Definitions

gymnastics

gymnastics

[jim-nas-tiks]
gymnastics, exercises for the balanced development of the body (see also aerobics), or the competitive sport derived from these exercises. Although the ancient Greeks (who invented the building called a gymnasium for them) and Romans practiced gymnastics, the modern exercises date from the early 19th cent., when Germany's Frederick Ludwig Jahn popularized what he called the Turnverein, an organization of "turners." Although Jahn's system, which employed more apparatus than modern gymnastics, enjoyed brief popularity at Harvard and in several U.S. cities with numbers of German immigrants, it was not until the 20th cent. that gymnastics became widespread in the America. Their eventual success came after their adoption for military training, their placement on the program (1896) of the revived Olympic games, and the inclusion of physical education in school curricula. Until 1972, gymnastics for men emphasized power and strength, while women performed routines focused on grace of movement. That year, however, Olga Korbut, a 17-year-old Soviet gymnast, captivated a television audience with her innovative and explosive routines. In 1976, Romania's Nadia Comaneci became the first in Olympic gymnastic history to earn perfect scores. The popularity of Korbut and Comaneci launched a gymnastics movement in the United States that began to provide competition for long-established Russian and European programs. Internationally, men compete in rings, pommel horse, parallel bars, horizontal bar, vault, and floor exercises, as well as on the trampoline. Women compete in the vault, floor exercises, balance beam, and uneven parallel bars, as well as in rhythmic gymnastics and on the trampoline.

See J. Goodbody, The Illustrated History of Gymnastics (1983); P. Aykroyd, Modern Gymnastics (1986).

Athletic competition related to gymnastics and dance in which participants, individually or in groups, perform exercise routines with the aid of hand apparatuses such as ropes, hoops, balls, clubs, and ribbons. In scoring points, artistry counts more than acrobatics. The sport dates from the 18th century. Though some gymnasts participated at the Olympic Games from 1948 to 1956, not until 1984 did it become an official Olympic competitive event.

Learn more about rhythmic sportive gymnastics with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Competitive sport in which individuals perform optional and prescribed acrobatic exercises, mostly on special apparatus, in order to demonstrate strength, balance, and body control. Part of the ancient Olympic Games, gymnastics was virtually reinvented in the modern era by the German Friedrich Jahn (1778–1852). The sport became part of the revived Olympics in 1896; women's gymnastics was instituted in 1936. Men's events include the horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, vaulting, rings, and floor exercises. Women's events include the balance beam, uneven parallel bars, vaulting, floor exercises, and rhythmic sportive gymnastics.

Learn more about gymnastics with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Gymnastics is a sport involving performance of exercises requiring physical strength, agility and coordination. Artistic Gymnastics is the best known and most popular of the gymnastics sports governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG). It typically involves exercises on uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise, and vault (for women), and high bar, parallel bars, still rings, floor exercise, vault, and pommel horse (for men). It evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks, including skills for mounting and dismounting a horse, and circus performance skills. Other forms of gymnastics are rhythmic gymnastics, various trampolining sports and aerobic and acrobatic gymnastics.

Etymology

The word derives from the Greek γυμναστική (gymnastike), fem. of γυμναστικός (gymnastikos), "fond of athletic exercises, from γυμνάσια (gymnasia), "exercise and that from γυμνός (gymnos), "naked, because athletes exercised and competed in the nude.

History

To the Ancient Greeks, physical fitness was paramount, and all Greek cities had a gymnasia, 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 Theodosius abolished the Olympic Games, which by then had become corrupt, and gymnastics, along with other sports declined. Later, Christianity, with its medieval belief in the base nature of the human body, had a deleterious effect on gymnastics. For centuries, gymnastics was all but forgotten.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, however, two pioneer physical educators – Johann Friedrich GutsMuths (1759 – 1839) and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778 – 1852) - 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 horse.

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 gymnastics that would seem strange to today's audiences: synchronized team floor calisthenics, rope climbing, high jumping, running, horizontal ladder, 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 the 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 10) had been agreed upon. At 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. She was coached by the famous Romanian, Bela Karolyi. 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. Unfortunately, even with Nadia's perfect scores, the Romanians lost the gold medal to the Soviets. Nadia will always be remembered as "a fourteen year old, ponytailed little girl" who showed the world that perfection could be achieved.

