The McBryde Guide to Gymnastics

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The McBryde Guide to Gymnastics

Female gymnast performing on balance beam

The McBryde Guide to Gymnastics

Gymnastics aren’t for the faint of heart. Folks would have you thinking it’s easy because kids do it, but they underestimate the sorts of things that kids are capable of, like bending nearly in half and recovering from tumbles that would leave a wrestler in agony.

I digress.

Welcome to our Gymnastics Guide. If you missed our McBryde Guide to MMA, you should really check it out. Now, moving on.

A Brief History of Gymnastics

Once upon a time, Ancient Greeks developed what we’d call gymnastics as training for their soldiers. The skills used in this activity were considered to be beneficial on the battlefield, which makes a lot of sense when you consider the strength training and body control that are required.

The version of gymnastics that lead to what we know today developed in the mid-eighteenth century, as did some of the equipment. It was in 1896 that men’s gymnastics were included in the Olympics, but the women’s competition wasn’t added until 1928.

What Can You Learn From Gymnastics?

gymnastics tip 001

Most people know at least one gymnast. I don’t just mean professional sorts, either, I mean the kid down the street that goes to gymnastics class every week or the cheerleader at your college. Gymnastics is an intense sport where the people that are practicing it have to be at the top of their game. Flexibility is important. Wanting to try new things and being brave enough not to be worried that maybe that flip isn’t going to go well? Also important.

Gymnastics are cool because even with the absolute bear necessities of gymnastics equipment, someone can do some pretty impressive things. It doesn’t require jazzy uniforms or heavy machinery, and it can sometimes seem like magic the way people flip across the floor and run their routines.

Gymnastics teaches lots of really important skills to people of all ages, aside from the ability to seem like you’re made of rubber and do a lot of flipping in mid-air.

Balance and control are important skills to develop, and gymnasts have it in spades. Whether they’re perched on gymnastics equipment like the balance beam or juggling their gym time with work, sleep, proper nutrition, and recovering from injury, they’re learning this important skill. They’re learning how to control their body’s movements, right down to the most finite, and they’re developing a mastery over their bodies that most people don’t have.

Gymnasts also learn about health and how important it is to eat a healthy diet and take care of their bodies, understanding what they need to keep up their strength and flexibility. If their trainers are doing things right, they’re also learning not to obsess over their size because size does not dictate health and by obsessing over their size, they put their health at risk. This is how eating disorders crop up.

image of a woman in exercise clothes drinking a bottle of water, she's sitting by a lake

Stay hydrated!

Social skills can be developed in gymnastics, too, as kids and adults alike meet new people and form bonds and friendships. When you’re a gymnast, you’re probably going to be working with the same people for a very long time, working with the same team for years, and that is a great way for people to learn how to interact with one another.

Gymnastics also helps foster a healthy sense of discpline. You’re getting up and going to classes every week, going to training on a regular basis, doing the work and not giving up. That takes a lot of discipline, and gymnasts have lots of it. Sticking with training regimens definitely helps.

Why is gymnastics cool? Why not? You’re learning all sorts of neat moves that are really impressive, and the fact that you’re actually mastering them, or even trying at all, is cool. You’re working on this gymnastics equipment that isn’t used for any other purpose and you know all these secrets that nobody else does. Congratulations, you are cool. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise (especially not the debate club, I mean, they’re probably just trying to get you to debate the subject with them anyway).

Gymnastics Mats and Equipment

Gymnastics makes use of multiple types of mat and a handful of pieces of equipment. The balance beam, handstand trainers, high bars, floor bars, metal bars, beams, and inclines are essential for pulling off the gymnast’s techniques.

They can also make use of weights and weight training, as having the physical strength to propel themselves through the air is just as important as knowing those techniques.

There are as many mats for gymnastics as there are techniques and moves. Every single mat has a purpose, and every single one will be used by a gymnast at least once. The main mats that you’re probably familiar with are folding panel mats, incline mats, crash mats, blocks, landing/throw mats, and springboard mats.

gymnastics tip 002
Folding panel mats are thin and firm, measuring about twelve feet long and with panels that alternate colors. These are the mats that have velcro strips on the ends and can be folded and stacked, or attached to other mats to make them cover more area. They’re often used to protect gymnasts by acting as a surface for those that are working on a low balance beam, or they’re used for practicing tumbling. It’s not unusual for schools and gyms to replace these after 7 years, if they can afford to do so, and they’re great for protecting people from impacts with a concrete floor. You probably remember them from your school gym.

