is an activity
and a sport involving performance of exercises requiring physical
strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, balance and grace.
is the best
known of the gymnastics sports governed by the Fédération
Internationale de Gymnastique
(FIG). Artistic Gymnastics,
typically involves the women's events of uneven parallel bars
, balance beam
, floor exercise
, and vault
. Men's events include floor exercise
, pommel horse
, still rings
, and high bar
evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks
, that included skills for
mounting and dismounting a horse, and from circus performance
Other forms of gymnastics are rhythmic gymnastics
, various trampolining
sports, and aerobic and acrobatic
The activity can include children as young as three years old and
sometimes younger doing kindergym and children's gymnastics,
recreational gymnasts of all ages, competitive gymnasts at varying
levels of skill, as well as world class athletes.
The word derives from the Greek
), fem. of
), "fond of athletic
exercises", from γυμνάσια
and that from γυμνός
), "naked", because
athletes exercised and competed in the nude.
To the Ancient Greeks, physical fitness was paramount, and all
Greek cities had a gymnasium
, a courtyard for
jumping, running, and wrestling. As the Roman Empire
ascended, Greek gymnastics gave
way to military training. The Romans, for example, introduced the
wooden horse. In 393 AD the Emperor
abolished the Olympic Games, which by then had
become corrupt, and gymnastics, along with other sports, declined.
, with its medieval
belief in the base nature of the human body, had a deleterious
effect on gymnastics. For centuries, gymnastics was all but
fifteenth century, Girolamo
Mercuriale from Forlì (Italy) wrote
De Arte Gymnastica, where he brought his studies of the
attitudes of the ancients toward diet, exercise and hygiene, and
the use of natural methods for the cure of disease.
explanations concerning the principles of physical therapy, De
is considered the first book on sports medicine
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, two pioneer
physical educators – Johann Friedrich
(1759–1839) and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn
created exercises for boys and young men on apparatus they designed
that ultimately led to what is considered modern gymnastics. In
particular, Jahn crafted early models of the horizontal bar
, the parallel bars
(from a horizontal ladder with
the rungs removed), and the vaulting
Federation of Gymnastics
was founded in Liege in 1881. By the
end of the nineteenth century, men's gymnastics competition was
popular enough to be included in the first "modern" Olympic Games
in 1896. However, from then on
until the early 1950s, both national and international competitions
involved a changing variety of exercises gathered under the rubric
that would seem strange to today's audiences:
synchronized team floor calisthenics
, high jumping
, etc. During the 1920s, women organized
and participated in gymnastics events, and the first women's
Olympic competition – primitive, for it involved only synchronized
calisthenics – was held at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.
By 1954, Olympic Games apparatus and events for both men and women
had been standardized in modern format, and uniform grading
structures (including a point system from 1 to 15) had been agreed
this time, Soviet gymnasts
astounded the world with highly disciplined and difficult
performances, setting a precedent that continues to inspire.
The new medium of television helped publicize and initiate a modern
age of gymnastics. Both men's and women's gymnastics now attract
considerable international interest, and excellent gymnasts can be
found on every continent. Nadia Comaneci
received the first perfect score, at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal, Canada.
was coached in Romania by the Romanian coach, (Hungarian
ethnicity), Béla Károlyi
According to Sports Illustrated
Comaneci scored four of her perfect tens on the uneven bars, two on
the balance beam and one in the floor exercise. Even with Nadia's
perfect scores, however, the Romanians lost the gold medal to the
Nevertheless, Comaneci became an Olympic
In 2006, a new points system for Artistic gymnastics was put into
play. With an A Score (or D score) being the difficulty score,
which as of 2009 is based on the top 8 high scoring elements in a
routine(besides Vault) and then the B Score (or E Score) which
would be the execution score, how well they performed the
Gymnastics is among the most physically straining and difficult
sports in the athletic world. Artistic gymnastics is usually
divided into Men's and Women's Gymnastics. Each group does
different events; Men compete on Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse,
Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar, while women
compete on Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise.
countries, women at one time competed on the rings, high bar, and
parallel bars (for example, in the 1950s in the USSR).
