Thumbs around bar or not?

Parents... Coaches... Judges... Gymnasts...
DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members See FEWER Ads!
Join for FREE!
Not open for further replies.
Oct 5, 2008
I've always been taught to have my thumbs over the bar, not around the bar and i thought that was all you could do. The other day a girl who was new to bars got on there and had her thumbs round it and i said to my friend who moved here from a different club 'Shall i tell her that she has to have her thumbs over the bar?' and my friend was like 'umm, you don't have to' i was like what :p she said it's a personal preferance thing, you can do what you like?
I've watched gymnasts on youtube and 70% of the time they seem to have their thumbs over the bar but sometimes also have their thumbs around the bar. Now i'm confused!
I'm re-learning giants over the next few months and know i'd definately feel a lot safer with my thumbs around the bar :p

When do you have your thumbs around the bar and when over the bar?


Jul 5, 2007
I stop kids from doing it except on forward mill circle, where I let them do it either way. If I do a kip front hip circle I find myself wrapping my thumbs on the sit up to cast part for some inexplicable reason (I don't wrap on a kip cast HS myself though I have seen that with the hand turn inward) but I don't really know. I'm okay with it there. I know some girls who used to switch their thumbs over at the top of a giant (perhaps a technique holdover from blind changes since these people also tended to shift their hands in at the top) but no one in my groups kept their thumbs wrapped for the down or upswing. Just at the top or going into a cast HS, but they'd shift over on the drop. Mostly with beginners I feel like it just contributes to awkwardness and they will have their thumbs half on top of the bar, etc.
Sep 21, 2008
Since the girl's bar is larger than the men's bar, and girl's hands are generally smaller than men's, wrapping the thumbs around the bar actually make swinging a little more difficult.

For front or back giants, I do teach to shift and "lock the thumb" as a comfort placer - but after the drop in either direction begins, the thumb moves back so it is not in the way.

Watch carefully. She may be very quickly moving her thumbs, or there is no pressure on her thumbs even if it looks like it.

When your thumb wraps around the bar, the pressure of the bar rests differently in your hand, and may be somewhat more difficult than how it would rest on the whole hand, as it would be without thumbs wrapped.

If you really want to try something different, you may want to talk to your coach. As far as Im concerned, though, wrapping your thumbs (especially on giants) is actually more dangerous than without. It gives a false sense of pressure, and may lead to early taps.

Just my 2 cents.. Im sure other coaches will have an opinion too... Which is why you should talk to your coach about it..

Good luck!!



I generally have my students keep their thumbs over the bar for backwards skills, and I only have them put their thumbs around the bar for forward moving skills where the hands are in front grip (such as front giants and forward mill circles). I do this for the reasons mentioned above; including the fact that it is also my personal preference, not to mention the way that I was taught.

You can always try it out and see how it goes, and always feel free to talk to your coach about things.
Oct 6, 2007
Pittsburgh, PA
It's personal preference at my gym. There's a couple girls on my team who wrap the thumb, a few who don't. I personally keep my thumbs over the bar, but that's just the way I was taught. ;)
Jul 20, 2008
canada!... eh
At my gym we were always taught to put our thumbs around the bar when ever in support because if your hand were to move forward it would slip off the bar because of all your weight there and there is nothing to keep it from sliping. If you have your thumb around the bar then it stops your hand from sliping off (if that makes sense?) so really its just a safety thing at our gym.:rolleyes:
Aug 8, 2007
West Coast
I find that I wrap my thumbs on certain skills, but not most. Sometimes I find myself switching while I'm working on something. I was taught to do it with my fingers and thumb all together, but now that I have switched gyms, most of the girls here wrap their thumbs around the bar.
Jul 21, 2008
New Zealand
We have a thin metal bar at the gym where I coach and I find that I'll wrap my thumbs on that bar, but when I go to another gym for adult classes and use the uneven bars I don't wrap my thumbs because the bar is thicker.
Dec 8, 2007
I was told in level 2 that would could break your thumbs if you wrapped them around the bar so I haven't done it since.. haha


I leave my thumbs next to my fingers on everything except a squat on. No idea why. I was told that it leaves less problems for blind changes later on. But when we do handstand pushups on the floor bars i wrap my thumbs around. I've never had a coach say anything either way though.
Oct 5, 2008
I was told in level 2 that would could break your thumbs if you wrapped them around the bar so I haven't done it since.. haha

EEEP i wont wrap them then.
I'm a violinist so am sooo paranoid about hurting my hands in some way in gym... rips are bad enough, let alone broken bones >_<

But as for wrapping on squat on i may just try that... cause my squat on's are dodgy/unreliable mainly cause i feel unsafe/like im gonna fall forwards or backwards (mainly forwards...!)


