The History of Horizontal Bar
 "High Bar" was originally a name for a horizontal pole in chicken stalls, and was taken by Jahn as name for the gymnastics apparatus. However, ever since gymnastics on horizontal bars or ropes was keenly done all over the world. Already jugglers of late Hellenistic or early Chinese times and even Eskimos have performed giant swings.
The Horizontal Bar was continuously developped and improved. Let it be because an ingenious gymnast performed exercises which could not be done by others on the existing apparatuses, or because coaches, gymnasts, and engineers opened the way with help of new constructions for even more bold swings and flights - of which many experts think that they are the finishing chapter of gymnastics on High Bar, the "king of apparatuses"!
 From upswing to somersaults - ARTistic gymnastics on the horizontal bar

German version

"High Bar" was originally a low German name for a horizontal bar for hanging up cloths, sausages or plates, and in chicken stalls for sitting places of the poultry - and was taken by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) as name for the gymnastics apparatus introduced by him in 1812. Predecessors are horizontal or slightly slope bars and tightened ropes on which ever since exercises were done similar to high bar routines.

Already jugglers of late Hellenistic and of early Chinese times, and even Eskimos have performed giant swings. Nikephoros from Byzanz reports excercises done by a group of tightrope walkers on a horizontal tightened rope, there were knee hang,  knee hang wave and the giant wave (the first description of this exercise). 
However, not before Breughel's widely known painting of the games, playfull exercises on bars in our culture were documented as they are still done by children and probably for centuries whereever there was an opportunity. On bars of bambus Japanese performed 'horizontal bar exercises' in the 18th/19th century as painted by the famous painter Hokusai (1770 - 1849).

Ever since and everywhere: >>>
Giants on wooden bars      

Johann Christoph GutsMuths (1759-1839) asked his students to climb and even to do routines on a slightly rising crossbeam, but he still did not know high bar in his text book of 1793. In 1812 Jahn wanted horizontal bars to be put in different heights between young oaks on  the Hasenheide and the students used them so keenly that the number of the bars had to be increased to six.
jahn_reck.jpg (16631 Byte) << "Natural gymnastics on high bar":
Jahn'sches climbing on  the Hasenheide

At the time of  its introduction the bar was made of wood and about 8 cm thick. Jahn-student Dürre reports of a hexagon horizontal bar in this year and of the first exercises: Jahn knew only simple elements like upswing, from stand or hang, and simple rotations, with which  the gymnastic art on high bar was born. Jahn reports in the preface of his "German Art of Gymnastics" (Deutsche Turnkunst, 1816) of "60 different upswings of one kind" (of the knee upswing) and then of the brothers Thaer, the first namely known high bar gymnasts who even managed to do 132 upswings.

>> The wooden bar was first stabilised with an inlay made of iron or steel like the pencil with graphite. At about the same time when Kunz invented the upstart around 1850, naked and rough iron bars were introduced. 

>> At the beginning of the 20 th century elastic bars made of steel were established. Already in 1906 bars with a length of about 220 cm and a diameter of about 33 mm were prescribed in the official "Norms for gymnastics apparatusses". These measurements have changed only slightly.

>> Since the DIN-measurement of 1951 modern bars are 240 cm long, only 28 mm thick and consist of a special spring steel with a core of cable rope, which decreases the danger of injury at a break of the bar.
1920 the bar was still adjusted inflexible onto the pilar, at the modern horizontal bar, however, the head of the fixation is twistable in vertical and horizontal direction. Even the pilar allows a certain turn in the horizontal direction. Movement of the bar is possible in every direction, now!


World Champion '58, Boris Schachlin (URS): >>
 - calledt "the iron man"-
Until 1954 gymnastics was still done outside

schachlin_hb.jpg (14008 Byte)

At the same time as the bar was further developped the other parts of this apparatus changed, too: At the inflexible "post high bar", often secured into the floor, the posts were higher than the bars and thus giant and circle kehren were still not performed. Around 1900 is was coninuously replaced by an apparatus tightened with iron sticks and chains. Here, too, a variable height of the bar was important. Now, the bending through of the bar being under pressure was limited, even though there were still many variations of the form of the apparatus to come.

