Artistic gymnastics is a great for fitness. The sport improves overall strength and dexterity, boosting muscle strength and focusing on your core.
The equipment and disciplines of artistic gymnastics
In competition, the gymnast seeks to get the best possible score out of 10 in one or more disciplines. There are also all-round events and team events, also scored over each apparatus.
In Olympic competition there are two evaluating judges for technical content, and six to mark execution. The highest and lowest marks are discarded and an average of the rest is worked out to give the final score out of 10.
Criteria for each apparatus is extensive, requiring gymnasts to be focused at all times. Men and women competitions vary aside for the mutual vault category, as you can see below.
Male artistic competition
Men compete in floor, and on the pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bars.
Floor — gymnasts perform a spectacular 70-second acrobatic routine on a square mat. The floor exercise is a demonstration of power and strength, and is performed without music.
Pommel horse — a solid apparatus with two handles that men use for a series of circular movements, all along the length of the horse, while holding themselves above the apparatus.
Rings — parallel rings 50cm (19.7in) apart suspended from a cable that are held in each hand to perform a series of swings above and below the rings, to show strength and stillness, and a dismount.
Vault — a solid apparatus used in conjunction with a springboard to produce handsprings from a running approach. Judges are looking for the gymnast to display height and distance as well as a tight body position.
Parallel bars — two wooden rails shoulder width apart used for swinging, vaulting and balancing exercises.
Horizontal bars — a bar standing 2.75m (9ft) high, which is used to perform a series of swings, release skills, changes of direction and a dismount.
Female artistic competition
Female gymnasts compete on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor.
Vault — same criteria applies for female athletes.
Uneven bars — a top bar 2.4m (7.9ft) above the floor and a lower bar 1.6m (5.25ft) high, used for a continuous series of moves including grip changes, releases and new grasps.
Balance beam — a narrow beam on which a breathtaking 90-second routine of leaps, backflips and somersaults is performed.
Floor — as above, but with particular emphasis on the gymnast’s artistry and personality. Unlike the men’s event, this is performed with music.
Artistic gymnastics is a great way to build strength and develop your core, but it is certainly a sport that requires a high starting fitness level. You’ll need to hit the gym regularly with a vigorous resistance training scheme in order to achieve the body conditioning required for the sport.
If you’re already at the ideal fitness level to begin gymnastics, warming up is key before beginning. Proper stretching of key muscles can help to prevent long term injuries and generally improve poise, so don’t be afraid to thoroughly warm up before starting a session.
Where to start?
The idea of starting by yourself is quite daunting, but don’t be put off. Google gymnastics clubs in your area, or if your local gym offers any beginner classes. Expert supervision is always a good when starting a new sport, as it’ll prevent any bad habits from forming and help ensure you start with the right degree of safety precautions in place.