Though routines performed on each event may be short, they are
physically exhausting and push the gymnast's strength, flexibility,
endurance and awareness to the limit.
Traditionally, at the international level, the gymnast performed
routines that he or she choreographed. Nowadays, each country may
use compulsory and optional routines at their discretion in the
training of young gymnasts.
In 2006, a new points system for Artistic gymnastics was
introduced, abolishing the perfect ten.
Piked Tsukahara vault.
- Vault: In the vaulting events
gymnasts: sprint down a 25 meter (about 82 feet) runway, jump onto
a beatboard or springboard
(run/ take-off segment), land momentarily generally inverted on the
hands on the vaulting horse or vaulting table (pre flight segment),
then spring off of this platform to a two footed landing (post
flight segment). The post flight segment may include one or more
multiple saltos or somersaults, and/or twisting movements. However,
round-off entry vaults are the most common of all vaults, where the
gymnast sprints down the runway and does a round-off so the feet
land on the springboard. She would then do a backhandspring so that
the hands land on the vaulting platform (horse), and then block off
to various twisting and somersaulting combinations. The post flight
segment brings the gymnast to her feet.
- In 2001, the traditional vaulting horse was replaced with a new
apparatus, sometimes known as a tongue or table. The new apparatus
is more stable, wider, and longer than the older vaulting
horse—approximately 1m in length and 1m in width—gives gymnasts a
larger blocking surface, and is therefore safer than the old
vaulting horse. With the addition of this new, safer vaulting
table, gymnasts are attempting more difficult and dangerous
Gymnast on uneven bars.
- Uneven Bars: On
the uneven bars (also known as asymmetric bars,
UK), the gymnast performed a routine on two horizontal
bars set at different heights. These bars are made of
fiberglass covered in wood, to prevent them from breaking. Bars
used to be made of only wood, but the bars would snap often, thus
providing a reason to switch to newer technologies. The width may
be adjusted. Gymnasts perform swinging, circling, transitional, and
release moves, that may pass over, under, and between the two bars.
Movements may pass through the handstand. Gymnasts often mount the
Uneven Bars using a springboard.
- Balance Beam: The gymnast performs
a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds in length consisting of
leaps, acrobatic skills, somersaults, turns and dance elements on a
padded sprung beam. The beam is from the ground, long, and wide.
The event requires in particular, balance, flexibility and
Gymnast doing a stag ring leap on
- Floor:Years ago, floor
exercise was executed on wrestling mats. However,the floor event
occurs on a carpeted 12m × 12m square, usually consisting of hard
foam over a layer of plywood, which is supported by springs or foam
blocks generally called a "spring" floor. This provides a firm
surface that will respond with force when compressed, allowing
gymnasts to achieve extra height and a softer landing than would be
possible on a regular floor, which used to cause many ankle
injuries. Gymnasts perform a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds
long. They can choose an accompanying music piece, which must be
instrumental and cannot include vocals. The routine should consist
of tumbling lines, series of jumps, dance elements, acrobatic
skills, and turns, or piviots, on one foot. A gymnast can perform
up to four tumbling lines that include at least one flight element
without hand support.
A gymnasts score comes from deductions taken from their start
value. The start value of a routine is calculated based on the
difficulty of the elements the gymnast attempts and whether or not
the gymnast meets composition requirements. The composition
requirements are different for each apparatus. This score is called
the D score. Deductions in execution and artistry are taken from
10.0. This score is called the E score. The final score is
calculated by taking deductions from the E score, and adding the
result to the D score.
