Gymnastics is a sport involving the performance of exercises requiring strength, flexibility, balance and control. Internationally, all events are governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG). Each country has its own national governing body (BIW) affiliated to FIG. Competitive artistic gymnastics is the best known of the gymnastic events. It typically involves the women's events of vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Men's events are floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and the high bar. Gymnastics evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks that included skills for mounting and dismounting a horse, and from circus performance skills.
Other FIG disciplines include: rhythmic gymnastics, trampolining and tumbling, and aerobic gymnastics. Disciplines not currently recognized by FIG include aesthetic group gymnastics, men's rhythmic gymnastics and TeamGym. Participants can include children as young as 20 months old doing kindergym and children's gymnastics, recreational gymnasts of ages 5 and up, competitive gymnasts at varying levels of skill, and world class athletes.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 International competitive gymnastics
- 3.1 Artistic gymnastics
- 3.2 Rhythmic gymnastics
- 3.3 Trampolining and tumbling
- 3.4 Acrobatic gymnastics
- 3.5 Aerobic gymnastics
- 4 Other disciplines
- 5 Non-competitive gymnastics
- 6 Former apparatus and events
- 7 Popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The word gymnastics derives from the common Greek adjective γυμνός (gymnos) meaning "naked", by way of the related verb γυμνάζω (gymnazo), whose meaning is "to train naked", "train in gymnastic exercise", generally "to train, to exercise". The verb had this meaning, because athletes in ancient times exercised and competed without clothing. It came into use in the 1570s, from Latin gymnasticus, from Greek gymnastikos "fond of or skilled in bodily exercise," from gymnazein "to exercise or train" (see gymnasium).
In the beginning of gymnastics, which formally originated from Ancient Greece, gymnastics was originally intended for military training, where it was used by soldiers to get ready for war. The skills and strength in performing gymnastics at the ancient times were thought as great assets to those battling on the warfield.
In 1569, Girolamo Mercuriale from Forlì (Italy) wrote Le Arte Gymnastica, which brought together his study of the attitudes of the ancients toward diet, exercise and hygiene, and the use of natural methods for the cure of disease. Girolamo was an Italian philologist and physician, who received his doctorate in 1555. He was later asked to occupy the Chair of Medicine in 1569. De Arte Gymnastica also explained the principles of physical therapy and is considered the first book on sports medicine.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Germany, three pioneer physical educators – Johann Friedrich GutsMuths (1759–1839) and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778–1852) – created exercises for boys and young men on apparatus they had designed that ultimately led to what is considered modern gymnastics. Don Francisco Amorós y Ondeano, was born on February 19, 1770 in Valence and died on August 8, 1848 in Paris. He was a Spanish colonel, and the first person to introduce educative gymnastic in France. Jahn promoted the use of parallel bars, rings and high bar in international competition.
The Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG) 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. From then on until the early 1950s, both national and international competitions involved a changing variety of exercises gathered under the rubric, gymnastics, that would seem strange to today's audiences and that included for example, synchronized team floor calisthenics, rope climbing, high jumping, running, and horizontal ladder. During the 1920s, women organized and participated in gymnastics events. The first women's Olympic competition was primitive, only involving synchronized calisthenics and track and field. These games were held in 1928, 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 upon. At this time, Soviet gymnasts astounded the world with highly disciplined and difficult performances, setting a precedent that continues. The new medium of television has 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 Comăneci received the first perfect score, at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal, Canada. She was coached in Romania by coach, (Hungarian ethnicity), Béla Károlyi. 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, the Romanians lost the gold medal to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Comaneci became an Olympic icon.
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 (excluding Vault). The B Score (or E Score), is the score for execution, and is given for how well the skills are performed.
International competitive gymnastics
Artistic Gymnastics is usually divided into Men's and Women's Gymnastics. Men compete on six events: Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar, while women compete on four: Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. In some countries, women at one time competed on the rings, high bar, and parallel bars (for example, in the 1950s in the USSR).
