Rhythmic Gymnastics Equipment
Rhythmic gymnastics is one of the most graceful and distinctive forms of competitive gymnastics in practice. Besides freehand, all the different varieties require the use of specialist apparatus: rope, hoop, ball, clubs, and ribbon. Of these, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) sanctions the use of only four at competitions. Rope has been out of favor since 2011, and freehand is only used in local competitions for very young rhythmic gymnasts, so all other competitors will require the use of specialist equipment.
What Equipment Do You Need for Rhythmic Gymnastics?
For modern junior and senior national individual competition (and international individual competition) there are four varieties of equipment used in rhythmic gymnastics. There are stringent restrictions on the equipment that can be used.
A hoop is used to roll, rotate around the hand or body, or in swings, circles, throws and catches, and passes through and over it. It must weigh a minimum of 300 grams (approximately 10.6 oz) and have an interior diameter between 51 and 90 centimeters (20 to 35.4in). A rhythmic gymnastics hoop may be made of wood or plastic. There are no restrictions on color, and it may be covered in adhesive tape if desired. However, it must be capable of keeping its shape during the routine. A general rule of thumb is that a hoop should come up to the gymnast’s hip if balanced on the floor.
A ball is used in throwing, bouncing, and rolling. The intention of incorporating a ball into a rhythmic gymnastics routine is to emphasize the gymnast’s flowing lines. It must weigh a minimum of 400 grams (14.1oz) and be between 18 and 20 centimeters in diameter (7.1 to 7.9in, approximately). Balls can be any color but must not be able to be grasped. They can be made of rubber or any synthetic material with the same elasticity as rubber.
Ribbons used in a rhythmic gymnast’s ribbon routine are strictly regulated. A competition ribbon must be between 4 and 6 centimeters wide (1.6 to 2.4 inches) in width. An adult’s ribbon must measure 6 meters in length (approximately 19.7ft), though a junior may use a ribbon that is only 5 meters long (16.4ft). The ribbon must be in one piece, although the end attached to the stick may be doubled up to a length of one meter (around 3.3 feet). This doubling can be stitched on both sides to secure it. The ribbon may be fastened to the stick by many means: eyelet, thread, nylon cord, or articulated rings. Ribbons may be made of satin or a similar material cloth, and may be of any color (or even multi-colored). Rayon is thought to be a superior fiber for ribbons, as it is less likely to generate static electricity. Electrostatic charges can cause the ribbon to cling to or entwine around the body, disrupting routines. The ribbon itself must weigh 35 grams or more (approximately 1.2oz). A ribbon routine is scored on large, smooth, and flowing movements. Flicks, circles, snakes, spirals, and throws are all compulsory elements in a routine.
Clubs used in rhythmics gymnastics bear some resemblance to juggling clubs. The variety that are most popular with gymnasts are multi-piece: an internal rod is the base, around which a plastic handle is wrapped. This construction creates an airspace between the handle and the internal rod, making it a more cushioned and flexible piece of apparatus, and softer on the hands. They are typically also made with foam ends and knobs, and then individuals wrap them with decorative plastics and tapes to their personal tastes. The average range of length is between 48 and 53 centimeters (about 18.9 and 20.9in). The general guideline is that clubs should not be longer than the distance between the gymnast’s wrist and shoulder. If a gymnast can extend her arm and handle the club at arm’s length but the other end is hitting her nose or chin, the club is too long. In the United States, the style is for broader clubs, while the Europeans tend to use more slender clubs.
Rope is the rarest apparatus used in senior rhythmic gymnastics today, being used only in group events. The rope should be made of hemp or a suitably light and supple material. The length of the rope should be sufficient that if the gymnast is standing on it, the ends can come up to her armpits. The rope can have one or two knots at each end in order to keep hold of the rope during the routine. It must be colored, partially or entirely. Any anti-slip material that the gymnast wants to apply must be applied to the ends and may cover a maximum of 10 centimeters (3.9in). Rope routines incorporate skipping and leaping, as well as swings, throws, circles, rotations, and figures of eight.
How Do I Maintain My Rhythmic Gymnastics Apparatus?
Rhythmic gymnastics apparatus can be expensive to replace. Balls can cost upwards of a hundred dollars, as can a pair of clubs. When a rhythmic gymnast is flinging around her apparatus in the pursuit of learning a new routine, it’s likely that it will be dropped, scratched or otherwise abused. In order to keep your equipment in good condition, it’s important to take steps to protect it.
- Nylon ropes can be hand-washed, or washed on a gentle machine cycle. Do not exceed temperatures of 85°F. Use only a small amount of detergent, and no bleach.
- Hoops should be stored in hoop covers when not in use. This will prevent them from getting scratched. They should be stored horizontally in order to prevent them losing their shape, and kept away from heating elements like space heaters, boilers, etc. It’s a good idea to wrap your hoop in decorative tape and a layer of clear tape. Not only will this increase the weight of the apparatus and ensure it meets the 300 gram minimum requirement, it will make the hoop more durable.
- Balls should be kept in soft ball covers when not in use. This will prevent your ball from getting scratched. It is best to keep it from experiencing large temperature variations (for example during the winter), as repeated compression and expansion of the air inside the ball can damage the outer coating over time. To wash your ball, use tepid water, with a small amount of mild dishwashing liquid. Use a soft sponge and gently massage the ball. Do not scrub or use steel wool. Rinse the ball gently but well. Towel it dry, preferably with a microfiber cloth instead of a more abrasive towel.
- Clubs can be protected from chipping by being coated in tape. When they are not being used, keep them in their cover.
- Ribbons should be kept in their ribbon winders so as to keep their shape. When cleaning a ribbon, either hand wash or machine wash on a gentle setting. Water temperature should be no higher than 85°F. Add only a little amount of mild detergent, and don’t use bleach. If you are ironing your ribbon, place a damp cloth between the iron’s hot surface and the ribbon itself. Do not expose the ribbon to ironing temperatures over 320°F.
Learn Rhythmic Gymnastics with LA School of Gymnastics
Los Angeles School of Gymnastics has an excellent rhythmic gymnastics program for girls of all ages. We pioneered the introduction of rhythmic gymnastics into the United States and have a team of professional, friendly, and highly qualified European instructors with Master’s degrees ready to coach your daughters. If you or your daughter are interested in the best all-round physical education for a young girl’s physique and development, contact us today to find out more about classes: (310) 204-1980.