There are several ways to make a gymnastic balance beam for home use. They can run the gamut from basic wooden girder to carpeted girder. Or you can make a more elaborate balance beam that is padded and wrapped in faux suede. However you decide, this project is not very difficult and can save you money. Most of the supplies you need can be found at a local home improvement store.
First a little background. All competing gymnasts are required to perform on a balance beam. Beams used in international gymnastics competitions must comply with the strict guidelines and specifications set forth in the International Gymnastics Federation Apparatus Standards. Originally, the surface of the balance beam was polished wood. Since the 1980s, the packs have been covered in faux suede. Competition beams are also being released today to accommodate the pressure caused by the high difficulty of ballroom and dance skills. This is why gymnasts who compete can be very particular about the equipment they use in the gym versus the equipment you might make at home. Therefore, it is always a good idea to consider the level of the gymnast when deciding to start this project
The regulation length of the competition balance beam is 16 feet 5 inches. Many homeowners can’t fit a device of this size into a home, so they decide to make a shorter one. Many of the homemade balance beams are 8 to 12 feet long, however, they are all about 4 inches wide. The height of the beam will depend on where it will be used. We do not recommend using balance beams outside because it can be difficult to get a stable surface to prevent wobbles. Your device should always be used on a flat surface.
For beginners ages 3 to 6, the basic plank will provide a great introduction to the sport. As the gymnast gets older, this same apparatus can be rolled up in carpet to provide a bit of padding or you can choose to wrap it in faux suede to give it the realistic look and feel of a standard balance beam.
(6) 8-foot 1×6 lumber (or whatever length needed)
(2) 2″ x 4″ 20″ lumber for the legs
Wood glue (such as Elmer’s Carpenter’s Glue)
3M adhesive spray
3″ wood screws
Suede top for carpet beam (option for carpet beam)
4 inch hook-and-loop tape (option for stuffing)
Faux suede fabric (cover option)
Iron leg brace option
Glue the six 8-foot pieces of 1 x 6-inch pine together so that their sides are just touching each other. This will create a block of wood about 8 feet long and about 4.5 inches wide.
Stick the glue between the boards and use the clamps to make sure the glue sticks to the wood. Let it dry overnight. Using a belt sander, go over the entire beam and sand for a smooth finish. If your beam is stained, you can use first-grade sandpaper with an Orbital sander to get a smooth finish. If the crossbar is covered with carpet or suede, this step can be omitted.
Colored wooden beam. After sanding to a smooth finish, apply the stain to your beam.
To make a carpeted beam, you’ll use heavy-duty staples and wrap the beam with carpet. Start by stapling the mat to the underside of the balance beam and wrap the mat snugly around the bar, stapling only the underside of the crossbar. You can also use adhesive spray to further secure the carpet to the beam.
In order to get a suede covered beam, you will need to stuff the beam first with neoprene tape. It can be difficult to find the 4-inch wide neoprene that is used in professional beams, so many homemade packages use yoga mats to line the beam. You don’t want the beam to be too soft so minimal padding is required. Do not staple the padding. Use glue only as staples will cause dimples. You can also use a 4-inch wide adhesive peel and stick ring to create a padding, too. Continue attaching the suede to the crossbar by applying spray adhesive to the top and sides of the balance beam. Work from below the crossbar, stapling the suede along the bottom. This is a two person project where one needs to pull the suede tightly around the beam evenly while holding it with the adhesive. Make sure your balance beam is completely dry before use.
For the base beam, you will attach (2) 20-inch 2×4 wood clips to each end. Place each brace at a 90-degree angle to the beam 12 inches from each end.
Alternatively, you can buy stabilizer supports made of iron that you simply screw to the bottom of your beam. These brackets come in various heights and can make your beam adjustable. It is possible to convert your base beam into metal supports later. One advantage of metal supports is that they are long enough to allow the mat to slide under the balance beam while the gymnast uses it.
Use homemade balance beams at your own discretion. Since your beam is not a professionally made piece of equipment, it is only as powerful as your skill. Use under supervision because gymnastics is a sport with an inherent risk of potential injury.