In 2006, FIG introduced a new points system for Artistic gymnastics in which scores are no longer limited to 10 points. The system is used in the US for elite level competition. Unlike the old code of points, there are two separate scores, an execution score and a difficulty score. In the previous system, the "execution score" was the only score. It was and still is out of 10.00. During the gymnast's performance, the judges deduct this score only. A fall, on or off the event, is a 1.00 deduction, in elite level gymnastics. The introduction of the difficulty score is a significant change. The gymnast's difficulty score is based on what elements they perform and is subject to change if they do not perform or complete all the skills, or they do not connect a skill meant to be connected to another. Connection bonuses are the most common deduction from a difficulty score, as it can be difficult to connect multiple flight elements. It is very hard to connect skills if the first skill is not performed correctly. The new code of points allows the gymnasts to gain higher scores based on the difficulty of the skills they perform as well as their execution. There is no maximum score for difficulty, as it can keep increasing as the difficulty of the skills increase.
Artistic events for women
In the vaulting events, gymnasts sprint down a 25 metres (82 ft) runway, jump onto a spring filled board or perform a roundoff, or handspring entry onto a springboard (run/ take-off segment), land momentarily, inverted on the hands on the vaulting horse, or vaulting table (pre flight segment), then propel themselves forward or backward, off of this platform to a two footed landing (post flight segment). Every gymnast starts at a different point on the vault runway depending on their height and strength. The post flight segment may include one or more multiple saltos or somersaults, and/or twisting movements. A round-off entry vault, called a Yurchenko, is the most common vault in elite level gymnastics. When performing a yurchenko, gymnasts "round-off" so hands are on the runway while the feet land on the springboard (beatboard). From the roundoff position the gymnast travels backwards and executes a backhandspring so that the hands land on the vaulting table. The gymnast then blocks off the vaulting platform into various twisting and/or 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,horse or vaulting table. The new apparatus is more stable, wider, and longer than the older vaulting horse—approximately 1m in length and 1m in width—giving gymnasts a larger blocking surface, and is therefore considered safer than the vaulting horse used in the past. With the addition of this new, safer vaulting table, gymnasts are attempting more difficult and dangerous vaults.
On the uneven bars, the gymnast performs a routine on two horizontal bars set at different heights. These bars are made of fiberglass covered in wood laminate, to prevent them from breaking. In the past, bars were made of wood, but the bars were prone to breaking, providing an incentive to switch to newer technologies. The width and height of the bars may be adjusted. In the past, the uneven parallel bars were closer together. They've been moved increasingly further apart, allowing gymnasts to perform swinging, circling, transitional, and release moves, that may pass over, under, and between the two bars. At the Elite level, movements must pass through the handstand. Gymnasts often mount the Uneven Bars using a springboard, or a small mat. Chalk and grips (a leather strip with holes for fingers to protect hands and improve performance) may be used while doing this event. The chalk helps take the moisture out of gymnast's hands to decrease friction and prevent rips (tears to the skin of the hands), dowel grips help gymnasts grip the bar.
The gymnast performs a choreographed routine of up to 90 seconds in length consisting of leaps, acrobatic skills, somersaults, turns and dance elements on a padded beam. The beam is 125 centimetres (4 ft 1 in) from the ground, 500 centimetres (16 ft 5 in) long, and 10 centimetres (3.9 in) wide. The event requires, in particular, balance, flexibility, poise and strength.
