Which balance beams are best?
For many gymnasts, only having access to balance beams at the gym can make it difficult to practice their skills and routines as much as they’d like, and an at-home balance beam can make a huge difference. Competition beams are up to 16 feet long, but standard home beams typically are 8 feet long and up to 2-3 feet high, giving your gymnast a chance to practice their skills on a lower beam in the comfort of home. Purchasing the right beam is important, because using a beam at the wrong height can lead to injury. For a high-quality pick that mimics competition beams, consider our top pick, an 8-foot beam from The Beam Store.
What to know before you buy a balance beam
While gym training allows for more daring acts on the balance beam, training at home can be quite dangerous if the gymnast attempts skills beyond their ability. For beginners, it is recommended to have a beam that sits directly on the floor and has a padded foam core, preventing injury from either falls to the floor or the beam itself. As a gymnast increases in skill and technique, they may choose to use higher beams and beams with a solid wooden core, which resemble competition beams. Only intermediate to advanced gymnasts should have a beam that is a foot or more off the ground, and there should always be mats underneath the beam for safety.
While competition beams are 16 feet long, most at-home beams are about 8 feet, which is still very long. Before you purchase a beam, consider where you will put it in your home, and whether it will stay out all the time or be stored when not in use. Do not leave a beam outside, as weather causes the beam to deteriorate. There are shorter 4- to 6-feet-long beams available, although these really are only usable for children. If storage is a concern for you, consider a foldable balance beam.
Types of balance beams
On-ground balance beams: These are recommended for all beginner gymnasts because they are made from a firm foam that does not cause injury if landed on poorly. Lying directly on the ground, they usually are 2 inches tall, creating a perfect training space for practicing skills and footwork.
Off-ground balance beams: These rely on studs for legs, creating a few inches of height without adding a lot of potential danger. This style allows gymnasts to feel like they are on a competition-level beam, without the risk of significant injury. They are ideal for intermediate gymnasts.
Advanced height balance beams: These are much more similar to competition beams, which makes them much more dangerous. Typically, they rest on steel legs that raise them to about 24 inches. For gymnasts pushing past the intermediate level, advanced height beams are the best ways to prepare for competitions. However, because these are the most dangerous beams, proper technique, safety measures and floor mats underneath the beams are essential.
What to look for in a quality balance beam
Balance beams are either made with a foam core or a wood core, depending on their height and recommended level. Foam cores typically are only seen in on-ground beams designed for beginners because they allow a gymnast to avoid injury even if they fall directly onto the beam. Wood cores are standard for all off-ground and advanced height beams because they are used in competition beams. Wood core beams usually have foam padding on the outside underneath the synthetic suede covers.
Some balance beams come with a variety of heights via adjustable legs. These are ideal for gymnasts who plan to progress to higher levels and want a beam that can progress with them. With an adjustable beam, you don’t have to worry about buying a new beam when you get to higher levels. Adjustable beams are perfect for families with more than one gymnast because they can adjust to the level of each gymnast in the home.
Finding a place to store a balance beam can be a monumental task, so most beam retailers offer beams that fold up to stow away when not in use. Foldable beams typically have hinges designed to lie flat and that are lightweight enough to be easily carried when folded. Most foldable beams are on-ground, however, so they often are insufficient for more advanced gymnasts.
How much you can expect to spend on a balance beam
While there are shorter, on-ground beams available for less than $60, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a beam that is 6-8 feet long for under $150. Even for the highest quality at-home beams, you realistically shouldn’t need to spend much more than $300. For most dedicated gymnasts, a $200-$300 beam is the right choice.
Balance beam FAQ
Is it safe to use a balance beam at home?
A. Yes. Safety is a matter of personal responsibility, so it is always possible to misuse your beam and increase risk. However, most gymnasts have been trained on how to safely use a beam, and using those techniques at home should yield similar results.
What if you have more than one child in gymnastics?
A. If they are at different ages or skill levels, opt for an adjustable beam. Since these beams are designed to be lower or higher to the ground depending on skill level, you can set them at the right height for each of your gymnasts so you don’t have to purchase multiple beams or force a child to use a beam beyond their level.
What are the best balance beams to buy?
Top balance beam
What you need to know: This well-constructed and low profile beam provides the best home parallel to the beams you would use at the gym.
What you’ll love: Synthetic suede and cross-link PE foam padding cover a durable wood core for a close replication of a competition beam. At 8 feet long, it provides plenty of room for all routines and has legs that are easy to attach. It is available in a range of colors.
What you should consider: The suede covering tears more easily than expected.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top balance beam for the money
What you need to know: This strong and durable balance beam is adjustable so it can compensate as your gymnast develops their skills.
What you’ll love: The strong wooden core covered with padding and a suede exterior attaches to an iron foot base with durable varnish and rubber padding for safety. Offering a floor mode and high mode, this beam allows you to adjust the height incrementally as your gymnast gets more and more comfortable on the beam.
What you should consider: The official weight limit is only 130 pounds, although testers found it is very sturdy even with a 200-pound athlete.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Lightweight and easy to store, this folding balance beam provides the perfect at-home beam for beginner gymnasts without a ton of space.
What you’ll love: Unfolding to an extra-long 9.5 feet, this competition-style beam provides a safe space to practice upper-level skills at home. The hinges are designed to lie flat, so they won’t damage your floor or add a bump in the beam. This beam has a carry handle for convenience.
What you should consider: Some customers experienced damage during the delivery process. Some intermediate gymnasts didn’t like the on-ground nature of this beam.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Collette Bliss writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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