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Find out about gymnastics.

A study of gymnastics teaches a greater awareness of the body. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
A study of gymnastics teaches a greater awareness of the body.


Gymnastics is a sport that requires flexibility, coordination, focus, power, precision and control. USA Gymnastics explains that gymnastics is a competitive sport with different events that teach participants character traits such as courage and self-confidence.

One of the world's oldest sports, men performed gymnastics at ancient Olympic Games, according to the Gymnastics International Federation. Women first started competing in 1928. The sport remains one of the Olympic Games' most visible events.

Premiere Events

In addition to the Olympic Games, the premiere gymnastic events for 2009 are the World Championships, Visa Championships and Tyson American Cup. American gymnasts also compete for spots on senior and junior national teams.

The International Olympic Committee explains that gymnastics fusion of athletics and aesthetics has made it one of the most popular sports with artistic gymnastics being the most well-known form.

Artistic Gymnastics

In Olympic competitions, male and female gymnasts perform only some of the same events. The artistic gymnastic events performed only by male gymnasts are:

Parallel bars - Male gymnasts demonstrate swings and strength using the parallel bars.

Still rings - The still rings teach strength and control. The rings hang off the ground on an apparatus. The gymnast swings on it, and performs an acrobatic dismount.

Pommel horse - The pommel horse promotes core mobility, rhythm and timing. The pommel horse is an apparatus with two handles. Gymnasts use it to demonstrate different swings, such as scissor and circular motions.

Horizontal bar - The horizontal bar requires precision and dexterity; a gymnasts body must not touch the bar as he performs swinging motions.

Only female gymnasts perform in these events:

Balance beam - Grace, poise and balance are needed to stay on the beam, which is four inches wide. Routines must cover the beams entire length and last 90 seconds. Gymnasts perform acrobatics, such as back handsprings and dance moves on the balance beam. They must complete various turns and leaps or the judges will make deductions.

Uneven bars - The uneven bars require precision, upper-body strength and good timing. The uneven bars require high-flying release moves off the bars and from one bar to the next. Gymnasts perform handstands and pirouetting moves. Judges look for straight bodylines, perfect form and a stuck landing, which means the gymnast does not move her feet after landing.

Both male and female gymnasts perform in these events:

Vault - Gymnasts use a springboard to mount a vault and fold their bodies into different positions, such as tucked, piked or stretched. Vaulting revolves around speed, agility and power. Judges analyze body alignment, form, quick repulsion, height and distance and the number of twists. Vaulters are also expected to display a stuck landing.

Floor exercise - Female gymnasts choose music and choreography and must let their personalities show in their moves. Their floor exercise mixes tumbling with dance moves. For women, the routine must cover the entire floor and last 90 seconds. Men's floor exercises are not set to music, and men perform somersaults, handstands and rotations. Men's floor exercises last 1 minute and 10 seconds.

Other Forms of Gymnastics

Other types of gymnastics include aerobic, rhythmic, acrobatic and trampoline.
Aerobic gymnastic routines take place on the floor and combine music, dancing and movements requiring great strength. Gymnasts perform in pairs, in groups, in trios and individually. The patterns borrow from traditional aerobics.

Rhythmic gymnastics promotes creativity, flexibility and coordination. The Olympic order for rhythmic gymnastics competition is rope, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Only women perform rhythmic gymnastics.

The rope involves technical jumps and leaps while the hoop is rolled over and around the gymnasts body. The ball routine includes throws and catches and is used as a prop during floor exercises. The clubs also include throws and catches, and the gymnast performs intricate circular motions with them. The ribbon is a strip of satin attached to a stick that the gymnast uses to create shapes such as snakes and spirals. Group exercises involve five gymnasts.

Acrobatic gymnastics often requires teamwork and is relatively new to international competition. Acrobatic gymnastics combines holds, throws and catches with synchronized choreography. Body control is required.

Trampoline gymnastics requires gymnasts to perform somersaults and twists in the air using a trampoline. Precision and body control are hallmarks of this form of gymnastics.

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