Did you know that there are lots of different types of gymnastics? It’s not just beam, bars, and tumbling on the floor- so in this blog post, I will describe some of the most popular gymnastics disciplines in the UK. How many styles do you already know?
Perhaps the most well-known by the general public, women’s artistic gymnastics is what I think most people imagine when they hear ‘gymnastics.’ Often called WAG, this type of gymnastics includes floor, vault, beam and asymmetric (or ‘uneven’) bars. Girls and women participate in this discipline, and there is the chance to take part in lots of competitions, from friendlies between a handful of local clubs, up to large-scale international events.
For girls who take part in this type of gymnastics, there are three main competition routes- national level, elite level, and compulsory level. Within each level, or ‘pathway,’ there are numbered grades, which are completed once a year. Girls may compete ‘in age’ – at the correct age for that particular grade- or ‘out of age’ -which means that they are older. Although it is possible to move from one pathway to another, in practise it’s often quite difficult to do.
There are lots of well known gymnasts in this discipline, from Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci’s rivalry back in the 1970s, to Beth Tweddle, the first female British gymnast to win an individual apparatus medal at the Olympics. Some of today’s most famous female gymnasts are Amelie Morgan, Beam Queen Alice Kinsella, and of course the Gadirova twins, Jessica and Jennifer.
Similar to women’s artistic, men’s artistic gymnastics, or MAG, also includes floor and vault exercises, but not beam or uneven bars. Instead, MAG gymnasts use parallel bars, high bar, rings and pommel horse. Boys and men take part in this type of gymnastics. Whilst routines on the parallel bars and rings use a mixture of hold moves and swings, on high bar and pommel horse a gymnast does not stop moving from the beginning of their routine until the end- very tiring!
In recent years, British gymnasts have been very successful in this discipline, with gymnasts such as Nile Wilson and Max Whitlock showing the general public that gymnastics is most certainly NOT ‘just for girls.’
Boys who take part in MAG gymnastics don’t start official competitions until the year they turn nine, where they can compete at either ‘club’ or ‘elite’ level. Boys can move between these two pathways each year, depending on their ability- it’s not unusual to see a lot of boys start out at elite level one, for example, and then move to club level as they get older, and it becomes more of a juggle to balance the demands of both school and gym.
For more information about boys’ gymnastics, take a look at this blog post about the equipment boy gymnasts may need, or this one describing the apparatus they use in the gym.
Rhythmic gymnastics is one of only two sports at the Olympic Games which are only open to women (the other is synchronised swimming). In this discipline, gymnasts only compete on the floor, using hand apparatus; they can compete individually or in a team. The apparatus that rhythmic gymnasts use are: hoop, ribbon, ball, clubs and rope. Alongside their dance and gymnastic elements, gymnasts are required to keep their apparatus moving throughout their routine- dropping the apparatus means a score deduction!
Rhythmic gymnasts need to be flexible, graceful and elegant. Their leotards reflect this, with intricate patterns of diamantes, and often a small skirt added to the traditional leotard outline. Routines in rhythmic gymnastics are more dance-based that in artistic gymnastics, with fewer big tumbling moves. Regardless of this, it’s an impressive, beautiful sport to watch.
Many people don’t realise that trampolining is actually considered to be a discipline of gymnastics, and in fact it wasn’t always one of the types of gymnastics included by British Gymnastics. But these days, team GB trampolinists such as Bryony Page and Luke Strong are a successful part of the gymnastics squad, winning medals at national and international competitions.
In trampolining, gymnasts perform impressive tumbling moves in the air, all whilst staying as close as possible to the middle of the trampoline ‘bed.’ Moving too far away from the coloured cross on the middle of the bed means that the gymnast cannot bounce as effectively, plus it also increases the chance of falling from the trampoline. A top trampoline gymnast can bounce up to ten metres high, so safety is vital!
In synchronised trampolining, two gymnasts complete the same routine on two trampolines next to each other, and are marked on how well synchronised they are with each other’s movements. In this discipline, gymnasts need to make sure they bounce at the same height as each other so that they stay in time, so partners need to have a good connection with each other.
Tumbling is a dynamic, fast-paced type of gymnastics, in which gymnasts perform a series of connected tumbling moves such as whips, flicks and somersaults at speed along a narrow tumble track. Unlike in an artistic floor routine, tumblers do not perform any kinds of balances or linking moves- their performance is purely about the speed and power of their tumbles, also called ‘runs.’ For this discipline, gymnasts need to be brave, as well as having good spatial awareness- knowing where you are in the air during tumbling is essential! In competitions, tumblers usually have three runs to complete.
Often included in this discipline of gymnastics is DMT, which stands for Double Mini Trampoline. One of lesser known types of gymnastics, this involves gymnasts running towards an angled mini trampoline and performing a somersaulting move off it. After this, they immediately land on the second section of the trampoline (sometimes called the spotter) and perform another tumbling move, before landing either back onto the trampoline, or onto a landing mat. The trampoline bed in DMT is much smaller that a standard trampoline, so it takes a lot of precision to pull this off.
Acrobatic gymnastics, also known as sports acro, is a fantastic event to watch, as participants combine tumbling and dance moves with impressive lifts and group balances. However, it’s not actually an Olympic discipline. Instead, the European Games, World Games, and Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships are the top level of competition for acro gymnasts. If you’ve ever watched the CBBC series Gymstars, you’ll probably remember Finn and Kirsten, along with the other acro gymnasts shown in the series.
In acro gymnastics, gymnasts work in groups rather than as individuals. Pairs may be either male, female or mixed; then there’s also the women’s trios, and men’s fours. Within each group, there will be a ‘base,’ who is responsible for lifting and holding their partner, and a ‘top,’ who needs to be flexible, agile and brave, as they will be lifted and thrown into the air by their partner. In the men’s fours and women’s trio events, there will also be one or two ‘middles,’ who provide support in larger group balances.
This discipline of gymnastics requires a huge amount of trust between partners, so a good relationship between the members of a partnership is essential. However, it’s also not unusual for acro gymnastics partnerships to change, as tops grow and become too tall to work safely with their base any longer. This can sometimes result in one or both gymnasts having no partner for a while, until a suitable new partnership can be created.
Although this post has described six types of gymnastics, there are other disciplines too- how many do you know? Or perhaps you have some more facts to add to the information in this post? Let me know in the comments!
With thanks to BritishGymnastics.org for their descriptions of different types of gymnastics.