In the past, the floor exercise event was executed on the bare floor or mats such as wrestling mats. Today, 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 provides extra bounce or spring when compressed, allowing gymnasts to achieve greater height and a softer landing after the composed skill. Gymnasts perform a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds in the floor exercise event; Depending on the level, they may choose their own, or, if known as a "compulsory gymnast," default music must be played. In some gymnastic associations such as United States Association of Gymnastic Clubs (USAIGC), gymnasts are allowed to have vocals in their music but at USA Gymnastics competitions a large deduction is taken from the score for having vocals in the music. The routine should consist of tumbling lines, series of jumps, leaps, dance elements, acrobatic skills, and turns, or piviots, on one foot. A gymnast can perform up to four tumbling lines that usually includes at least one flight element without hand support. Each level of gymnastics requires the athlete to perform a different number of tumbling passes. In level 7 in the United States, a gymnast is required to do 2–3, and in levels 8–10, at least 3–4 tumbling passes are required.
Artistic events for men
Male gymnasts also perform on a 12meter x 12meter spring floor. A series of tumbling passes are performed to demonstrate flexibility, strength, and balance. Strength skills include 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 male gymnasts touch each corner of the floor at least once during their routine.
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.
The rings are suspended on wire cable from a point 5.75 meters from 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.
Gymnasts sprint down a runway, which is a maximum of 25 meters in length, before hurdling onto a spring board. The gymnast is allowed to choose where they start on the runway. 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 vaults.
- 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.
A 2.8 cm thick steel or fiberglass bar raised 2.5m above the landing area is all the gymnast has to hold onto as he performs giant swings or giants (revolutions around the bar in the handstand position), 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 women, male gymnasts are also judged on all of their events including their execution, degree of difficulty, and overall presentation skills.
Scoring (code of points)
A gymnast's score comes from deductions taken from their start value. The start value of a routine is 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. Since 2007, the scoring system has changed by adding bonus plus the execution and then adding those two together to get the final score.
In a tumbling pass, dismount or vault, landing is the final phase, following take off and flight  This is a critical skill in terms of execution in competition scores, general performance, and injury occurrence. Without the necessary magnitude of energy dissipation during impact, the risk of sustaining injuries during somersaulting increases. These injuries commonly occur at the lower extremities such as: cartilage lesions, ligament tears, and bone bruises/fractures. To avoid such injuries, and to receive a high performance score, proper technique must be used by the gymnast. "The subsequent ground contact or impact landing phase must be achieved using a safe, aesthetic and well-executed double foot landing."  A successful landing in gymnastics is classified as soft, meaning the knee and hip joints are at greater than 63 degrees of flexion.
A higher flight phase results in a higher vertical ground reaction force. Vertical ground reaction force represents external force which the gymnasts have to overcome with their muscle force and has an impact on the gymnasts linear and angular momentum. Another important variable that affects linear and angular momentum is time the landing takes Gymnasts can alter the shape of the area by increasing the time taken to perform the landing. Gymnasts can achieve this by increasing hip, knee and ankle amplitude. With the increase of height, the amplitude in ankles knees and hips rise the bars.
According to FIG rules, only women compete in rhythmic gymnastics. This is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation. 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 30 points; the score for artistry (choreography and music) is averaged with the score for difficulty of the moves and then added to the score for execution.
International competitions are split between Juniors, under sixteen by their year of birth; and Seniors, for women sixteen and over again by their year of birth. Gymnasts in Russia and Europe typically start training at a very young age and those at their peak are typically in their late teens (15–19) or early twenties. The largest events in the sport are the Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, World Cup and Grand-Prix Series.
Rhythmic gymnastics apparatus
- It is made of either rubber or synthetic material (pliable plastic) provided it possesses the same elasticity as rubber. It is from 18 to 20 cm in diameter and must have a minimum weight of 400g. The ball can be of any colour and should rest in the gymnast's hand, not the wrist. Fundamental elements of a ball routine include throwing, bouncing, and rolling. The gymnast must use both hands and work on the whole floor area while showing continuous flowing movement. The ball is to emphasize the gymnast's flowing lines and body difficulty.
