Gymnastic ladders, usually associated with the school gym or physiotherapy office, are increasingly becoming an element of equipment in our homes or apartments. This is because we see their potential related to maintaining proper physical fitness, which largely affects our health and general well-being. And there must be something to it, since the ladder has been known for thousands of years and is still experiencing its renaissance. So let’s get to know its history to find out more about its many advantages.
The beginnings of gymnastics and gymnastic wall bars in Sweden
Gymnastic ladders, bars or, in other words, “stall bars” were created with a view to developing strength, condition and flexibility of the human body. The first mention of gymnastics as a field of sport dates back to the mid-17th century. It was treated as a component of physical education. Johann Guts Muths is considered to be the father of physical education and modern gymnastics. He was also an inventor who introduced an innovative solution for exercising at that time. He built a wooden frame 6 meters high with climbing ropes hanging on it. It was one of the first rope ladders to build the prowess of young men.
Frederick Ludvig Jahn, compelled by his fascination with Guts’ invention, decided to develop it, thus in his native East Prussia he created a playground for adults (enlarged several times), in which all the elements he installed were based on the principle of a ladder. Jahn’s first outdoor gyms were so popular that the next ones started popping up like mushrooms. Initially, they were located outside, only after a few years the square was roofed, creating the first gym in history.
In fact, it is difficult to precisely define the inventor of the ladders, because Guts Muth, Jahn and Per Henrik Ling came up with the idea of using them as an exercise tool at the same time. Although the latter had the most in common with sport, he is most often credited with the invention of the gymnastic wall bar.
Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish poet (1776-1839), is the inventor of many devices for gymnastics, such as ladders, beams, horses and benches. Ling is also a recognized scientist and athlete, and his life success is the introduction of a new educational movement in his country. Ling, who suffered from arthritis, noticed that exercise had a therapeutic effect on his diseased arm. What he observed later, he used during his studies in the field of “anatomy and physiology”. In his life, Ling was guided by the belief that physical effort must be properly selected for a person and at the same time he should train the body and mind, and then he unequivocally recognized that the gymnastic wall bar meets all these requirements and at the same time will work for people in all age groups.
In the first half of the 19th century, French statesman Napoleon became a serious threat to Sweden and took away much of its land. At that time, Ling supported the Swedish monarch and offered to establish a Central Gymnastics Institute in Stockholm. In 1813, Ling, with the consent of Charles XIII, established the first of its kind in Europe. It was supposed to be a method of building a powerful military force that would serve the nation. At that time, the so-called “Swedish” trend emerged, which involved the use of gymnastic wall bars and trellises during gymnastics. After Ling’s death, his son Hjalmar took over his father’s duties. He focused on the development and promotion of gymnastic wall bars, which made this product famous not only in Sweden, but also marked its presence all over the world.
Gymnastic ladders as a basis for exercises
Exactly one hundred years ago, ladders with specific parameters began to be used by the YMCA, i.e. the Union of Christian Men’s Youth in the USA. They were about 90 cm wide and 240 cm high and were attached to the wall in four places. Initially, the bar looked like a wide ladder with a so-called legs with steel rods threaded through them, which were thick and solid – they are said to be indestructible and even the heaviest man did not bend them. Round rungs allowed for a solid grip, they were an irreplaceable tool for acrobats, athletes, gymnasts, police and physiotherapists – the ladder was useful in every place.
During World War II, in the so-called physiotherapeutic services for the US military Physiotherapists were concentrated in what were called Therapeutic gymnasiums, in which the main exercise equipment, located in the gym, were ladders. The Americans loved it, so it quickly began to appear also in gyms and in fitness clubs – it became simply fashionable. However, their popularity quickly faded and in the middle of the 20th century, climbing frames were forgotten as gymnastic equipment.
After a short time, however, the gymnastic wall bars returned with redoubled strength. It quickly proved that it is one of the best equipment for building endurance. The 21st century also means greater health awareness and, at the same time, greater care for your body, thanks to which the rungs have gained recognition both in gyms and in private homes. As a curiosity, it can be added that in the movie entitled “Stall Bar drills” by Tammy Biggs, the coach of the national team in gymnastics, noted that the ladder is the basis for personal and team training.
It seems that more and more people are realizing this. The gymnastic ladder is the appropriate exercise equipment for people of all ages. In addition, it gives so many possibilities, because with its use you can train all parts of the body and it is completely safe. History itself shows how important this inconspicuous equipment was and still is. So see for yourself how many advantages it brings and how positively it affects our health and well-being.