The recommended distance between uneven bars for practice depends on the gymnast’s height. But usually, the distance between the high bar and the low bar is approximately 6 feet. And although the diagonal distance is adjustable, it remains fixed for elite gymnasts.
Artistic gymnastics is a popular sport involving complex apparatuses that require impeccable strength and balance.
However, the most distinct feature of artistic gymnastics is the uneven bars. The bars are parallel to one another, placed at varying heights and widths.
But what does the uneven distance signify? Is the upper bar more difficult to reach? I’ll be tackling all of these topics in today’s guide to uneven bars apparatus.
What Are Uneven Bars?
Uneven bars (a.k.a. asymmetric bars, uneven parallel bars, or just “bars”) are adjustable apparatuses used in artistic gymnastics. They feature fiberglass bars with wood coating placed at different heights and widths.
Because of that, an elite gymnast may sprinkle water on the uneven bars. Additionally, they smear their hands with white chalk or something tackier like honey and melted gummy bears (yes, you read that right!) to get the perfect grip.
But, due to the complexity of the gymnastic routines and the construction of the apparatus, even with grips or handguards, a gymnast’s hands are always covered in bruises and blisters. Of course, those scars are no less than a badge of honor for most of them, and rightly so. They depict the years of hard work and perseverance they’ve put into perfecting this elegant and complex sport.
Interestingly, the uneven bars were used for the first time at the World Championships in Hungary in 1934. In 1952, it became an official sport in the Olympic Games held in Helsinki.
Dimensions Of Uneven Bars
The uneven or asymmetric bars offer adjustable height, so one can change it according to the gymnast’s preference or expertise. However, usually, the low bar is placed five and a half feet above the ground, while the high bar goes above eight feet. The width between the uneven bars stays around six feet.
For more reference, I recommend checking the FIG Apparatus Norms Brochure. I also suggest starting small by placing the uneven bars at a distance you’re comfortable with. Gradually, you can increase the distance to push yourself to improve.
Note that collegiate gymnasts and Junior Olympic gymnasts have the liberty to use the uneven bars at varying heights and widths. On the contrary, the dimensions are fixed for elite gymnasts.
For practice, however, it is best to set the distance between the low and high bar according to the gymnast’s height.
Skills Required To Perform On Uneven Bars
Some of the common skills in a typical gymnastic routine involving asymmetric bars are circles, pirouettes, and release moves. Let’s take a look at what these fancy terms mean…
From free hip circles to giant circles, the gymnast leaps over the bar in a circle, ending with the hips close to the bar or stretching out into a headstand.
For this move, the gymnast is already in a headstand and twirls on their hands. They may flaunt more precision by using various hand movements while performing multiple pirouettes.
3. Release Moves
Here, the gymnast releases the bar and grasps it again. They may go from the low bar to the high bar, and vice versa, or stay on the same bar. Some popular release moves performed by elite gymnasts are Pak salto, Jaeger, Shaposhnikova, Gienger, and Tkatchev/reverse hecht. Interestingly, they are named after the first gymnast who performed the move.
Three Phases Of A Bar Routine
1. The Mount
The gymnast usually starts by hopping onto one of the horizontal bars of the apparatus. Alternatively, they may perform one or more flips, a somersault, or a more complex move before jumping onto the low bar.
2. The Routine
Usually, the routine consists of 15-20 skills using both the uneven bars. The skills should flow from one move to another with no extra swings and pauses. Some mandatory moves a gymnast must perform in the routine include mounts, giants, release moves, stalders, elementary skills, and dismounts. Although there is no time limit for the routine, they generally last between 30 and 45 seconds.
Along with good form, the gymnast can perform two or more skills together to gain a higher difficulty score. As such, you may have seen some gymnasts performing pirouettes, somersaults, or other release moves immediately one after the other.
When I say good form, note that it refers to pointed toes and straight legs, along with an extended body while performing a handstand.
3. The Dismount
Lastly, the gymnast releases one of the two bars and lands on the mat, usually ending with more twists and flips. The main aim here, for every gymnast, is to land on the mat/floor swiftly and smoothly, without any foot movement. Again, the distance and height from the bar are considered for marking by the judges.
Overall, they judge a routine based on the gymnast’s form, technique, and execution and the difficulty and composition of the moves. As a result, if the gymnast falls, pauses, performs empty swings, or maintains poor form, the judges will deduct marks.
Does A Gymnast Need Hand Grips?
As mentioned before, the bars are made of fiberglass and wood and may get slippery for gymnasts to perform effectively. Hence, some use hand grips (especially in the US), while others may not feel the need to wear anything, thanks to their calloused and toughened hands.
However, many experts recommend wearing hand grips while using uneven bars, and these accessories are easily available on the market. Moreover, I suggest wearing hand grips and practicing with them sooner if you are willing to make a career in artistic gymnastics. As a result, you will not have to relearn all the moves that you may have picked up first without wearing the grips.
Plus, wearing hand grips will protect your hands from getting bruised and may even help you perform better. Notably, some professional gymnasts may prefer using tape or gauze instead.
Another point to keep in mind is that the best gymnastics uneven bar grips may differ for men and women. While female gymnasts lean towards dowel grips and non-dowel grips, male gymnasts are recommended to use two-finger and three-finger grips.
But at the end of the day, it depends on what you prefer and what your coaches may recommend.
Distance Between Uneven Bars In Gymnastics Conclusion
That ends my extensive guide on uneven bars in gymnastics. I hope I was able to answer your questions regarding the topic.
However, for anyone willing to learn the sport and parents who wish to encourage their children for the same, it’s best to discuss with the trainers for personalized recommendations. They will also be able to maintain your safety while increasing the difficulty level of the apparatus to help you improve.