- A hoop is an apparatus in rhythmic gymnastics and may be made of plastic or wood, provided that it retains its shape during the routine. The interior diameter is from 51 to 90 cm, and the hoop must weigh a minimum of 300g. The hoop may be of a natural colour or be partially of fully covered by one or several colours, and it may be covered with adhesive tape either of the same or different colour as the hoop. Fundamental requirements of a hoop routine include rotation around the hand or body and rolling, as well as swings, circles, throws, and passes through and over the hoop. The routines in hoop involves mastery in both apparatus handling and body difficulty like leaps, jumps and pivots.
- It is made of satin or another similar material cloth of any colour and may be multi-coloured as well as have designs on it. The ribbon itself must be at least 35g (1 oz), 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4") in width and for senior category a minimum length of 6m (20') (5m (16.25') for juniors). The ribbon must be in one piece. The end that is attached to the stick is doubled for a maximum length of 1m (3'). This is stitched down both sides. At the top, a very thin reinforcement or rows of machine stitching for a maximum length of 5 cm is authorized. This extremity may end in a strap, or have an eyelet (a small hole, edged with buttonhole stitch or a metal circle), to permit attaching the ribbon. The ribbon is fixed to the stick by means of a supple attachment such as thread, nylon cord, or a series of articulated rings. The attachment has a maximum length of 7 cm (2.8"), not counting the strap or metal ring at the end of the stick where it will be fastened. Compulsory elements for the ribbon include flicks, circles, snakes and spirals, and throws. It requires a high degree of co-ordination to form the spirals and circles as any knots which may accidentally form in the ribbon are penalised. During a ribbon routine, large, smooth and flowing movements are looked for.
- Multi-piece clubs are the most popular clubs. The club is built along an internal rod, providing a base on which a handle made of polyolefin plastic is wrapped, providing an airspace between it and the internal rod. This airspace provides flex, cushioning impact, making the club softer on the hands. Foam ends and knobs further cushion the club. Multi-piece clubs are made in both a thin European style or larger bodied American style and in various lengths, generally ranging from 19 to 21 inches (480 to 530 mm). The handles and bodies are typically wrapped with decorative plastics and tapes. The skills involved are apparatus mastery and body elements, Clubs are thrown from alternate hands; each passes underneath the other clubs and is caught in the opposite hand to the one from which it was thrown. At its simplest, each club rotates once per throw, the handle moving down and away from the throwing hand at first. However, double and triple spins are frequently performed, allowing the club to be thrown higher for more advanced patterns and to allow tricks such as 360s to be performed underneath.
Trampolining and tumbling
Trampolining and tumbling consists of four events, individual and synchronized trampoline, double mini trampoline, and tumbling (also known as power tumbling or rod floor). 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 bounces without pause 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 and the length of time taken to complete the ten skills which is an indication of the average height of the jumps. 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 synchronization 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 per routine. Moves cannot be repeated in the same order on the double-mini during a competition. Skills can be repeated if a skill is competed as a mounter in one routine and a dismount in another. The scores are marked in a similar manner to individual trampoline.
In tumbling, athletes perform an explosive series of flips and twists down a sprung tumbling track. Scoring is similar to trampolining. Tumbling was originally contested as one of the events in Men's Artistic Gymnastics at the 1932 Summer Olympics, and in 1955 and 1959 at the Pan American Games. From 1974 to 1998 it was included as an event for both genders at the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships. The event has also been contested since 1976 at the Trampoline World Championships. Since the recognition of Trampoline and Acrobatic Gymnastics as FIG disciplines in 1999, official Tumbling competitions are only allowed as an event in Trampoline gymnastics meets.
Acrobatic gymnastics (formerly Sport Acrobatics), often referred to as "Acro" if involved with the sport, acrobatic 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 four international age categories: 11-16, 12-18, 13-19, and Senior (15+), which are used in the World Championships and many other events around the world, including European Championships and World Games. All levels require a balance and dynamic routine, 12-18, 13-19, and Seniors are also required to perform a final (combined) routine.
