What is Gymnastics?


Gymnastics is a sport that combines flexibility, endurance, strength and agility. Athletes perform acrobatic skills, such as jumps, flips and turns, in a variety of different events to showcase their abilities. Currently, there are three types of gymnastics: rhythmic, artistic, and trampoline. On the Olympic level, gymnastics teams are made up of six athletes, often called gymnasts. While gymnastics is mostly performed individually, gymnasts compete both for individual and team awards in what are often called meets.


gymnastics history

Gymnastics began in 500 BC in Ancient Greece as a way for athletes and soldiers to stay fit. However, it was not until 1811 when the German Gymnastics Movement modernized the sport and included equipment like the balance beam, parallel bars, and pommel horse. Gymnastics is one of the only sports to have been included in every Olympic games since the start of the modern Olympics in 1896. Yet, it was not until 1936 that women were allowed to compete in Olympic gymnastics.  Today, gymnastics is extremely popular around the world with top contenders from Russia, Romania, and the United States.  

Playing Surface

gymnastics floor apparatus

In gymnastics, the playing surface varies depending on the type of event. However, all gymnastics surfaces are padded in order to protect the athletes as lots of strain is put on to the hands and feet of gymnasts during their routines. The surface is also padded to protect gymnasts from injury if they fall or land oddly.


gymnastics equipment

Unlike most sports, gymnastics requires many different pieces of equipment for different apparatuses. The equipment is essential to the sport and is a key piece in most events. The equipment used in gymnastics includes:

  • Vault
  • Balance Beam
  • Uneven Bars
  • Pommel Horse
  • Trampoline
  • Still Rings
  • Floor Mats

In addition to the essential pieces of equipment, gymnasts wear leotards which gives them the ability to move freely when performing different movements. They also use chalk on their hands and feet to help keep their grip.


Gymnastics Gameplay

At a typical gymnastics competition, teams are competing against one another for the best cumulative score. For women, the home team starts off with the vault, and then continues on to each event in a specific order. Typically, a collegiate team nominates six gymnasts for each event, while elite level only nominates three or four.

The order of events for women starts with the vault, then continues with uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. For men, the order is floor, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bars. A competition is over once all teams have competed in each event. Athletes can also compete as individuals on specific apparatuses in an all around competition.

Positions and Roles

Gymnastics Positions

In gymnastics, there are no designated positions. Gymnasts are trained in one of the three gymnastics categories: rhythmic, artistic and trampoline. Within each category, gymnasts are able to perform in any of the events offered.  There are also the coaches, who train gymnasts and improve their skills.

During team competitions, athletes may compete in a certain order based on seniority or skill level, with the last to compete in the event being the strongest athlete for that event.

Rules and Regulations

gymnastics rules and regulations

In gymnastics, there are many rules and regulations that gymnasts and teams must follow. These rules vary depending on the event, but there are some basic rules that remain the same. Before a routine, gymnasts start with an execution score of 10, and any mistakes made during the routine result in tenths off the starting score. Mistakes include technical faults, like poor body position and timing errors for when a gymnast surpasses time limits for timed events. 

In addition, before beginning a routine, the gymnast must salute the judges to show that they are starting and must salute again at the end of the routine to show that they are done and the judging can end.

Referees and Officials

gymnastics referees and officials

The officials in gymnastics are called judges. In larger collegiate competitions, there are a total of four judges for each event. The judges individually score each routine. Once the judges come together, the lowest and highest score is dropped, and the middle scores are averaged to form the final score. There is also a chief judge, who serves as a liaison between the judges and coaches.

Lingo and Terminology

Gymnastics Lingo and Terminology

There are hundreds of different terms in gymnastics used to name specific moves and routines. Many are named after the type of movements, and some are named after the gymnasts who first attempted them. These terms are used by gymnasts, coaches, judges, and spectators. There are hundreds of different terms used in gymnastics and below are some of the most popular ones.

Tuck: A body position in which the knees are bent into the chest and both hands are holding the knees.

Blind Landing: When a gymnast performs a skill in the air and does not see the ground before landing.

Dismount: When a gymnast gets off a piece of gymnastics equipment at the end of a routine.

1/1: A full twist.

Pike: A body position where the body is bent forward but the knees and legs are kept straight.

Salto: A move where the body makes a 360 degree turn on a transversal axis. It is one of the most difficult moves in the sport.

Stick: When a gymnast lands a move and does not move his or her feet and legs.

Flic-Flac: A back handspring.

Aerial: A cartwheel without hands touching the floor.


Gymnastics Coaching

Most gymnastics coaches are former gymnasts and are very knowledgeable in the sport. Coaches need to be able to explain different skills and techniques to their athletes. They also need to know how to build the confidence of their gymnasts, which is very important in the sport. It is common for a gymnast to go through many different coaches in their career.

Skills and Techniques

gymnastics skills and techniques

In order to improve, gymnasts must constantly work on their physical strength, flexibility, and balance. Gymnasts spend lots of time in the gym working on their fitness to help them improve in the sport. Core strength is especially important as the sport requires a gymnast to move his or her own body weight. In addition, there are many essential skills that all gymnasts must master. These skills include movements like a handstand, backspring, and split. These moves are incorporated into almost all routines.


Gymnastics Drills

Drills are used to perfect basic gymnastics skills as well as improve overall fitness. They are also a great warm up before more advanced exercises. Common drills incorporate essential gymnastics movements like the handstand and cartwheel. When these movements are perfected, a gymnast is more confident in their movements and can move on to more difficult tasks.

