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Above Ground Ain’t the Pits!

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Most people think gymnastics gym pits are only ever literal holes in the ground. That’s just not the case!

In fact, there are upsides to putting your gymnastics club’s pit above ground. Hint: loads of added storage space! (Upsides? Ha! See what we did there!)

Gymnastics gym owners put their pits above ground by choice or for forces beyond their control. Let’s look at some of the factors that might put you in a position to build your gymnastics pit above the floor of your gymnastics facility.

Your building is under lease and your landlord won’t hear of it. Your building’s landlord may not want to have their building radically altered by introducing a giant hole into the concrete foundation. Fair enough. We’re not talking painting a few walls here. It is a big ask.

Your live on or near the coast or just somewhere where the water table is close to ground level. Floridians and our friends who live in or near protected wetlands know this all too well. You dig down and the next thing you know, you’re not looking at a regular hole, you’re looking at a swimming hole. This is not what you want for your gymnastics pit. Nope. Not at all. We couldn’t stress that enough in our previous posts on pits. Dig deep and find out all you can on the lay of the land in your area before digging deep into your pocket and your gym’s foundation.

And, then as happens in life, there are surprises!

We outline a few of those pit… falls here. Another such pit fail crept up on a customer, who once they got, well, down and dirty into the literal nitty and gritty found: a concrete beam that’s underneath their foundation where their pit was to be. This beam supports the columns that, in turn, supports the roof. Digging up this beam to put a pit in its place was not to be, so they had to look above ground.

When you start to look up, you’ve got to ask yourself: How high? You want to make sure you’ve got enough room to accommodate the length of the your athletes extended out from the equipment on which they’ll be training.

For example, your average sag bed pit system is six feet deep, so inverting that means you’re going to build it above ground, you’ll need a six foot high deck. Of course, you’ll be using a piece of equipment to train into the pit.

So, let’s take a single bar trainer. That adds 8 feet. Plus, you’ll want to add another 8 feet for an outstretched gymnast in a giant swing. So, you’ll probably want a 22 foot minimum clearance between your floor and your ceiling.

That’s ceiling safety covered. Let’s talk walls.

You would anchor your above ground gymnastics pit deck structure to one, two or three walls, probably in the corner of your gym or gymnastics club.

And, very importantly, just like with an in ground gymnastics pit…. You want an experienced, qualified building contractor to do this for you. You want someone who knows what they’re doing. We can’t emphasize this enough. You know a guy who knows a guy. Or, your cousin owes you some money and he does handyman work.

No. Please do yourself the favor of getting someone who knows building codes and who knows OSHA regulations to do this. If the fire department comes by to inspect it and it fails or the county comes by and asks to see a building permit and you don’t have one? You’re going to be ripping every last board, nail and joist and dollar out. We know. We’ve seen it happen. We’ve had to pour one out for pits who didn’t pass inspection. It’s a shame to waste good whiskey like that.

Building a deck is essentially like building a freestanding garage in that you and your reputable, contractor need to follow all of the conventional carpentry practices of studs on 16 inch centers, 6inch joists, 3/4 inch plywood decking on top bolted into existing walls. Make sure you’re inline with OSHA regulations regarding the required number of exits and ease of access for a balcony or platform. Make sure you’re in compliance with the correct amount of space around the pit, so people can walk around. Ensure that the railing is placed such that if the gymnast tumbles crooked or slings off the bar that they don’t hit the railing or don’t go sailing over it.

The good news is that everything works just the same with an above ground gymnastics pit as with an in ground pit.

You can even get all of the great benefits of our sag bed gymnastics pit system above ground!  You know what’s also true? We need all of the measurements to get it fitted to be correct! Please and thank you!

Above Ground 2You can train using all of the same equipment: a single bar trainer, vault, a tumble track, a rod floor, a tumble strip. Plus, you get a cool storage closet right there in the thick of it to put team uniforms, tables, event stuff, pit cubes, mats, trophies… lol, who knows what you’ll end up sticking in there!

Check out the photos below of the above ground pit we equipped for Elite Gymnastics Club in Lafayette, IN in various stages of construction. You can see the carpentry involved and all the killer storage you get when you build your gymnastics pit above ground!

Above ground pits are sort of like “outie” bellybuttons. Just as good as an “inny”, only a little less common. 


Design, Construction and Images by Elite Gymnastics in Lafayette, Indiana!

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