- Floor Exercise: Male gymnasts
also perform on a 12m. by 12m. spring floor. A series of tumbling
passes are performed to demonstrate flexibility, strength, and
balance. The gymnast must also show strength skills, including
circles, scales, and press handstands. Men's floor routines usually
have four passes that will total between 60–70 seconds and are
performed without music, unlike the women's event. Rules require
that gymnasts touch each corner of the floor at least once during
- Pommel Horse: A typical pommel
horse exercise involves both single leg and double leg work. Single
leg skills are generally found in the form of scissors, an element
often done on the pommels. Double leg work however, is the main
staple of this event. The gymnast swings both legs in a circular
motion (clockwise or counterclockwise depending on preference) and
performs such skills on all parts of the apparatus. To make the
exercise more challenging, gymnasts will often include variations
on a typical circling skill by turning (moores and spindles) or by
straddling their legs (Flares). Routines end when the gymnast
performs a dismount, either by swinging his body over the horse, or
landing after a handstand.
- Still Rings: Still
Rings is arguably the most physically demanding event. The
rings are suspended on wire cable from a point 5.75 meters off the
floor, and adjusted in height so the gymnast has room to hang
freely and swing. He must perform a routine demonstrating balance,
strength, power, and dynamic motion while preventing the rings
themselves from swinging. At least one static strength move is
required, but some gymnasts may include two or three. A routine
should have a dismount equal in difficulty to the difficulty of the
routine as a whole.
- Vault: Gymnasts sprint down a
runway, which is a maximum of 25 meters in length, before hurdling
onto a spring board. The body position is maintained while
"punching" (blocking using only a shoulder movement) the vaulting
platform. The gymnast then rotates to a standing position. In
advanced gymnastics, multiple twists and somersaults may be added
before landing. Successful vaults depend on the speed of the run,
the length of the hurdle, the power the gymnast generates from the
legs and shoulder girdle, the kinesthetic awareness in the air, and
the speed of rotation in the case of more difficult and complex
- Parallel Bars: Men perform on two
bars slightly further than a shoulder's width apart and usually
1.75m high while executing a series of swings, balances, and
releases that require great strength and coordination.
- High Bar: A 2.4 cm thick
steel bar raised 2.5m above the landing area is all the gymnast has
to hold onto as he performs giants (revolutions around the
bar), release skills, twists, and changes of direction. By using
all of the momentum from giants and then releasing at the proper
point, enough height can be achieved for spectacular dismounts,
such as a triple-back salto. Leather
grips are usually used to help maintain a grip on the bar.
As with the women, male gymnasts are also judged on all of their
events, for their execution, degree of difficulty, and overall
compete in rhythmic gymnastics although there is a new version of
this discipline for men being pioneered in Japan, see Men's
The sport involves the performance of
five separate routines with the use of five apparatus—ball, ribbon,
hoop, clubs, rope—on a floor area, with a much greater emphasis on
the aesthetic rather than the acrobatic. There are also group
routines consisting of 5 gymnasts and 5 apparatuses of their
choice. Rhythmic routines are scored out of a possible 20 points;
the score for Artistry (choreography and music) is averaged with
the score for Difficulty of the moves and then added to the score
Trampolining and Tumbling
Double Mini-trampoline competitor
Trampolining and tumbling consists of four events, individual,
synchronized, double mini and power tumbling. Since 2000 individual
trampoline has been included in the Olympic Games. Individual
routines in trampolining involve a build-up phase during which the
gymnast jumps repeatedly to achieve height, followed by a sequence
of ten leaps without pauses during which the gymnast performs a
sequence of aerial skills. Routines are marked out of a maximum
score of 10 points. Additional points (with no maximum at the
highest levels of competition) can be earned depending on the
difficulty of the moves. In high level competitions, there are two
preliminary routines, one which has only two moves scored for
difficulty and one where the athlete is free to perform any
routine. This is followed by a final routine which is optional.
Some competitions restart the score from zero for the finals, other
add the final score to the preliminary results.Synchronized
trampoline is similar except that both competitors must perform the
routine together and marks are awarded for synchronicity as well as
the form and difficulty of the moves.Double mini trampoline
involves a smaller trampoline with a run-up, two moves are
performed for preliminaries and two more for finals. Moves cannot
be repeated and the scores are marked in a similar manner to
individual trampoline. In power tumbling, athletes perform an
explosive series of flips and twists down a sprung tumbling track.
Scoring is similar to trampolining.
General gymnastics enables people of all ages and abilities to
participate in performance groups of 6 to more than 150 athletes.
