A gymnastics beam is a very important part of gymnastics and it is more commonly referred to as the balance beam. This being the case, it should come as no surprise to learn that the dimensions for this are very specifically outlined.
It is so important, in fact, that the women’s artistic gymnastics have a whole event with this apparatus which is either referred to as the balance beam event or simply as the beam event. The abbreviation for this event is BB which stands for balance beam.
The measurements for the balance beam is something that is controlled by FIG which regulates both the length, the width, and the height that the balance beam is supposed to be, among other details. The specified height of the balance beam is 125 cm which is the same as 4.1 feet off of the ground. This height is not always used during training, but it is required for the gymnastics competitions.
The length of the balance beam is 500 cm which is 16 feet, and the width of the balance beam is 10 cm which is actually 3.9 inches. So, even though the balance beam is most often referred to as being 4” wide, a balance beam is actually just a little shy of being that width.
Differences In The Balance Beam Over The Years
These dimensions make the beam a thin, long board which is raised to the proper height most often by some sort of a stand that is at both ends. These measurements are the same for all gymnastics, even for competitions in other countries.
There are several different companies that sell balance beams, and every gym has at least one that meets these specifications. However, many also use beams that are shorter to the ground and have various surfaces in order for the young gymnasts to practice moving around on the beam without being so far off of the ground.
These beams can even be directly on the floor for beginning gymnasts, with only the length and the width being the same. Since beginner gymnasts are more likely to slip or to fall off of the beam entirely, this makes sure that they are far less likely to get hurt since they are not falling any great distance.
When the balance beam was first made and was used as a part of gymnastics, the beam was solely made of a polished wood of some kind. Then a little later on these were covered with a type of material that was somewhat like the outside of a basketball.
However, this surface proved to be too slippery for gymnasts to perform on, so eventually beams like these were banned for safety reasons. Since then the balance beams have been made with a covering of leather or suede which offers more grip to the gymnasts.
Another difference that they have made to the balance beam in recent years is to add a certain amount of springiness in order to accommodate the jumps and things that the gymnast usually does on the beam during the course of her routine.
Finally, another difference that has taken place with the balance beam is what is actually done on it by the gymnasts. When the event was first started, the routines that took place on it where much more focused on dance than they were on tumbling and acro skills.
Even at the elite level at first the routines mostly had various leaps and dance poses, with some other things like handstands and walkovers. Even as late as the 1960’s one of the most difficult skills that an Olympic gymnast might do was a back handspring on the balance beam.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the difficulty of the beam really began to change to be more like what it is today. Part of this was because it was around this same time that the beams started to be made safer with covered surfaces that were less slippery, thereby making the harder moves on the beam more practical.
Rules And Deductions For The Balance Beam
Nowadays the balance beam event has a number of different requirements for it, which in part depends on the level of the gymnast who is doing the routine. However, each level must include some specified acrobatic skills, turns, and dance skills, some are only a certain number, but one thing that is more particular is the split leap which is mentioned by name as one thing that must be done in most levels.
Any failure to include a skill that she is supposed to have is something that will result in points being taken away from the gymnast’s score. Other than that, deductions are also made for any errors that they make, such as if they visibly have to wave an arm to help with their balance or if their split leap does not reach the right angle.
Other faults that can be a cause for points to be deducted are centered around the dismount which is also considered to be a part of the routine. Points are deducted here if the gymnast takes a step, whether a small one or a big one, or struggles for a moment with their balance on landing off of the beam.
Finally, the gymnast can also get a deduction if they fall off of the beam. They may get back on the beam and finish their routine if they are able to do so, but they have to do so in a certain amount of time or they are not allowed to. This amount of time is 10 seconds, which starts as soon as she hits the ground off of the beam.
A gymnast can use the springboard to mount the beam as long as it is an acknowledged mount. The routines should last up to 90 seconds, but there is not technically a minimum amount of time that the routine has to be as long as all of the required elements are met.
However, going over that amount of time is actually something else that a gymnast can lose points for, so it is important to stay under the 90 seconds. To help with this the gymnast as well as the judges are always able to see the scoreboard which will show the timer going on it so that the gymnast can see how much time she has left at any point.
In case the gymnast does not have time to look at the clock, there is a warning bell sounded 10 seconds before the 90 seconds is up. It is also important to note that the gymnast does not have to land at the 90 seconds, but she does have to have left the balance beam.
The routine can be done either barefoot or the gymnast can wear gymnastic shoes if she prefers, a fair number of gymnasts simply chalk their feet and hands to help with grip. Chalk can also be used to mark lines on the beam if the gymnast needs the lines to help her know where she should be at different parts of her routine.
For a beginner gymnast the coach can help by spotting for some of the harder mounts that involve the springboard, and it is the coach’s job to remove the springboard from near the beam once the mount is over so that it is not in the way.
In the first couple of levels it is somewhat permissible for a coach to spot with the harder skills. However, after that point any help is, once again, something that points are deducted for, though oftentimes if a coach knows that their gymnast might have a fall when they attempt a certain part of their routine they will often go near the beam to be ready to catch them so that they don’t get hurt.
This is something that is perfectly permissible as long as they do not touch the gymnast unless the gymnast falls. Finally, for this event the gymnast is supposed to use the entire the length of the beam as much as possible.