You’ve probably been really, really happy to have them around if you’re a shorter student (for reaching beams and rings) or just because they help prevent slipping.

Incline mats, a.k.a. cheese mats or wedge mats, are triangle-shaped mats that are really firm and used to train handsprings, rolls, and walkovers. Yes, they’re named because they look like a wedge of cheese.

Crash mats are lifesavers when you’re learning high-impact skills because they’re really thick, and really soft. This is what’s between most students and a nasty concussion, so they have to be soft and thick.

Blocks are exactly what they sound like, though they do come in trapezoid shapes as well as rectangular blocks. They’re great for practicing vaulting, or as step-stools for getting up onto a beam or close to bars. Like the panel mats, they can be attached to one another with their velcro strips and some straps.

Landing/throw mats usually come in two flavors – white or red – so that they’re easy to tell apart from the other mats. They might be referred to as “sting” mats, too, as they help lessen the impact – the “sting” – from beam dismounts, tumbling landings, etc. They’re not often used in competition, which is kind of unfortunate because this sort of thing can be pretty painful.

Springboard mats are used for vaulting and surround a springboard on three of its four sides. The general idea behind them is that a gymnast can push off them if their foot misses the board and, hopefully, avoid a sprain or other nasty injury.

How important are mats for gymnastics?

They’re very important. You can’t practice without them because their purpose is to help prevent serious injury, and many injuries can actually completely destroy a gymnast’s career – breaking a bone can be felt for years and permanently mess up somebody’s leg, for example. Hitting a padded mat is far easier on the body than slamming into concrete or hardwood. You can’t skimp on mats. Either you have all the mats that you need, or you forget about holding gymnastics practice and consider taking up something else, instead. Remember, you can always contact us and get a quote on the pieces that are missing.

Safety always comes first!

Safety in Gymnastics

Kids all over America take up gymnastics for the exercise, because they saw it on tv, because it’s fun, or for other reasons that we haven’t listed here. It’s popular and it’s a lot of fun to watch – and accomplished gymnasts pull off a lot of fantastic moves that look a lot like magic to the untrained eye. With that said, it’s important to practice safely and take care of yourself on and off the gymnastics mats. What are some ways for gymnasts to keep safe, and what are they preventing?

Broken bones, sprained ankles and wrists, foot injuries, torn ligaments, and concussions are common injuries that gymnastics tip 003don’t just happen in competition – they happen in practice, too, because gymnastic mats aren’t enough. They certainly help, and they’re used for good reason! It’s still really important to pay attention to your surroundings, too.

Protect yourself from wrist injuries with wrist straps, wrist guards, and grips. This set of gear is used to prevent blisters when you’re on still rings, the parallel bars, high bar, or uneven bars. Proper footwear is important too, and can provide grip when you’re on surfaces that aren’t the familiar mats – or support for your ankles and toes.

In the practice facility

Always, always check the equipment. Your equipment must be properly maintained, with gymnastic mats underneath and secured properly. First aid must always be available, and remember that if someone has fallen they should not be moved by someone other than an emergency responder.

If you’re not comfortable with the routine that you’re working on, or with the maneuver that you’re practicing, stop. Tell your coach. Follow your instincts – if you’re not comfortable with something, it’s going to impact your performance and you could get hurt. There’s always a good reason for that gut feeling.

If, while you’re practicing or performing, you feel something hurting, it’s important to tell someone. That pain or discomfort could be the sign of a developing injury – yes, overworking can actually cause problems! – and you need to rest until a doctor has given you the okay to keep going. There are a lot of people that believe in pushing forward despite the pain. Those people are wrong, and that can make things worse. Pain is usually a signal from your body for you to stop doing what you’re doing, or to change something.

Before practice: stretch! Give your muscles a warm-up. This helps prevent strain injuries.

What does rest and healthy eating have to do with preventing injury?

Part of keeping safe is keeping alert. When we’re not eating properly and not getting enough sleep, what tends to happen is that our minds suffer, as do our bodies. It can be difficult to concentrate, and our judgment can be impaired. Not having enough sleep is said to cause symptoms similar to being drunk and nobody can practice or perform in that condition. Not eating properly means you’re not getting the right amount of nutrients, and those nutrients help keep your bones and muscles healthy, too.