Currently, acrobatic gymnastics is marked out of 30.00 (can be higher at Senior FIG level based on difficulty):
- 10.00 for routine difficulty, (valued from the tables of difficulties)
- 10.00 For technical performance, (how well the skills are executed)
- 10.00 For Artistry, (the overall performance of the routine, namely choreography)
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. From 2009, all senior trios and mixed pairs were required to be on the larger floor (10x10m), all groups also perform on this floor. Routines generally last 60–90 seconds depending on age of participant and routine category.
The following disciplines are not currently recognized by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique.
Aesthetic group gymnastics
Aesthetic Group Gymnastics (AGG) was developed from the Finnish "naisvoimistelu". It differs from Rhythmic Gymnastics in that body movement is large and continuous and teams are larger' Athletes do not use apparatus in international AGG competitions compared to Rhythmic Gymnastics where ball, ribbon, hoop and clubs are used on the floor area. The sport requires physical qualities such as flexibility, balance, speed, strength, coordination and sense of rhythm where movements of the body are emphasized through the flow, expression and aesthetic appeal. A good performance is characterized by uniformity and simultaneity. The competition program consists of versatile and varied body movements, such as body waves, swings, balances, pivots, jumps and leaps, dance steps, and lifts. The International Federation of Aesthetic Group Gymnastics (IFAGG) was established in 2003.
Men's rhythmic gymnastics
Men's rhythmic gymnastics is related to both Men's artistic gymnastics and wushu martial arts. It emerged in Japan from stick gymnastics. Stick gymnastics has been taught and performed for many years with the aim of improving physical strength and health. Male athletes are judged on some of the same physical abilities and skills as their female counterparts, such as hand/body-eye co-ordination, but tumbling, strength, power, and martial arts skills are the main focus, as opposed to flexibility and dance in women's rhythmic gymnastics. There are a growing number of participants, competing alone and on a team; it is most popular in Asia, especially in Japan where high school and university teams compete fiercely. As of 2002[update], there were 1000 men's rhythmic gymnasts in Japan.
The technical rules for the Japanese version of men's rhythmic gymnastics came around the 1970s. For individuals, only four types of apparatus are used: the double rings, the stick, the rope, and the clubs. Groups do not use any apparatus. The Japanese version includes tumbling performed on a spring floor. Points are awarded based a 10-point scale that measures the level of difficulty of the tumbling and apparatus handling. On November 27–29, 2003, Japan hosted first edition of the Men's Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championship.
TeamGym is a form of competition created by the European Union of Gymnastics, named originally EuroTeam. The first official competition was held in Finland in 1996. TeamGym events consist of three sections: women, men and mixed teams. Athletes compete in three different disciplines: floor, tumbling and trampette. In common for the performance is effective teamwork, good technique in the elements and spectacular acrobatic skills.
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 consist of both genders and are not separated into age divisions. The largest general gymnastics exhibition is the quadrennial World Gymnaestrada which was first held in 1939. In 1984 Gymnastics for All was officially recognized first as a Sport Program by the FIG (International Gymnastic Federation), and subsequently by national gymnastic federations worldwide with participants that now number 30 million.
Former apparatus and events
Rope (rhythmic gymnastics)
This apparatus may be made of hemp or a synthetic material which retains the qualities of lightness and suppleness. Its length is in proportion to the size of the gymnast. The rope should, when held down by the feet, reach both of the gymnasts' armpits. One or two knots at each end are for keeping hold of the rope while doing the routine. At the ends (to the exclusion of all other parts of the rope) an anti-slip material, either coloured or neutral may cover a maximum of 10 cm (3.94 in). The rope must be coloured, either all or partially and may either be of a uniform diameter or be progressively thicker in the center provided that this thickening is of the same material as the rope. The fundamental requirements of a rope routine include leaps and skipping. Other elements include swings, throws, circles, rotations and figures of eight. In 2011, the FIG decided to nullify the use of rope in rhythmic gymnastic competitions.
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 the legs though it can be done with legs as well.
Flying rings 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 and the AAU until the early 1960s.