I usually put my thumbs with my fingers... i dont really get why you would put your thumbs around on a mill circle i think its easier without... i was also told that you could break your thumbs if you put them around..


Jul 5, 2007
I leave my thumbs next to my fingers on everything except a squat on. No idea why. I was told that it leaves less problems for blind changes later on. But when we do handstand pushups on the floor bars i wrap my thumbs around. I've never had a coach say anything either way though.

Actually squat ons are one of the skills I seem to recall being told to watch for wrapping on (although I don't think it's a problem for advanced gymnasts, I mean for those learning/improving squat on). Because some kids have broken their arms doing squat ons, going too far through their arms or slipping, and then not letting go of the bar, and wrapping the thumbs might make it more likely they get caught rather than letting go. The same for doing drills like having them jump up and clap after bringing the feet on or something, so they don't try to perch with their hands too long on the bar. But I don't recall exactly where I was told this.
Jan 3, 2009
Dallas, TX
Hey! It's a good idea to have your thumbs around the bar for casting- it distributes the weight more evenly on your hands and gives you a little more leverage- but then shift your thumb so that all of your fingers/thumb are OVER the bar for swinging and circling skills. You don't want to dislocate your thumbs! It's really easy and becomes second nature after just a few tries.


and oh yeah - The world is flat too...

The "You'll break your thumbs" advice for female bar performers is "dated" at best... but it is certainly still heard in gyms around the US... in spite of a high percentage of international gymnasts now using the full grip on almost all skills.

Forty years ago when I started gymnastics the "thumbs" warning was valid, as the x-section of the women's rail was egg shaped - just like the men's parallel bars rails. You HAD to have large hands to wrap your thumbs on those bars let me tell you!

However nowadays the women's bars are smaller and almost perfectly round in x-section. Unless your hands are very small (thumb and index finger do NOT touch when you wrap grip the bar - WITH thumbs around) you should use your thumbs to grip the bar. This grip provides significant additional control for both support and swinging skills in either direction.

It is important to NOTE however that when the thumbs are wrapped the gymnast should NOT "pinch" with their thumbs (imagine you are thumb wrestling... You push your thumb backward over the back of your hand as if you are stretching for your little finger to prevent being pinned by your opponent's thumb). This "pinching" action WILL quickly result in blisters on the inside of the thumb - and also will provide unnecessary friction during swinging skills. Only squeeze with the thumb when it is needed (most often at the top of a swing through handstands but also in supports where a hanging swing turns into a support position as the ascent is attained - (a free/clear hipcircle for example)).

In 1492 Christopher Columbus was told he was endangering his crew and his Queen's resources by sailing off the edge of the (flat) world to seek a new route to India. Even after his return that belief lingered for a few HUNDRED years. Didn't have the web then! SO - spread the word........ The bar is round. Use your thumbs as soon as your hands are large enough to do so.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 person


Oct 24, 2010
Wow I must have small hands, there's no way my thumb and index finger touch when I hold the bar!
I was always taught to have my thumbs around the bar for casting (especially cast to handstand), because it provides more stability and is way safer - your hands can't slip off as easily. But for every other skill everyone at my gym keeps their thumbs over the bar. So for example when we do kips, we jump and grasp the bar and perform the majority of the kip with out thumbs over the bar and out of the way, then as we rise up onto the bar and get ready to cast, that's when we shift our thumbs to grip the bar. That's how our whole gym does it! It's interesting to see all the replies.
I can definitely see the validity of keeping your thumbs out of the way for most skills. I did a backhip circle once and forgot to shift my thumbs out the way - it hurt so much!


I prefer thumb around the bar for support stuff. It's probably not going to happen from a long hang even for older girls and in that case I might prefer the thumb on top.

For a glide swing, we have a specific reason to catch the bar with thumb on top but I will teach them to either catch it with the thumb placed along the bar rather than on top of it, sliding to on top as they extend out. It's not that tricky to do as I managed to do it on my 2nd attempt.
Nov 18, 2011
when i hold the bar i just naturally put my thumb by my other fingers. when i first started i didn't know what to do so i tried both ways and putting my thumb away from other fingers just didn't feel right to me aha. i've also heard later on it can be dangerous to do that
Not open for further replies.