Diet and proper rest have everything to do with keeping injury-free!

Most of all: don’t overestimate yourself. When you’re just learning, start simply and gradually progress. It’s not a race. Once you’ve mastered the lowest level, move up to the next, and so on.

Getting Involved

A female gymnast performs a routine over the uneven barsGymnastics classes are usually fairly accessible. Specialized gyms, parks and recreation departments, summer camps, and public schools all offer classes for aspiring gymnasts.

Starting a child off in gymnastics is a great way to get them moving, help them meet new people, and get them started into a schedule of some sort.

For those with the desire to become professional gymnasts, it’s not an easy road. Many hours of training and practice are required, and someone can try for many years to make it to the Olympic team, for example, and not get there. With enough determination and ferocious iron will, anything is possible. It’s a demanding career with a decent payoff, to the tune of an average salary of around $50,000 – with at least 10 years of experience.

Making it to the Olympics increases that number considerably, with previous gold medal winners making $10,000 – $15,000 just on the speech circuit.

How Much Do Gymnastics Classes Cost?

Starting at three months of age until about 12 years, classes can cost anywhere from $13.00 – $20.00 for each session. This depends on location. Professional gymnasts can expect to pay upwards of $300.00 per month for their classes, with the cost increasing as a gymnast adds more training hours. Considering the costs of some other sports, it’s actually fairly reasonable.

If a summer program is more your style, you can expect to pay up to $150.00. These class sets typically last 10 weeks and occur on a weekly basis.

There’s also the summer camp option. For up to $500 per weekly session, the gymnast in your life can spend the entire week learning and practicing their craft.

Finally, adult classes tend to be $20.00 or so, depending on where they’re located.

Next up, the McBryde Guide to Wrestling!

Bonus: Some cuties having fun during their Level 1 gymnastics training.

By |2016-02-10T06:05:31+00:00February 10th, 2016|Blog, Fitness Guide, Gymnastics|46 Comments

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  1. Maddie June 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I am fascinated by gymnastics! It’s so intriguing to me how gymnasts are so strong and flexible. They definitely seem to be some of the hardest working athletes out there to be able to do such strenuous work with such grace. Definitely a sport that requires hard work over talent!

    • McBryde Mats June 8, 2016 at 9:11 am - Reply

      We agree 100% Sport wouldn’t be sport without a good mix of talent and hard work be it Gymnastics, MMA, Wrestling, Cheerleading – we love the talent and teamwork involved in it all! Thanks for the comments Maddie. #TeamMcBryde

      • Jonalyn January 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm - Reply

        I have been so beilrdewed in the past but now it all makes sense!

  2. craigbic June 8, 2016 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    I know many kids and parents involved in gymnastics and I must say that the dedication required from both parents and kids is intimidating – they’re up at the crack of dawn sometimes or they’re going to class later at night. It makes me wonder how some kids (and parents) are able to do gymnastics along with other sports, clubs, and then schoolwork on top of that – it’s amazing!

    • McBryde Mats June 9, 2016 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Thanks for the reply Craig. You are quite correct in saying that gymnasts are among some of the most committed athletes. Their schedules and training requires great dedication. Thanks for reading the McBryde guide to Gymnastics!

    • Boss January 19, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

      It’s a plruease to find someone who can think so clearly

  3. Alexia June 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Warmup is extremely important! I used to go to the gym and skip warmup because I thought it took too long (yeah, go figure) until someone mentioned I can get into serious trouble for skipping it. I did a little reading and I decided to always do a proper warmup, drink lots of water and also stretch after finishing. Any sort of movement, whether it’s gymnastics or karate or wrestling needs a proper those 3 things. It also took me a while to realize how important proper rest is for recovery and muscle growth but it’s a good thing I did because my life has been better because of it.

    • McBryde Mats June 21, 2016 at 8:49 am - Reply

      Hi Alexia! Yes, you are right! warming up is so critical to a good practice! thanks for reading the Mcbryde guide to gymnastics!

    • Lyzbeth January 19, 2017 at 11:17 am - Reply

      It’s great to read something that’s both enjoyable and provides prisamtagdc solutions.