In 2006, a new points system was put into play. Instead of being marked 1 to 10, the gymnast's start value depends on the difficulty rating of the exercise routine. Also, the deductions became higher: before the new point system developed, the deduction for a fall was 0.5, and now it is 0.8. The motivation for a new point system was to decrease the chance of gymnasts getting a perfect score. The sport 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.

Forms

Artistic gymnastics

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, 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). 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, competitions on the various apparatus consisted of two different performance categories: compulsory and optional. For the compulsory event, each gymnast performing on a specific apparatus executed the same required routine. At the optional 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.

Women's events

Vault : In the vaulting events gymnasts: sprint down a 25 meter (about 82 feet) runway, jump onto a beatboard - a kind of springboard, (run/ take-off segment), land momentarily, generally inverted on the hands, on the vaulting horse or vaulting table, (pre flight segment), then spring or block 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.
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 - approx. 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 vaults. Uneven Bars: On the uneven bars (also known as asymmetric bars, UK), the gymnast navigates two horizontal bars set at different heights. The height is generally fixed, but 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 beatboard (springboard). Balance Beam: The gymnast performs a choreographed routine from 60 to 80 seconds in length consisting of leaps, acrobatic skills, somersaults, turns and dance elements on a padded sprung beam. Apparatus norms set by the International Gymnastics Federation (used for Olympic and most elite competitions) specify the beam must be 125 cm (4' 1") high, 500 cm (16' 5") long, and 10 cm (4") wide. The event requires in particular, balance, flexibility and strength. Floor: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 "sprung" 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. Female gymnasts perform a choreographed exercise 70 to 90 seconds long. In levels 7 and up, they can choose an accompanying music piece, which must be instrumental and cannot include vocals. In the USA, the other levels must perform a routine that is choreographed for them by USAG and these routines come with music. The routines of a female gymnast consist of tumbling passes, series of jumps, dance elements, acrobatic skills, and turns. A gymnast usually performs three or four tumbling passes that include three or more skills or "tricks". Elite gymnasts can have up to six or seven tumbling passes.

At the compulsory levels (1-6) gymnasts are judged on a scale of 10, but as they reach the higher levels, particularly levels 9 and 10, the gymnasts' start-values may vary depending upon a number of different factors such as skill level and skill combinations. Also, every skill has a letter grade describing its difficulty. At level nine, to reach a start value of ten, the gymnast has to acquire bonus points, which she can achieve by connecting two or more skills of a certain high level of difficulty.

Compulsory levels of gymnastics have choreographed routines, and all women competing at that level do the same routines. In the United States, compulsory levels go from 1-6; most gymnasts start at levels 1-4 . In optional level competitions, however, all routines are different and have different floor music. Optional levels in the U.S. include levels 7 - 10 (elite). The Olympics, and college level gymnastics are also optional. In the Olympics, gymnasts are considered elite level gymnasts, which is higher level than the U.S. level 10.

Men's events

Floor Exercise : Male gymnasts also perform on a 12m. by 12m. sprung 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 their routine. 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 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. High Bar : A 2.4cm 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 presentation skills.

Rhythmic gymnastics

The discipline of rhythmic gymnastics is competed only by women (although there is a new version of this discipline for men being pioneered in Japan, see Men's rhythmic gymnastics), and 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. Rhythmic routines are scored out of a possible 20 points, and the music used by the gymnast can contain vocals, but may not contain words.

Trampolining and Tumbling

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.

Display gymnastics

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

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 on a small floor area and generally last 60-90 seconds.

Acrobatic Gymnastics

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 pick their own music, but lyrics or Disney music are not allowed.

Performers must compete in preparatory grades A and B, then move on to grades 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; by 3, 4 and 5 two routines are required, one for balances and another for tempos.

TeamGym

TeamGym originates from Scandinavia and this particular type of Gymnastics has been a major event for over 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.

In every run of Tumbling and Trampette only six gymnasts compete. They stream their abilities (meaning that one gymnast goes after one another very quickly) The best move is the one performed last. Both are performed to music. Floor : 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 need to be at least two body waves involved, one spin, two balances and some actual gymnastic acrobatics. The Floor is 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

Rope Climb

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.

Flying Rings

Flying Rings was an event similar to Still Rings, but with the performer swinging back and forth while executing a series of stunts. It was a gymnastic event sanctioned by both the NCAA and the AAU until the early 1960s.

Cautions

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, world-class Chinese artistic gymnast Sang Lan was 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.

Gymnastics equipment manufacturers

Popular Culture

Film

See also

References

External links

  • FM Gymnastics- a list of Techniques and free animated comic tutorials for Floor Gymnastics.

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