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Gymnastics Resources for Parents & Gymnasts

Gymnastics Hands

Caring for your Gymnastics Hands



Rips are chunks of skin that peel off the gymnast’s hands caused by friction from swinging on the bars. Every gymnast gets rips. The best way reduce the frequency of rips is to take good care of your hands. Rips usually occur to soft skin. This is why many gymnasts rip more in the summer when they take breaks from gymnastics for vacation or swimming a lot, creating soft skin.


A callus is your skin’s natural defense against ripping. So, the more you use the bars, the more calluses you will build, and your hands will get tougher and rip less often. However, if a callus builds up in the shape of a bump, it will also rip away when swinging on the bars. Keep your calluses, but maintain them with an emery board or pumice stone to keep them from building up too big.


When a rip occurs, cut away the torn skin with a clean pair of scissors or clippers.  Manicure, or nail, scissors work great.  Wash out the skin with soap and warm water (even though washing stings, you must clean the chalk from your torn skin to reduce the possibility of infection). Many gymnasts find that repeatedly applying Chap Stick (non-medicated) to fresh rips helps with the sting.



As gymnasts become more involved in their sport, they start to need a few supplies. The following items are commonly needed in a grip bag or daily practice bag:

  Your own pair of small Nail Scissors or Nail Clippers for cutting the skin on your hands when it rips. Try not to share for sanitary reasons, use your own!

  Athletic Tape: Tape can be purchased at any athletic supply store (like Sports Authority or even CVS). It is cloth, about 1 ” wide, and usually white or sometimes colored. Do not buy medical tape (it doesn’t stick very well, and is not flexible). You will definitely need tape at some point.

  A pumice stone, emery board, or callus remover

  Chap stick non-medicated (for rips)

  If you wear grips, you also should wear wristbands.  Get the soft, cloth kind for tennis.  Neoprene wristbands are difficult to put on and take off, plus they don’t wash as well as the terry wristbands. After you wear your wristbands a few times, they begin to smell bad, so please wash them and always have an extra pair.



This holds all your stuff! It’s good to have some kind of small grip bag. You can order them from any gym supply (or use any small bag that zips closed).



Grips are leather hand guards that help reduce the friction of the gymnast’s hands against the bars. There are a few different kinds of grips:


Hand grips are flat strips of leather that cover the palm. They are worn low on the fingers. 


Dowel grips have a dowel at the fingers that help many gymnasts grip the bars better when swinging. A gymnast should not order grips until she is a level 4 or above. (Many hands are too small for grips before level 4.)