When trying to get equipped for home gymnastics, it is difficult to know where to start. The balance beam, a bar, rings, and air track are the most popular pieces of equipment used for home practice. But certain equipment can be unsuitable in some households.
The balance beam however, will suit pretty much every type of home, even ones with limited space.
Here are 9 reasons why a balance beam is a great place to start for your home gymnastics setup.
Balance beams don’t take up much room
At only 4 inches wide and between 6 to 12 feet long, home balance beams only require a small space when being used. There should be plenty of space around the beam in case of a fall but even so, most people will have enough room somewhere to set up a beam safely.
Folding beams are very popular at home which makes storage even easier.
A full-size competition beam is just over 16 feet long and raised 4 feet in the air which would be tricky to replicate at home but by having a shorter and lower version at home, a gymnast can still make a lot of improvements in technique and execution.
Balance beams are safe for home use
The most popular beams for home use are only raised a few inches off the ground. A typical foam beam will be between 2-3 inches in height reducing the chance of injury during a loss of balance or fall.
It also means you don’t need lots of additional matting underneath and around the beam, as you would see with a full-height beam.
There are slightly higher beams around for example the FB Sport Adjustable Beam which can go up to 24 inches from the floor. It is made from wood and covered in padded suede just like a regular beam you would find in the gym but at just half the height.
For the youngest gymnasts, a floor mat with a line is even lower in height (less than an inch) but still provides a good training aid for the home. Likewise many air tracks for home use also have a solid line through the middle to replicate a beam. These are also great as they reduce the height and chance of serious injury.
Balance beams are affordable
A home Balance Beam doesn’t have to be expensive.
You can pick up a reasonable quality 8 ft foam beam on Amazon for around $35 – $40. Compared with the cost of a bar, rings or air track, the balance beam is one of the cheapest items in a home gymnastics setup. So if you are just starting out and are unsure whether the whole idea of home practice will work (or be forgotten about after five minutes!), a beam is the ideal way to find out without spending a lot of money.
My choice for a beam on a budget is the Marfula Folding Beam which can be found on Amazon for under $40.
You can read about my picks for other choices in my article ‘The 6 Best Balance Beams for Home Use’.
Improve balance with a balance beam
Balance can be divided into two categories; static (holding/freezing in balance) and dynamic (moving whilst keeping balance).
Both will improve with extra training at home and there is plenty crossover onto other elements of Gymnastics. For example, the technique of holding a static balance will need the head forward, back straight and arms extended. We use exactly the same points when landing a vault or landing a dismount from the bars.
Examples of Static Balances to practice at home:
- One leg balance
Examples of Dynamic Balances to practice at home:
- Travelling forwards, backwards and sideways
- Dance sequences
- Acro skills
Most of these elements are relatively safe on a home balance beam except the more acrobatic skills such as cartwheels, walkovers or back handspring. I do not recommend trying these without professional guidance as poor technique can lead to serious injury.
Balance beam combinations are endless
Once you’ve got a bank of skills that can be confidently performed on the beam, the next step is to start linking them together to form a routine. Combinations of both dynamic and static type skills can be combined in any order you like.
You could try and link a forward roll into a split leap or a full turn jump.
Have you tried to link a back walkover into a spin?
Gymnasts already working towards competitions may have been given set routines to practise and it’s still a good idea to dedicate a large portion of time to that. However, sometimes it’s good just to try something new or to focus on something different for a while so that your mind doesn’t get overwhelmed.
Balance beam success is easy to spot
Working on the beam doesn’t require a whole lot of experience to spot success.
Success = staying on!
Sure there are a lot of techniques to master and I’m not pretending it’s an easy piece of apparatus to get good at. I actually think it’s the hardest to master out of any apparatus – male or female. But if you are staying on the beam consistently whilst performing a skill that was tricky a few months ago, you don’t need an expert to tell you improvements have happened.
At some point, you will need the advice of a professional coach if you want to advance further, but as a parent trying to offer support, it’s great to be able to spot success and say ‘well done!’. Let’s face it, with many other elements of gymnastics, parents can be unsure if something is being done correctly or not and we rely on the coach’s opinion and feedback.
A home balance beam is a confidence builder
Improving at Gymnastics is all about repetition of practice and the awesome thing about having a beam at home is that a gymnast can build their confidence by repeating a skill time and time again at a safer, lower height.
The plan is always to then move it up to the next height on the competition-sized beam in the real gym and to link it into a routine.
As a coach it is easy to spot the gymnasts who are putting in the extra repetitions both at home and in the gym – and they are the ones who have the best chance of being confident and making progress. I don’t recommend being a completely self-taught gymnast and would encourage anyone thinking of learning gymnastics to get professional guidance at some point.
Balance beams can grow in size with the gymnast
As your gymnast grows in height, ability and confidence the equipment they use will need to grow in size as well. Look out for foam beams that have velcro at either end meaning they can be extended to 6, 8, 12 feet or even the full length of 16 feet.
Foam beams can’t be raised any further up from the floor so if you are looking for a beam that can be adjusted in height, you would need to consider something like the Tumble Trak Addie Beam which has optional leg raisers taking it up to 12 inches from the ground.
By future-proofing your beam you will save money in the long term and ensure your gymnast is not held back from working on new, harder skills.
Balance beams are easy to Move
Pretty much any type of home balance beam is easy to move. Most are lightweight and the foldable ones are super easy to pack up and move. So if the weather is great outside, it will only take a moment to set up your session in the garden.
Need to move to another room – no problem, you’ll be back up and running in seconds!
If you decide that a home balance beam is something you need, I’d recommend checking out my in-depth analysis of the best ones available. There are a few things to think about before you decide exactly which one is for you and I cover those points here.