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This post is in response to Sho Nakamori’s blog about his Reisport Ring grips tearing after 2 days of use that I first read about on Rick McCharles’ GymnasticsCoaching.com.

I can certainly empathize with Sho on this … it definitely is a scary situation any time a grip breaks since the gymnast usually flies off the apparatus without any warning or chance to prepare for the landing.  I have had my high bar and ring grips break a few times myself.  My ring grips broke one time while coming out of a Guzoghy just as I was kicking for my dismount. The worst part was that it was 3 days before I was getting married and I ended up with 3 or 4 stitches and 2 black eyes to show off during my wedding!  I’m not sure if my wife was more upset about me getting hurt, or that I ruined our wedding pictures!  So, I can personally attest to how dangerous it can be when a gymnast’s grips break.

As Sho stated, there were some other instances of men’s gymnastics grips breaking across the country, but it seemed to be fairly isolated to the more elite level men.  Of course this makes sense considering that these are the bigger gymnasts doing the most advanced skills.  Even though out of the thousands and thousands of grips Reisport sells each year it was an extremely low percentage of grips that broke, Reisport manufacturing did take notice and set out to solve the issues.  About a month or so ago, Reisport introduced a new leather for all of the men’s high bar grips and men’s ring grips.  This leather is now a brown or chocolate color.  All of the Reisport men’s high bar and ring grips will now be manufactured with this new leather.  These started shipping out just a few weeks ago, and so far, the feedback we have received has been positive about them.  I spoke with the Stanford men’s coach, Thom Gilemi, to get his early feedback on the new Reisport chocolate leather some of his guys have had for just a couple of weeks now, and he stated that they “haven’t had any tears yet” with these new grips.

I would also like to take a minute to talk about the importance of breaking in your grips properly.  A lot of times a gymnast will put on a brand new pair of grips and think that they feel great their first turn up on the apparatus.  They will then go ahead and do some of their biggest skills their first couple of turns on these brand new grips.  Though the grips feel great those first few turns, this is the exact wrong way to break the grips in and can drastically shorten the life of the grips.  Doing this causes the leather to stretch out too quickly, instead of allowing the leather to stretch gradually over time.  Think about it this way … you wouldn’t walk into a gym completely cold and jump right down into a straddle split, would you?  You’d be likely to tear a muscle.  You would want to warm-up a bit and then gradually stretch down into your split.  The same is true for your grips.  Take your time doing basic swings and giants on them, ideally for several practices, before you really start tapping hard on them for your bigger skills.

We will continue to monitor the feedback on the new Reisport chocolate leather grips and keep you updated.  If you’ve received some of these new grips recently and had a chance to use them, post your feedback about them in the comments section below.

Train Smart. Compete Hard!

Jay Thornton
American Gymnast