Even though the modern trampoline was only invented in the 1930s, different trampoline-like devices have been used for thousands of years. Archaeologists found that they have been used in ancient times on the territories of modern China, Iran, and Egypt. Why exactly people needed trampolines at the time still remains a mystery, but experts suggest that they could be used for celebrations and religious ceremonies, or even simply for having a better look around. Whatever the case, ancient drawings of what can only be trampolines show that these devices have played a very important role in people’s lives.
Trampolines proved to be useful to the Inuit people of Alaska. They needed them to have a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area to spot dangerous animals from a safe distance. A typical trampoline was made from walrus skin and one person sat in the middle of it, while other people held the edges and tossed him in the air. This trampoline could have also been used for recreational purposes.
During the Middle Ages, performers started using springboards that would send them flying into the air, almost like modern trampolines. These quickly became popular because they weren’t heavy, artists could travel with them and easily use them as part of their act. There is a theory that an artist called du Trampolin has come up with an idea of using the trapeze safety net and has worked for days and days to create something that was later named in his honor.
Griswold and Nissen Invent the Trampoline
There’s no scientific proof or documented evidence that it was du Trampolin who invented the first device that resembled the modern trampoline. What is known is that Americans Larry Griswold and George Nissen are the ones who receive the credit for developing the first-ever trampoline in 1935. Griswold was an extraordinary gymnast who eventually became a gymnastics coach at the University of Iowa where he met Nissen, a talented tumbler who joined his gymnastics team. When the two men saw circus artists use safety nets to carry on bouncing during one of their performances, they realized that something like that could make an excellent piece of sports equipment for the gymnastics team. They used angle iron, a canvas bed, and rubber springs to create the trampoline in the basement of a local YMCA.
Uses for the Trampoline
Despite the fact that the trampoline was originally designed to help gymnasts better train and develop their acrobatic skills, Griswold and Nissen quickly realized that there was much more potential to their invention than they could have ever imagined. Children at the YMCA camp noticed it and wanted to play and jump on it just for fun, and that inspired the creation of Griswold-Nissen Trampoline and Tumbling Company. In the late 1950s, the first ever jumping centers were created at the gas stations; there were trampolines children could jump on while their parents filled their cars with gas.
The trampoline was used by more than athletes and children as it was also one of the main military tools to train pilots during World War II. The Navy Flight School of the United States used trampolines because they were perfect for eliminating the pilots’ fear of heights and getting them accustomed to the constant flips and turns that they would need to be prepared for during a battle. In addition, trampolines helped pilots improve balance, body control, and strengthen their muscles.
NASA has found that trampolines are exactly what is needed to prepare astronauts for traveling to outer space. Doing exercises on a trampoline, an astronaut could get used to the feeling of no gravity and weightlessness. In fact, it was scientifically proven that a trampoline is a lot more effective than a treadmill when it comes to strengthening the muscles and learning the correct breathing techniques. Due to how long trampolines last, they were also financially viable when compared to other forms of training. Astronauts who use trampolines before going to space don’t feel as much discomfort when they leave Earth and can be more focused on the mission. Therefore, in a way, Griswold and Nissen’s invention has helped space science advance. In addition, an astronaut who returns back to Earth can use a trampoline to adjust back to living on the solid ground more quickly. Furthermore, this doesn’t even begin to cover all the applications that mini trampolines have provided for fitness, like the MaXimus HIIT Bounce Pro.
The Olympic Dream for the Trampoline
Back in the 1930s, George Nissen’s biggest dream was to get his invention to the Olympic games, and in 1948, his dream slowly started getting closer to becoming reality. That year, trampolining was recognized as a National Collegiate Athletic Association competitive event and, six years later, it became an Amateur Athletic Union event. However, it just wasn’t enough for people all over the world who seemed to fall in love with the sport at first sight. In 1964, trampolining deserved its first World Championships that were held in Royal Albert Hall in London and it enjoyed such tremendous success that it became obvious that this sport is here to stay.
The International Gymnastics Federation and the International Trampolining Federation started doing everything they could to make trampolining an Olympic sport in 1994. At the closing ceremony of the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, an impressive trampolining performance was included to make the Olympic Committee realize that this is a sport that can make the games even more memorable. One year later, trampolining became part of the Olympic program. George Nissen had lived to see his dream become reality and watched the first-ever trampolining Olympic competition from a first-row seat.
The rich history of the trampoline shows that throughout the years it has had many purposes and, on different occasions and in different countries, has been used for survival, sport, entertainment, or even preparation to go to space. With trampoline parks being created all over the world nowadays and a variety of different types of trampoline, it’s clear that trampolines are at the peak of popularity (see How Much Do Rectangle Trampolines Cost), and you can only guess which other activities they will be used for in the years to come.