Olympic Gymnastics

olympic gymnastics

Olympic gymnastics has been around since the first Olympics in Athens, Greece in 1896. The first Olympics only included artistic gymnastics and it was not until 1984 when rhythmic gymnastics was also added. Currently, there are 14 gymnastics medal events in the Olympics. For years, women’s Olympic gymnastics was dominated by countries like Russia and Romania. It was not until the United States women’s gymnastics team, often called the “Magnificent Seven,” won Gold for the first time in the 1996 Olympics that the United States became known for its elite gymnastics program.

Gymnastics Brands

Gymnastics Brands

There are many gymnastics brands that sell a variety of different gear from leotards to hand chalk. These brands range from high-quality leotards to affordable brands that are great for new gymnasts. There are also brands that specialize in gymnastics equipment. Some of the most popular gymnastics brands are:

  • GK Elite (Leotards and Apparel)
  • Alpha Factor (Leotards and Apparel)
  • Spieth America (Equipment)
  • American Gymnast (Equipment)

Gymnastics Youth Organizations

Gymnastics Youth Organizations

Youth organizations are the starting point for many young gymnasts. Children often start off in recreational programs and work their way up to competitive teams. Some youth gymnastics organizations are known for producing elite gymnasts and future Olympians. Here are some of the most popular youth organizations across the United States:

  • Arizona Dynamics Academy
  • North Stars Gymnastics Academy
  • Orlando Metro Gymnastics
  • Twin Cities Twisters 

Gymnastics Coaches

Gymnastics Coaches

Most gymnastics coaches have experience as prior gymnasts. They are very knowledgeable and know how to help their gymnasts improve. The best coaches in gymnastics are the ones who know both how to teach their gymnasts new techniques but also keep them motivated throughout the season. Below are some coaches known for producing some of the best gymnasts in the world.

  • Béla Károlyi: Former USA women’s national team coach.
  • Irina Viner-Usmanova: Head coach of the Russian national team
  • Tom Forster: USA women’s national team coach and former gymnast

The Gymnasts

Gymnastics Gymnasts

While there are many gymnasts around the world, few are noted to be the best of the best. They are known for their skill, confidence and consistency. Many of the most famous gymnasts are Olympians who have won countless medals for their country. Below, find six of the most decorated and famous gymnasts to have ever competed.

  • Simone Biles: USA Gymnastics
  • Gabby Douglas: USA Gymnastics
  • Kohei Uchimura: Japan National Team
  • Svetlana Khorkina: Russian National Team
  • Nikolai Andrianov: Soviet Union National Team
  • Jacob Dalton: USA Gymnastics, University of Oklahoma Gymnastics

Gymnastics Teams

Gymnastics Teams

Outside of the Olympics, universities have some of the most prestigious and best gymnastics teams in the United States. They are known to produce future Olympians and improve on the success of their athletes. Here are some of the top college gymnastics teams in the country: 

  • UCLA Women’s Gymnastics Team
  • University of Oklahoma Women’s Gymnastics Team
  • Stanford University Men’s Gymnastics Team

Gymnastics Events

Gymnastics Events

In gymnastics, there are no gymnastics tournaments. Throughout the year, there are many gymnastics events where gymnasts compete for championship titles. Teams and individual gymnasts can qualify for these events based on their rankings from previous championships and high-profile events. Below are four of the major international championships in the sport.

  • Asian Gymnastics Championship
  • World Artistic Gymnastics Championships:
  • Pan American Gymnastics Championships
  • NCAA Gymnastics National Championships

Gymnastics Books

Gymnastics Books

There are many different gymnastics books that cover a wide variety of different genres. Many are written by current and past gymnasts who share both important tips and their stories.  Some books are interesting fiction stories that cover the exciting aspects of the sports. Here are a few popular gymnastics books:

  • Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith
  • Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance
  • The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score- From Nadia to Now
  • She’s Got This

Gymnastics Websites

Gymnastics Websites

There are hundreds of different gymnastics websites that have useful tips and tricks for gymnasts. Gymnastics organizations have helpful websites where one can look up the outcomes of championships, dates of events, and news in the gymnastics world. There are also websites where one can purchase gymnastics apparel and equipment. Some of these websites include: 


What is gymnastics?

Gymnastics is a sport that combines flexibility, strength, endurance and balance. The athletes, known as gymnasts, perform exercises that display these traits in a series of different events. These events are often performed on pieces of gymnastics equipment, like the uneven bars, trampoline, still rings, balance beam and vault. 

What is the history of gymnastics?

In Ancient Greece, gymnastics began as an attempt to keep citizens fit as well as train soldiers for war. Various activities that had already been around were combined into one big sport. In 1774, the sport made further advancements with the creation of several pieces of equipment such as the parallel bars, balance beam, and pommel horse. It wasn’t until 1896 when the Olympics first included gymnastics as a sport.

What are the types of gymnastics?

Within gymnastics, there are four main categories: artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline gymnastics, and acrobatic gymnastics. Each category then has a handful of unique events. Artistic and rhythmic gymnastics are what the sport is most popularly known for, because those are the events showcased in the Olympics.

What are the eight gymnastics apparatuses?

The eight gymnastics apparatuses are: Floor (men and women), Pommel Horse (men), Still Rings (men), Vault (men and women), Parallel Bars (men), Horizontal Bar (men), Uneven Bars (women), and Beam (women).