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Gymnastics Practice: It’s the Pits!

When you see Aly Raisman do a roundoff, one and a half step-out, roundoff back handspring, arabian double front punch layout that landed her squarely on her feet at the opening of the 2016 Olympics, things didn’t always go that smoothly. Ask her. She’ll tell you she’d been training that pass since she was 14.

Gymnasts learn their skills in progressions which are sequences of increasingly more difficult components. Until a skill is perfected, the landing isn’t going to be successful, graceful or safe. Until that landing is all 3 of those things, most importantly safe, gymnasts point the ends of their tumbling passes (bar combos, rings, vaults, beam routines, etc.) into what is known as a gymnastics pit.

A gymnastics pit is essentially a hole in the ground with a bunch of cushiony stuff thrown in to soften an imperfect landing. Technically speaking, however, it’s a bit more complex. Let’s talk about that!

Before you dive into the pit headfirst (which no one should ever do, by the way), you’ll want to think a bit on what you want to train into it and where you want to put it, so that it fits organically into the training flow of your gym. When doing this thinking be sure to plan ahead!

TENOByGMR-FaceBook-2Digging holes in your gym and filling them up with building code compliant concrete is not exactly cheap. You’ll want to think of your facility’s future and build a pit that incorporates as much training activity as possible into each pit and accommodate all levels of your athletes, keeping in mind that larger gymnasts travel farther.

That brings us to a very important topic! Building codes!

All sorts of building regulations govern the construction and use of a facility that pertain to fire, mechanics, plumbing and general construction — just to name a few. While we can help you buy and install a high quality gymnastics pit system, we can’t offer you a complete and code compliant road map to construction of the concrete pit itself.

However, to help you research what’s right for your facility we would like to offer you a couple of links to get you started:

Building codes used to vary more widely across municipality, but efforts to adopt more standardized codes have taken affect across the US. Almost all areas in the US have chosen to adopt and enact locally relevant model codes. (hot link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_building_code)  which are based upon the International Building Code (hot link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Building_Code). This site offers a search engine database that’s broken down by state and sometimes local municipality: http://www.constructconnect.com/building-codes/#

We would urge you to triple check with your local authorities to ensure that your facility meets any applicable standards under law both for the safety of your athletes and the legal and liability well-being of your gym or club.

So that the pit system can be installed properly, safely and work effectively, general wisdom holds that you will want to have the concrete work done by a code compliant, licensed professional contractor who knows how to waterproof a subfloor or basement. We strongly advise that you don’t dig it yourself… don’t just go with your buddy that can mix concrete… use concrete and dirt to spec, preferably a concrete that can withstand 3,500psi soil bearing capacity… Be sure and get a permit!

Rough guidelines would say that you’ll want your pit to be placed on a minimum of 4 inches of gravel footing, with walls at least 8in. thick on all sides and reinforced with #4 rebar. You want the walls to be absolutely straight, as you will be mounting the frame of your pit system to them: wonky would be bad! How much rebar is installed depends on the size of the pit itself.

How big should my pit be? This where we circle back to what skills and equipment you want to train into it which also begs the question: What shape pit do I want?

We’d love to walk you through that decision in this blog post

For the purposes of this post, let’s talk about what goes into your basic, single purpose pit.

When you choose By GMR, we offer a total, turnkey pit solution. We provide all parts which include: frame, concrete wall anchors, pit bed, springs, frame pads, wall pads, spring pads, pit pads and pit cubes.

Frame: This is the metal, well, framework that supports the trampoline bed, the springs, the accompanying padding and the cubes.

Frame Padding: The frame is covered in polyethylene foam to ensure there is no exposed metal that can injure an athlete.

Concrete Anchors: Do just what it says on the tin. They attach the frame to the concrete walls of your gymnastics club pit.

Pit Bed: The trampoline bed itself that decelerates and absorbs forces of the gymnast’s descent into the pit. It provides a dynamic surface for the pit cubes, adding more give into the equation and prevents the gymnast from ‘bottoming out’ also known as hitting the bottom of the pit. We’ve innovated the trampoline pit bed system with our Sag Bed (link to post on sag bed systems) to provide maximum shock absorption and safety.

Pit Pads: Every By GMR gymnastics pit is padded at the edges to prevent gymnasts from hitting a hard surface and incurring an injury. If you have a kid take off early, peel off a bar or just enters the pit crooked, as can happen while learning, you want to make sure there’s a pad wherever they land. All pit pads are custom cut to fit the equipment your using at the pit, be equipment you purchase from us or your existing equipment.

Springs: Springs are the mechanism by which you get the bounce, the give and forgive of the pit trampoline bed that cushions the landing of your athletes. At By GMR, we use 8 inch springs which outlast the 6 inch springs employed by other companies.

Spring Pads and Pit Bed Flap: Gymnasts have to step somewhere when climbing out of the pit, so they’re bound to step on the springs at some point. Without foam padding, they’d step through them. Our spring pads ensure safety for your gymnast while providing additional support to keep the springs in perfect placement.

Wall Pads: Pit pads go down 12 inches leaving 12 to 24 inches (depending on the type of pit) of exposed concrete wall. To ensure every inch of your pit is padded and safe, we pad the walls, too. Our price includes the pads and the glue.

Pit Cubes: Fire retardant blocks of foam, literally, cushion the entry and landing of your gymnast into the trampoline pit bed system. Choosing the right pit cubes and pit cube fill is important: let us help you make the best decision! 

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