  4. Kelly June 23, 2016 at 5:46 am - Reply

    I used to love gymnastics when I was a kid, but then I had a bad fall while jumping over the horse. I fell a bit awkward and ended up breaking my ankle. After that I was too nervous to continue. It’s a shame really because I’m sure I would be a lot more flexible and probably healthier if I kept it up – but, at the time, I didn’t think it was safe. I’m now 30, do you think it’s a bit too late to take up gymnastics, again?

    • McBryde Mats June 23, 2016 at 7:14 am - Reply

      Hi Kelly, we are glad you liked the Mcbryde guide to gymnastics! It is never to late to start!

      • Audel January 19, 2017 at 2:22 pm - Reply

        A simple and ingntlileet point, well made. Thanks!

  5. shaun wright June 23, 2016 at 10:01 am - Reply

    I just tried a gymnast workout at the gym and that was tough! I didn’t think it would be that bad, but I felt so out of shape after that. That one workout is the main reason I found your site and this post.

    • McBryde Mats June 24, 2016 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Glad to have you on-board Team McBryde Shaun! Thanks for reading the McBryde guide to gymnastics and remember, the first workouts always suck, keep pushing!

  6. Jenna June 24, 2016 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    I have been following your posts and I must say that I really learned a lot. Gymnastic is something I would admire from afar. But, based on your information, it is not really expensive to join the classes, but we should have the readiness, good eating and healthy lifestyle to go for gymnastic, not to forget the safety precautions. The whole learning journey will not be easy but I am sure it is something we will feel proud of ourselves when we finally did it.

    • McBryde Mats June 24, 2016 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading the Mcbryde Guide to gymnastics Jenna! appreciate your thoughts, you are right, it is a journey, so enjoy the ride!

      • Janais January 19, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

        Deep thinking – adds a new diiesnmon to it all.

    • McBryde Mats June 24, 2016 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Jenna, we are glad you learned something from the McBryde guide to Gymnastics!

      • Channery January 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm - Reply

        A simple and inielltgent point, well made. Thanks!

  7. Miss Kimberly June 30, 2016 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Just wanted to thank you for a blog that I probably read more than just about any other. Good content and personable. I’ve always admired gymnasts, especially at the Olympic games. I hope to sign up for gymnastic classes one day and start my journey to becoming a real pro. It won’t be easy though, but your tips can help me achieve this!

    • McBryde Mats July 1, 2016 at 11:30 am - Reply

      Thanks for reading “The McBryde guide to Gymnastics” Miss Kimberly! We are glad you enjoyed it and got some value from it!

  8. Domenic Stelle July 2, 2016 at 7:13 am - Reply

    I’m a third grader and I think that this article was very interesting. I really enjoyed reading this. When I was done with this article I got so upset because I loved this article so much. Overall I think it is on of the top article that i enjoyed reading.

    • McBryde Mats July 5, 2016 at 8:41 am - Reply

      Excellent Domenic! We are glad you enjoyed reading ‘The McBryde guide to Gymnastics’!

  9. Hades July 14, 2016 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Ah! Gymnastics are my favorite! I’m extremely excited for the Olympics team coming up! Gabby Douglas is my favorite! (Go Team USA!)

    Thanks for the history on gymnastics! I did not know that the Greeks used it as a means combat training at all! You’re very right about everyone knowing at least one gymnastic – I have known several over the years, especially as a child. Seems like every parent puts their children into gymnastics. Not complaining, because it is a wonderful sport and leads to better physical health as you age!

    Appreciate the blog post a lot! I want more!

    • McBryde Mats July 15, 2016 at 3:57 am - Reply

      The Rio Olympics should be great! We can’t wait!
      Gymnastics is a serious competitive sport & great for general fitness and strength. The co-ordination improvement is also something to note.
      Thanks for reading the blog!

  10. Rafi Morshed July 28, 2016 at 4:43 am - Reply

    I was always interested in gymnastics competition. It’s so fascinating to me how gymnasts compete in these are so solid and adaptable. They unquestionably appear to be a portion of the most diligent competitors out there to have the capacity to do such strenuous work with such elegance. Certainly a game that requires diligent work over ability!

    • McBryde Mats July 30, 2016 at 9:17 am - Reply

      Thats very true Rafi, Gymnastics success comes with a lot of practice and hard work! Thanks for reading the guide!

