Practicing your balance is great exercise – and you do not need to be a professional gymnast to improve your coordination and strength from home. There are multiple ways to build your strength, but one that combines hands-on learning, exercises mind and body, and is something that can be practiced nearly everywhere is the skill of balance.
Today, we will walk through the steps necessary to build your own elevated balance beam to be used at home. Then, it will be time for your gymnastic dreams to become a reality.
Before beginning this project, you will need to ensure you have ample time (parts will need to set overnight), space to build and store your balance beam, and the materials listed below:
- 8’ pieces of 1×6 wood (6 count)
- 24” pieces of 2×4 wood planks (4 count)
- 12” pieces of 2×4 wood plants (4 count)
- Waterproof wood glue
- Weights or vice grips
- Sandpaper or sanding belt
- Angle bracket and screws
- Wood screws
- Staple gun
- Beam cover (Synthetic suede, low-pile carpeting, vinyl scraps)
- Thin layer of foam for padding
A note: ‘ denotes measurement in feet, “ denotes measurement in inches.
Ideally, this balance beam will be kept in an outdoor space, free from other obstacles or interference. If you are going to keep and store your balance beam outside, you will need to add a tarp or beam cover to your list of materials. This balance beam will be movable, though long – take this into consideration when deciding the best location for your new balance beam.
- Organize all materials. If you are going to be applying a beam cover or padding, continue to step 2.If you are leaving the wood exposed, continue to step 3.
- Use a very gentle soap and water mixture, wash the wood with a soft sponge. This will clear any residue and ensure your adhesive sticks for your beam’s padding.
- Gather all 6 pieces of your 8’ wood. These will need to be layered (think about a layer cake) to create one long, thicker board. Lay the board flat (with the 6” side facing up), then apply a layer of wood glue. Repeat until all 8’ boards have been used.
- Using your vice grips or heavyweights, distribute pressure evenly along the length of the board. Allow this to dry overnight. These pieces will become the core of the balance beam and will need to be very sturdy, so do not rush this step.
- Using your sandpaper or belt sander, smooth down the wood beams you glued yesterday as well as your remaining wood.
Prepare the Beam
This balance beam is meant to be elevated off of the ground, to more closely mirror the experience of a professional balance beam. The final balance beam structure will be supported by its frame, which is built to hold the beam off the ground.
If you are covering your balance beam with padding, continue to step 6. If you are leaving your beam uncovered, skip to step 8.
- Trim your adhesive foam so there is nearly no excess fabric as it wraps around the balance beam. Apply a generous layer of glue and then apply the foam. Use your staple gun to securely adhere the foam to the bottom of the balance beam.
- To apply the beam cover, you can again use your adhesive to stick the cover to the padding.
Alternatively, if you have purchased an imitation suede product to cover your beam, it may come with a sticky adhesive – this should be sufficient to stick the beam cover to the beam. Allow ample time for the adhesive to dry. Avoid using the staple gun during this step if possible. This will ensure there is a smooth, even surface on the balance beam.
- Now it is time to attach the legs to the balance beam. On the bottom of your beam, make marks 12” in from the end of each side of the beam. Mount your angle holders (2) at these marks you have made, and then screw in your 2×4 pieces (all 4) to create your balance beam legs. You will need to use a wood screw in each hole of the mounting angle holders to ensure that the balance beam is properly secured.
- Use your 24” wooden planks, and lay them in pairs of 2, with the 4” side facing up. Screw these to the angle holders you made, and ensure all wood screws have been tightened properly.
- Decorate and customize! After you have finished the initial construction, you can paint and decorate the wooden base however you would like. While this step is optional, it is great if you have had assistants or the gymnast help you build the balance beam. It is suggested to use outdoor or heavy-duty paint on the base of your balance beam, particularly if it is kept outdoors. This will ensure your creation is well-crafted and colorful for years to come.
- Play! Remember to cover the balance beam and store it away when not in use.
Now that you are done building your at-home elevated balance beam, it is time to practice some moves. It is important to note that while these balance beams are padded, it is best to take safety precautions when practicing new balance beam moves.
Please note that you may need to adjust these instructions slightly to fit your needs. You will need to consider weatherproofing for your climate and provide storage for your balance beam when it is not in use. For example, if you live in a climate that is prone to heavy rainfall, you will want to ensure that your balance beam cover is not too slick or absorbent and can be safely used in clear weather conditions.
Due to slight variations, this balance beam is intended to be used with adult supervision. While these instructions are straightforward, if you feel uncomfortable or uncertain with any steps, ask a friend or family member to help you.
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