Breaking in New Grips

Posted by Angel Brown on


You just got your new pair of grips - now what?

Once you choose a grip type (we’ll focus on dowel grips in this article), make sure they fit properly before you start breaking them in. They should be snug, and you should not be able to fully extend your hand with your new grips on. They may feel a tad too small at first because the leather is stiff. That’s normal.

After you have determined that you have the right grip size, decide which grip will go on which hand. Then use a permanent marker to mark one with an L and the other with an R. They're made uniformly for either hand, but once you break them in you can’t alternate––they should only stay on one hand or the other.

We get it. You’re antsy and want to start using your grips immediately. But you can’t just strap them on and start practicing.  The leather on gymnastics grips can be stiff, and you need to break it in to get the best and safest experience from your new grips.

There are plenty of recommendations for getting these important pieces of equipment broken in. But many of them are misguided and downright harmful to your grips.


Follow these tips to get your gymnastics grips broken in (without damaging them in the process). 

  • Start with the finger holes pointing upward and the dowel facing you.
  • Wrap the leather around the dowel and roll the grip down to the cuff.
  • Follow these same steps with the dowel pointing away from you. You’ll notice the leather is already softer.
  • Repeat this same procedure on each grip.

Note: never pinch the leather together at a sharp angle. This may damage it.


The above process should loosen and soften the finger holes. If it doesn’t, then use the following process:

  • Get a small piece of sandpaper
    Wrap the sandpaper around a pencil with the abrasive part facing the finger holes.
  • Repeatedly rub the pencil/sandpaper combo inside the finger holes, back and forth in a circular motion, to make the opening wider. This will uniformly make the holes bigger without tearing the leather.  This process increases the size of the finger holes very quickly, so sand a little bit at a time and check the fit frequently.
  • The finger holes should be very snug.  They will continue to stretch with use.

Some people recommend using bar adjustment knobs at the gym to loosen finger holes. Do not do this! Don’t stretch the holes by hooking or pulling on anything, and do not cut the holes to make them wider.

Shortcuts in the process will damage the leather and you’ll have to buy new grips.


Start slowly when you bring your new grips into the gym. Begin wearing your new grips for basic skills, or just for warming up on bars, until they are broken in.  Only when your grips feel more comfortable and broken in should you attempt more advanced or new skills.  Always check with your coach to make sure you are ready.

New grips take some time to get used to and effort to get broken in. Don’t get discouraged.  Grips are essential for safety as you progress in gymnastics.

 Once you get used to the grips and break them in, you’ll never want to be on bars without your new best friends!


Do you have more questions?  Check out our FAQs page for more information and stay tuned to our blog!  Next month we will tackle caring for and maintaining your grips.

New to grips? Start with our Beginner Grips or Hot Shots!

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