mix.

To use one of our gymnastics palm guards size charts, simply measure the hand of the gymnast from the bottom of the palm while it’s fully stretched out to the base of their middle finger and compare the number of inches to the corresponding sizes in the chart below for the palm guards that interest you. Simple as that!

You’ll also want to customize the palm guards finger holes to fit your male or female gymnast’s little fingers. The Pixie, Gecko, Lightweight 1st Grips and 2nd Palm Guard Grips are made with our softest “baby suede” leather that is super easy to break in and fairly fast when it comes to customizing the finger hole sizes. Simply stretch the grips over and down on the fingers by gently pulling them. The finger holes will widen just enough to ensure your gymnast’s palm guards fit like kid gloves!

Next in line! 2nd Grips Palm Guards

2nd-grip-palm-guard   Your beginner gymnast went from bare hands to our lightweight leather series of palm guards, now it’s time to progress from the low beam to the mid-height beam of grips: our 501 Blues 2nd Grip Palm Guard.

Gymnast’s hands take a beating doing bars and rings. Forces exerted in swinging and executing difficult skills build up friction and heat that can tear the skin of the palm. Rips are a right of passage, and virtually unavoidable for any serious gymnast, but a good pair of palm guards can lighten the load. They’re also the second step in the progression to the more advanced style dowel grips.

Our 2nd Grip palm guard gets your athlete used to wearing leather between their hand and the bar allowing them to progress toward more difficult skills that exert more force on the hands.

Beginning team gymnasts will love this grip!

Our 501 Blues 2nd Grip Palm Guard offers an easy on, easy off hook and loop closure secured with velcro just like the bigger kid’s grips. Plus, it gives them something to fiddle with while waiting their turn in line. Lol.

Both boys and girls wear the two finger holes design this grip offers. Likely, female gymnasts will wear a two-finger grip throughout their tenure on the bars. Male gymnasts may choose to switch to a three-finger grip as their hands grow larger.

As with all grips, you’ll want to customize the size of the holes to fit your athlete’s finger. The softer leather of our 2nd Grip Palm Guard doesn’t require the roll of sandpaper to safely enlarge the fingers holes that you would use with our thicker leather dowel grips. Gently pulling these grips down over the fingers will give you the stretch you need for a comfortable fit.

Get a Grip! Grips and Palm Guards!

501-bluesGymnasts, both male and female, train and compete on equipment involving rails such as parallel bars, rings and uneven bars.

As the gymnast’s body travels ‘round the rail, pressure, heat and friction occur that can get pretty rough on the gymnast’s hands producing what is known as the Gymnastics Rip.

Rips happen at the base of the thumb and the little finger and on the palm just below the fingers. They are a result of heat and/or friction damage to the skin that has resulted in a tear or a blister that eventually tears. Commonly called ‘water blisters’ they actually contain the body’s lymph fluid.

Rips’ ‘water blisters’ form when the upper layers of the skin separate through heat and friction. They serve to cool or protect the tissue below from greater damage. Rips happen to all gymnasts, eventually. They are an endemic part of the callous process that comes with the territory of swinging one’s body weight via the hands. Though rips are widely viewed in the gymnastics community as a rite of passage, then par for the course; they’re still tears in the skin and it’s not at all fun.

To reduce ripping and mitigate the effects of gymnastics’ physics, gymnasts will often wear layers of protection between their hands and the rail to offset heat and friction, as well as reduce the pressure on their wrist joints that results from the fact that their wrists support their entire body weight as they swing around the bar/s or rings. The more gymnasts avoid rips, the longer and more productive their bar workouts become. Gymnastics hand and wrist protection can come in the form of palm guards and grips.

However, protecting a gymnast’s hands and wrists is not the only function of the gymnastics grip. Advanced, usually older, gymnasts wear a specific type of grip called a ‘Dowel Grip’.

The gymnastics dowel grip gets its name from the small piece of rubber tubing, or dowel rod, that sits at the top just under the finger holes. The dowel acts as a mechanical detent that helps the gymnast hold onto the rail and reduces the pressure and friction their fingers, hands and wrists encounter or need to maintain their hold or, well, grip on the bar.

The different types of gymnastics equipment: uneven bars, rings, high bar and parallel bars require their own specifically designated dowel grips that are made to work with the skills performed and the dimensions of the rails native to that piece of equipment.

