What are the rules of gymnastics?

what are the rules of gymnastics

Gymnastics has been an essential part of the modern Olympic Games since 1896 and been present every year since then. Artistic gymnastics for women is the most popular type of gymnastics in the United States. In the United States, there are an estimated 4.5 million artistic gymnasts, and of that 71% are female. 


Gymnastics Apparatus

Artistic gymnastics events are performed on an apparatus. Female gymnasts will compete on the balance beam, vault, uneven bars, and floor.

Balance beam: The balance beams need to be 5 meters long, 10 centimeters wide, and 1.25 meters high.

Vault: The surface of the vault is 120 centimeters long and 95 centimeters wide. The gymnasts are permitted 25 meters run-up, but they do not have to use it all. For women, the vault height is set to 125 centimeters.

Uneven bars: The lower of the two bars is 1.7 meters, while the higher bar is 2.5 meters. Each of the bars has a diameter of 4 centimeters. The distance between the bars may vary, but must be between 1.3 and 1.8 meters.

Floor exercise: This area measures 12 meters by 12 meters and the diagonals equal to about 16.97 meters.

Men will compete on the vault, still rings, pommel horse, floor, horizontal bar, and parallel bars. 

Vault: The specifications for the men are the same as the women’s vault,  but the height is set to 135 centimeters.

Still rings: The rings are 50 centimeters apart and hang 2.8 meters from the ground.

Pommel Horse: The apparatus is 115 centimeters high, and the body is 35 centimeters by 160 centimeters.

Floor exercise: This area measures 12 meters by 12 meters and the diagonals equal to about 16.97 meters.

Horizontal bar: The horizontal bar is 2.8 meters above the ground and 2.4 meters long. The diameter of the bar is 2.5 centimeters.

Parallel bars: The bars are 2 meters off the ground and 3.5 meters long. The width is adjustable and must be between 42 centimeters to 52 centimeters.


gymnastics scoring panels

Artistic gymnastics scoring is made up of two components: the execution and difficulty score. For the major international competitions, two judges calculate the difficulty score, while five judges make the execution panel.

Execution Score

The execution score system starts with 10 points. Each routine will begin with a full 10.0 points, and the judges from the execution panel may reduce the score for errors. Some of these errors may be missed handstands, steps on landing, or even a whole point for a fall.

Difficulty Score

Each routine starts with a 0 for the difficulty score. Gymnasts may earn points in three different ways. The first way is athletes may be awarded 0.5 to 2.0 points for each of the four composition requirements. Second, the gymnasts may earn points based on the difficulty of the different elements in their routines. Each of the elements is valued from A, which is worth 0.1 points all the way to J, which is worth 1.0 points. Women’s gymnastics routines can receive credits on the 8 most difficult elements, whereas men’s gymnastics will count the 10 most difficult elements. The last component of the difficult score is the connection value.

Performance Indicators

Although judges use the difficulty and execution score, here are some other indicators they analyze to help distinguish from good routines to great ones.

Uniqueness of the routine is important as this will be the first way gymnasts can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Making it unique can include having an artistic flair, risky tricks, or skills that have not been performed in the competition yet. 

Good execution and form is an important indicator. The gymnasts should look like they’re in control and their performances should look effortless. A good form includes straight arms and legs, pointed toes, and overall tightness through the body. The gymnast’s movements should look planned.

A stuck landing is when the gymnast does not move their feet once they hit the ground. They should end their routines with the stuck landing when they are vaulting, dismounting on the balance beams or uneven bars, or tumbling passes.


Gymnastics Competitions

Individual Events

At the Olympics and worlds, from the first day of competition the top eight scorers from each event will qualify into the event finals. Each country is only allowed to qualify two gymnasts.

Individual All-Around

A gymnast will compete for all four events and their total score will be added up. At the Olympics and worlds, only the top 24 gymnasts may qualify for the finals. Only two gymnasts from each country are permitted.


On a team, there are five athletes. During the preliminaries, only four athletes may compete for each event and only three of the scores will count. During the finals, only three athletes may compete for each event, and all the scores will count towards the team’s total. When deciding team medals, only the scores from the final round are taken into consideration.


How does scoring work in gymnastics?

Scoring in gymnastics is made up of two components: the execution and difficulty score. The execution score system begins with 10 points and the judges can decrease the score for any errors made in the routine. Errors may include falling, missing handstands, or taking steps during landing. The difficulty score is scored in three different ways. They are based on the four composition requirements, the difficulty of the different elements, and the connection value.

Can gymnastics routines use music?

The only event set to music is women’s floor exercise. The gymnasts usually choose their own music but must consult their choreographers, coaches, and even sometimes judges. Floor exercise performances will be evaluated on composition, artistry, and music/musicality. When evaluating the composition, gymnasts must have the correct selection of movements for that particular music. For the artistry, the gymnast must reflect the musical theme and must make sure the entire exercise is connected with the movements and elements. Lastly for the musicality, there should not be any lack of synchronization between the musical beat and movements.

Is there a time limit for gymnastics routines?

Almost all artistic gymnastics routines do not have a time limit. Only three routines have a time limit which is: floor exercise should be 90 seconds, women’s balance beam should be 90 seconds, and men’s floor exercise should be 70 seconds. Routines that run over the maximum time will receive a 0.1 penalty from their score.