    • Buffee January 19, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      Never seen a betetr post! ICOCBW

  11. Margret August 2, 2016 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    I love the details of this post, very eye-opening post on gymnastic… lovely post, revealing
    origin, skills, techniques even the cost of enrolling for gymnastic class. I must appreciate
    your effort so far, nice written tutorial here…..continue the good work

    • McBryde Mats August 6, 2016 at 6:45 am - Reply

      Thanks for the kind review Margret! Appreciate it! Keep reading!

    • Brendy January 19, 2017 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks for spending time on the computer (wtiring) so others don’t have to.

  12. Emmanuel Babatunde August 4, 2016 at 6:48 am - Reply

    Nice point Rafi, I used to love gymnastics when I was a kid.
    I’m doing a trial for gymnastics and these seem pretty advanced. I don’t know how to do any flips or even a cartwheel! What should I do? I really want to do gymnastics but I don’t think I have enough experience even for the trial! What should I do?

    I will try not to miss any of it at coming Olympics game in Brazil.

    • McBryde Mats August 6, 2016 at 6:43 am - Reply

      Hi Emmanuel, what you need to do is keep training! Rome wasn’t built in a day and a skillset in gymnastics isn’t developed overnight, so keep at it, your dedication and commitment will help you succeed!

  13. Sam Brooke August 4, 2016 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Fantastic article! I’d definitely recommend it to anyone just beginning to look into it. It answers plenty of questions.

    It’s hard to believe that this sport – after all this time – goes sorely underappreciated in the world of fitness. Sure, everybody knows how beautiful it is as an art, but what’s too often left out is how great it is for the body! Building strength through resistance first is an incredible advantage to have before hitting the weight room.

    • McBryde Mats August 6, 2016 at 6:33 am - Reply

      We are glad you got some value from the McBryde guide to gymnastics Sam! We agree, gymnasts are under-rated as athletes, the training and preparation they endure make them top-class world athletes that love their sport as much as any athlete and are prepared to put the work in! Thanks for reading!

  14. Noel Becks August 13, 2016 at 4:41 am - Reply

    You brought back memories of gymnastics from my minor in sport science. I lost interest due to my fear of injury, but I just learnt that good diet and training can quench my fear. Keep on the good work here. You just got bookmarked!

    • McBryde Mats August 23, 2016 at 6:18 am - Reply

      Glad we could provide the nostalgia! thanks for reading the guide!Keep coming back for more great articles!

      • Maralynn January 19, 2017 at 11:04 am - Reply

        Great post with lots of imptnoart stuff.

    • Emma January 19, 2017 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      It’s great to read something that’s both enjoyable and provides prtamagisdc solutions.

  15. stalwart August 13, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Excellent article! One I can very much relate to. While being fit in general and looking good is always a plus. Functional movement and having real control of your body is something I value highly.
    I can’t believe, how much I agree with you! All your arguments and reasoning are EXACTLY my thoughts. So, that’s what made me start this sort of training about three months ago. And now I can say, it’s my very first fitness experience, where I never get bored and rush to my classes like a crazy!
    your article does motivate me to be patient and keep going. Not mentioning its informative value.
    Thank you!

    • McBryde Mats August 23, 2016 at 6:14 am - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words, we are glad you liked the article and agree that gymnastics is an incredible sport! Thanks for reading & keep coming back!

  16. stalwart August 13, 2016 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    After going through this guide, you gave me a big sign of relief as this contains everything have been looking for about gymnastics. Being in fit in general and looking good is always a plus. Functional movement and having real control of your body is something I valued much. After reading this I recommend it to a friend by following the details here he has made a lot of improvement. I will just advice everyone to put in more practice

    • McBryde Mats August 23, 2016 at 6:12 am - Reply

      Gymnasts are very, very strong athletes with an amazing competitive spirit! Thanks for reading the guide!

  17. Tina Neuer August 14, 2016 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Gymnastics is so fascinating! Such an informative article, especially with all of the excitement that’s happening now with the olympics. It truly makes you appreciate the olympic winners dedication. I like how you emphasized the health and safety aspect of gymnastics as well; it’s a lifestyle not a hobby.

    • McBryde Mats August 23, 2016 at 6:08 am - Reply

      We are glad you got some value from the guide Tina! Thanks for reading!

      • Mildred January 19, 2017 at 11:06 am - Reply

        Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good inomrfation.

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