The men’s high bar, for instance, uses a smaller diameter rail than the women’s uneven bars. Also, men tend to hang from the dowel on the high bar and not close their hand all the way around it; while they do close their hand around the rails used for the rings. Additionally, male and female gymnasts wear dowel grips that are designed to fit their, typically, larger or smaller hands. It is for these reasons that gymnastics dowel grips are not interchangeable and should be matched grip to equipment.

The gymnastics palm guard does exactly what you might guess by its name. It protects the palm. Palm guards are typically used by beginning or non-competitive gymnasts who want some protection in recreational gymnastics classes.

Another difference between the palm guard and the gymnastics dowel grip is that they are worn at different places on the hand. The palm guard fits down at the base of the fingers with the majority of the leather covering the palm. Dowel grips are worn closer to the tips of the fingers, at the first knuckle. They can come with two or three finger holes.

Women generally wear the two finger grips. Men use three finger grips for the high bar — the three finger grips offering more palm coverage to a larger hand. Men will always wear two finger grips on the rings.

Putting the Spin on Your Spinlocks


Twisting…. and turning… turning and twisting… No, we don’t mean your gymnasts. We’re talking about the tightening knobs on just about every piece of gymnastics equipment in your gym or gymnastics club: the parallel bars, some ring frames, your balance beam, high bar, vault table and your uneven bars all adjust using a spinlock.

The spinlock or spin lock, we’ve seen it spelled both ways, spins almost as much as your athletes do and on a daily basis! Just like with your gymnasts, coaches need to take care to ensure that your spinlocks don’t wear out!

So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of tightening your spinlocks (sorry, we had to!) and lengthening the life of your equipment.

Lock and Load!

The gymnastics spin lock consists of a handle, a hex bolt and a nut. They’re made of steel. Too much cranking, technically speaking ” torque”, of steel on steel can strip the threads on your bolt. Stripping the threads on your spin lock’s bolt means a shorter lifespan and quicker, more frequent replacement costs.

Most gymnastics spinlock bolts are the same, standard size, except Spieth. We sell Spieth, AAI and our own GMR brand spin locks, nuts and bolts.

Varying pieces of gymnastics equipment require spinlocks with different handle sizes. When it comes to spinlock handles: size does matter! The length of gymnastics spin lock handle enables you to tighten your equipment more securely, but a longer handle also permits you to over tighten.

A smaller handle is easier to spin and it allows for a smaller cable footprint for your uneven bars and that means saving space in your gym!

As any coach knows, turning spin locks is just a fact of life in a gymnastics gym. Each athlete depending on height and skill level requires a different setting on the piece of training equipment they are using. Some coaches think that if they torque the spin lock down as tight as they can get it, it will last the whole workout. Unfortunately, that’s not true.

In fact, over-tightening only acts to compress the threads on your bolt which dulls them and shortens the space between them; thus stripping the bolt. Stripping the bolt on your spin lock will reduce the tightness of its grip. A loose spin lock bolt can create a dangerous situation and a liability issue. That’s why gymnastics gym owners and coaches want to take extra care to protect the life of their spin locks.

Basically, you want to tighten to the right, so that it’s snug. You don’t need to put your whole weight into it. You don’t want it to come loose, but you don’t want to jam it.

Really, the bolt will only go in so far — as far as it’s length.  So, you’re not getting the bolt in farther by making it tighter.

Care and Maintenance of Your Gymnastics Equipment Spinlocks

Spinlocks should be oiled at least once a month, or sooner, if you notice they need it. Chalk use also being a fact of life in gymnastics training means you may need to oil more often, as chalk tends to gum up the works. A drop or two of 3 in 1 oil is all you need. A little lubrication will keep your spin locks spinning with ease and will prolong the life of your bolts!

Replacing Your Spinlocks: Tools of the Trade!

GMR and AAI spin lock nuts are 1-1/8 inch. Spieth America is one inch. To replace your spin lock, you’ll need an open end wrench that accommodates the size of your hex nut. Lots of gyms might not have open end wrenches that are specific to one size or another.

Also, many gymnastics clubs and gyms carry equipment from different vendors, so probably the most crucial, versatile tool a gymnastics training facility can keep on hand is the adjustable wrench with wide jaw capacity.

To remove and replace your spin lock, you simply place the adjustable wrench on the hex nut, adjust the jaw to the appropriate width and turn it to the left until the nut is loose enough to remove and replace your spinlock.