They perform synchronized, choreographed routines. Troupes may be
all one gender or mixed. There are no age divisions in general
gymnastics. The largest general gymnastics exhibition is the
quadrennial World Gymnaestrada
which was first held in 1939.
Aerobic gymnastics (formally Sport Aerobics) involves the
performance of routines by individuals, pairs, trios or groups up
to 6 people, emphasizing strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness
rather than acrobatic or balance skills. Routines are performed for
all individuals on a 7x7m floor and also for 12-14 and 15-17 trios
and mixed pairs. However from 2009 all senior trios and mixed pairs
must be on the larger floor 10x10m, all groups are also on this
floor.Routines generally last 60–90 seconds depending on age of
participant and routine category.
Acrobatic gymnastics (formerly Sports Acrobatics), often referred
to as acrobatics, "acro" sports or simply sports acro, is a group
gymnastic discipline for both men and women. Acrobats in groups of
two, three and four perform routines with the heads, hands and feet
of their partners. They may, subject to regulations (e.g. no
lyrics), pick their own music.
There are the beginning recreational levels of 1,2, and 3(which
require one routine containing both dynamic and balance skills).
Then there are the cumpulsory levels of 4, 5, 6, and 7(which also
only require one routine). When you get to the levels of 8, 9, two
routines are required - one for balance and one for dynamic. Once
you get to the optional levels of 10, and elite, three routines are
required - one for balance, one for dynamic, and one combined
TeamGym originated in Scandinavia, and as a major gymnastics event
has been popular for 20 years. A team in this sport can have from 6
to 12 members, either all male, all female or a mixed squad. The
team shows three disciplines, Trampette, Tumbling and Floor. All
events require strong technical, acrobatic and teamwork skills.
Team Gym is popular as a spectator sport.
- Floor Programme: All members of the Team take part here. It is
a mixture of Dance, flexibility and skill. The routine has to be
skillfully choreographed and the judges look out for changes in
shape. There needs to be at least two spins, two balances and two
section elements. These section elememts are bodywaves for women's
teams, power elements for mens' teams and lifts for mixed teams.
Floor routines are performed to music.
- Trampette: Here a trampette is used.
There are two components of this; Vault and the Trampette on its
own. There has to be three runs in total. At least one of these
runs has to be a vault run. Another run has to include all the
gymnasts doing the same move. This is generally the first run. This
is also performed to music.
- Tumbling: Again, here there are three
runs (rounds) involved. One of which has to include all six
gymnasts doing a forwards series. Another run also has to include
the gymnasts completing the same move. Each series must have at
least three different acrobatic elements.
Former apparatus & events
Generally, competitors climbed either a 6m (6.1m = 20 ft in USA) or
an 8m (7.6m = 25 ft in USA), 38mm (1.5") diameter natural fiber
rope for speed, starting from a seated position on the floor and
using only the hands and arms. Kicking the legs in a kind of
"stride" was normally permitted. Many gymnasts can do this in the
straddle or pike position, which eliminates the help generated from
was an event similar to Still Rings
, but with the performer
executing a series of stunts while swinging. It was a gymnastic
event sanctioned by both the NCAA
until the early
Gymnastics is considered to be a dangerous sport, due in part to
the height of the apparatus, the speed of the exercises and the
impact on competitors' joints, bones and muscles. In several cases,
competitors have suffered serious, lasting injuries and paralysis
after severe gymnastics-related accidents. For instance, in 1998,
at the Goodwill Games
Chinese artistic gymnast Sang Lan
paralyzed after falling on vault
Artistic gymnastics injuries have been the subject of several
international medical studies, and results have indicated that more
than half of all elite-level participants may eventually develop
chronic injuries. In the United States, injury rates range from a
high 56% for high school gymnasts to 23% for club gymnasts.
However, the rates for participants in recreational or lower-level
gymnastics are lower than that of high-level competitors.
Conditioning, secure training environments with appropriate landing
surfaces, and knowledgeable coaching can also lessen the frequency
or occurrence of injuries.