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Bernd Jäger

To increase performances through improvement of elasticity was an idea not thought about before the WW I. In German gymnastics this happened not before the start of the sportive, that means Olympic and international artistic gymnastics during the preparation for the Olympic Games 1936 through the Olympic candidates Ernst Winter (Frankfurt/Main) and Richard Reuther (Oppau). But one should not imganine these constructions as being too stiff: Already at the Olympic Games 1908 in London a gymnast performed a double somersaulto, even though after plety of giants backwards!

Alexander Tkatschew's (URS) counter-straddle of '77

tkatschew_graetsche.jpg (6257 Byte)

Alberto Braglia from Italy, the world's best gymnast of his time, also performed on a good apparatus in Stockholm 1912, on which he could show his highly admired artistic gymnastics.
Firstly,  the tightening had not been at the height of the variable bar, but later the pilar was integrated into the springs process.

<<<With the Jäger-somersault the development of flying elements on high bar started in 1974

For, so Richard Reuther who was representing the German Gymnastics Federation in the committee of norms, in the year 1953:
"It has to be of that kind that the elasticity of the whole body can be used unhinderingly on the apparatus, without getting damaged. The apparatus must be constructed in a way that it forces the gymnast to perform with dynamic style. It has to form an elastic springing unity in its coplete construction, in which the more antipowers are caused, the more powers are comming to effect from outside."

Eberhard Gienger >>>
The World Champion of '78 is 
the inventor of the popular Gienger-Saltos ('77)  

For the development of the "flying" on high bar the invention of the Bulgarian Stojan Deltschew was essential, too. Actually, his straddle somersault forwards with 1/2 turn was the origin for Gienger. "Somehow I did not manage this thing, the Deltschew-somersault, and suddenly my own version was created!", so Gienger.

gienger_salto.jpg (11544 Byte)

In the "Norms of apparatuses" of 1979 still some things were changed to adjust the apparatus for further developments. This efects especially the height of the Horizontal Bar and therefore also the change of the (double-)fixation. From 1906 to 1965 the high bar had a maximum height  of 2,550 mm, now the maximum height was 2,750 mm with 5 mm tolerance. From now on a long gymnast could execute his routine despite thicker floor mats under the bar, that had become very important becasue of new flying elements -as well as a shorter gymnast on the normal horizontal bar with a height of 2,550 mm. The following rule was prescribed for the safety of the gymnast: "The bar has to endure at least  the 8-fold body weight of a gymnast performing in the middle of the bar and is not supposed to break or bend."

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Ralph Büchner
Gymnastics on high bar on highest level - the World Champion of '91

The Horizontal Bar has a long and developed history and each part has its own one.

First, everything served for a better handling and a higher safety, then especially for increasing top performances when gymnastics became a high performance sport. Let it be, that an ingenious gymnast performed exercises that could not be done by others on the existing apparatuses, or that coaches, gymnasts and engineers opened the way with help of new constructions for even more bold swings and flights, of which many people think that they are the finishing chapter of artistic gymnastics on high bar:

Jari Tanskanen >>>
The surprise World Champion in Lausanne 1997
on the 'king of apparatuses'

tanskanen_hb.jpg (24441 Byte)

Competition Horizontal Bar, "JANSSEN&FRITSEN", Netherlands

Jäger-somersault, Deltschew-somersault, Tkatschew-straddle, Gienger-,  Gaylord-, Kovacs-somersault - in the mean time even with additional twists as the Non-Plus-Ultra of modern gymnastics - these elements require constructions of the most modern kind.

Only excellent qualities of the material enable gymnastics on high bar that corresponds with the dynamic of human movements. 

Hereby, the co-ordination of the quality of the bar, the pilars and the tightening is essential.

Free flights with or without turns of 360° to re-grip the bar demand a techical perfercted apparatus.

Janssen&Fritsen offers the athletes of the 35th world championships in Belgique Ghent such a harmonic construction, that is called legitimately the "king of apparatuses".

Created and translated by: 
Florian Schmid-Sorg

Sources/Quellen: "Der Vorturner", 1927/28; "Das Turnjahrhundert der Deutschen", Götze/Herholz: Beckmanns Sportlexikon A-Z, Leipzig, Wien 1933; "Geschichte der Turngeräte", J. Göhler/R. Spieth; "Mondsalto", gymbooks Verlag 1994, A. Götze/J. Uhr; "FlickFlack...", Sportverlag Berlin, A .Götze/H.-J. Zeume; "The History of British Gymnastics", 1988 by BAGA; Katalog J&F

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