History Tuesday: High Bar

Boris Shakhlin (known as the Iron Man) was a World Champion in the early days.

Last of my History lesson Tuesdays featuring men’s gymnastics. This one on my favorite events to watch but least favorite to do.  I never competed High bar as a gymnast except one time in college when my team competed in Michigan at a meet held during a snow storm. The opposing team had only a few gymnasts show up and we had our whole team. I competed as the 5th man on High bar and ended up placing 5th. Goes to show what a pull up, a few swings and a “dump off” can get you in Michigan.

High Bar” was originally the German term for a bar that appeared on farms, it was used for hanging up cloths, sausages or plates, and as sitting perches for chickens. In 1812 gymnastics pioneer Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) introduced the High Bar for gymnastics training.

At the time of  its introduction the bar was made of wood and about 2 inches thick. Jahn knew only simple elements like up-swinging skills and simple rotations. These pull-overs, kips and hip circles are still the basic skills we build from today. Around 1850 solid iron bars were introduced and in the beginning of the twentieth century steel bars were brought out, opening the door to more dynamic skills and higher risk elements. However the changes were initially made because until 1954 gymnastics was still done outside (brutal in Wisconsin or Michigan for that matter) and the equipment

Stoyan Deltchev holding a skill he made famous on Rings

needed to be adjustable. Even though the iron bars that preceded today’s design had plenty of big skills; at the Olympic games in 1908 London a gymnast performed a double back flip dismount after multiple giants. Imagine doing that skill on a playground bar at your child’s school. That was the standard equipment, and skills like a double truly demonstrated the prowess of athletes at that time.

For the development of release skills on high bar much can be attributed to the Bulgarian Stoyan Deltschev (who now owns a gym in Reno

Nevada and Gymfinity teams have competed against his team. They are very good.)  Deltchev’s straddle somersault forwards with 1/2 turn was the origin for Eberhard Gienger to develop his Geinger on high bar. Many skills were developed and the event evolved because of the competition between great gymnasts.

Here is Gymfinity’s Aryn Skibba catching her first Geinger, the skill named for Eberhard Geinger.


Here is America’s favorite Danell Leyva on “pipe”. He is one of the most exciting gymnasts out there and coached by his dad…you hear that Owen? 


Leave a Comment