What Is the Equipment Used in Gymnastics?

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Gymnastics is a sport of precision, gracefulness and endurance that is loved throughout the world. Each apparatus, or piece of equipment, has its own use and set of rules by which to be scored, or judged. All events in gymnastics involve the use of mats to lessen the blow of a fall during a routine, except the floor. The floor is built to have some elasticity to allow for quick, powerful take-offs and a soft landing following a series of power-driven tumbling passes. It is covered with foam and heat-absorbing felt carpet to avoid carpet burn during swift floor movements across its entire 40 foot by 40 foot area.

Balance Beam

  • By Olympic standards, the balance beam is a long (16 feet 5 inches), thin (4 inch wide) bar that is approximately 4 feet off the ground. Women gymnasts must perform graceful, flexible movements on the balance beam while maintaining balance and rhythm.

Vault/Springboard

  • During the vault, the gymnast gains speed by sprinting down a runway and jumping on a springboard, a piece of equipment that helps gymnasts spring into the air and gain height. After bouncing off the springboard, the gymnast pushes off the vault and performs twists and turns in the air before making an ideally perfect landing. The "horse" vault made way in 2001 in international competition for the safer "table" vault. The two types of springboards are the soft springboard and the hard springboard.

Pommel Horse

  • The pommel horse is the perfect piece of equipment to demonstrate a male athlete's strength and balance. The horse is made of wood that is covered with foam and leather on the outside. The rubber-covered pommels, or rings, are mounted on the horse to allow for a firm grip. Only the gymnast's hands can touch the apparatus as he performs continuous, rhythmic motions and scissor-like movements over all parts of the pommel horse.

Uneven Bars

  • This women's event consists of two parallel bars, with one higher (about 8 feet by Olympic standards) than the other (about 5 feet 5 inches). The bars are made of fiberglass and covered with a birchwood laminate. During the event, the gymnast swings back and forth between the low and high bars while completing various release moves and handstand positions.

Parallel Bars

  • The parallel bars consist of two horizontal bars about 11 feet 6 inches in length. During this men's event, gymnasts perform swinging movements between, above and below the bars. This apparatus also tests a gymnast's arm strength and endurance.

High Bar

  • Also known as the horizontal bar, this men's apparatus consists of a high-tension stainless steel bar about 7 feet 9 inches in length and 9 feet 2 inches above the ground. The bar is built to absorb the pressure of powerful release and grab moves. The event consists of continuous swing movements in both directions, release moves and a high, twisting dismount.

Rings

  • Another men's apparatus is the rings. They are made of layers of wood attached to long (about 9 feet 9 inches) stainless steel cables built to absorb shock. The routine consists of swing and handstand positions that demonstrate a gymnast's strength.

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  • Photo Credit Leonor Crossley
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