Parents are often unsure about whether or not it is an appropriate time to buy their gymnast their first pair of grips. A gymnast's coach should be able to provide some insight on this issue, but here are some general tips for gymnasts and gym parents.
- Grips can be expensive. A pair of Reisport dowel grips (which I used throughout my gymnastics career and highly recommend) goes for about $45, and other types of grips will cost at least $35. Since gymnasts are primarily young girls and young girls grow quickly, grips will need to be replaced every so often to fit the gymnast's hands. The longer you can hold off on grips, the better in terms of the amount of money that will have to be spent.
- It is not entirely uncommon to see gymnasts from China and Russia competing on the uneven bars without using grips - even in the Olympics. Grips are not absolutely necessary. It is possible to get by without them.
- That being said, grips do help a little bit with preventing big rips on the gymnast's palms (some girls do have trouble with the grips rubbing their wrists the wrong way and causing rips there instead, but in general, grips should help reduce the number of rips). Grips are not a solution to rips but can be one factor in helping to prevent them.
- In general, I would say that the majority of gymnasts do not buy a pair of grips until USAG level 6 or 7. I got mine in level 7 and really did not feel that I needed them in level 6. There are some girls who get them in level 5 and others who don't get them at all. It is a matter of preference - usually the coach's preference, but also the gymnast's and the gymnast's parents. There are no rules that say you need a pair of grips by the time you reach a certain level.
- The uneven bars skill that causes the most friction on the hands is probably giants, in addition to other circling moves. Front hip circles, back hip circles, and baby giants are part of the level 5 and 6 routines, but they usually don't constitute the majority of practice time. From level 7 on, gymnasts are going to be spending a lot more practice time on giants and connections with circling skills. Grips are going to help reduce the friction on these types of skills.
- The primary function of grips is... Well, it's in the name. Grips help gymnasts grip the bar. This function is the most helpful when it comes to giants. Before then, the gripping function is much less needed.