Gymnastics sport- an event to witness gravity-defying skills
Gymnastics is a sport that comprises a combination of exercises. But these exercises require extreme concentration and skills. And needs strength, balance, flexibility, agility, coordination, and endurance to perform the activities with perfection.
Gymnastics sport is the development of exercises used by ancient Greeks. And the set of skills also includes horse mounting skills and the skills used in the circuses.
The gymnasts get the benefits of muscle development of certain muscle groups. Most importantly, they also develop alertness, precision, self-confidence, self-discipline, and daring mind.
Among the variants, the most played form is artistic gymnastics. It consists of events like floor, vault, uneven bars, beam, rings, parallel bars, and horizontal bar. But, the set of events for men and women differ.
The Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) is the governing body of Gymnastics. Though there are many types of gymnastics, the FIG governs only eight of them.
They are Gymnastics for All, Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline (including Double Mini-trampoline), Tumbling, acrobatic, and aerobic.
Have a quick glance about Gymnastics
History of gymnastics sport
In ancient Greece, male athletes did their regular exercises in the gymnasium and they didn’t wear clothes. Thus, the Greek term gymnastics which means “to exercise naked.” derived its origin from that ancient custom.
Subsequently, many of the exercises got their places in the Olympic games. In due course, some of the competitions grouped under the gymnastics developed into separate sports like athletics, wrestling, and boxing.
Only tumbling and a primitive form of vaulting, which are part of modern gymnastics sport, existed in the ancient world.
The Egyptian hieroglyphs of ancient times, a writing system, depicts variations of backbends and other stunts. Moreover, some ancient stunts also showed the involvement of a partner.
Similarly, a well-known fresco in the history circle, which was from Crete at the palace of Knossos shows a leaper in performance.
In fact, Tumbling existed as an art form in ancient China. And stone engravings from the Han period (206 BC-AD 220) showed a performance of acrobatics.
Furthermore, the playing of Tumbling continued in the middle ages in Europe. In that period, traveling troupes like groups of thespians, dancers, acrobats, and jugglers practiced it. And also, a book by Archange Tuccaro, belonging to the 15th century first described it.
Subsequently, Tumbling developed in various regions of the world with many cultural influences. To cite an example, the hoop-diving practiced in Europe had resemblances with the type of tumbling seen in ancient China.
In the following periods, all kinds of acrobatics were eventually incorporated into the circus. And so, the circus acrobats became the first people who used primitive trampolines.
Rousseau’s novel Emile written in 1762 emphasized the physical and cognitive development of children. Then, it became a source of inspiration in the educational reform that happened in Europe.
Some educational reformers in Germany got their influence from Rousseau. And they moved on to open schools known as Philanthropinum in the late 1700s.
It emphasized the practice of a wide variety of outdoor activities including gymnastics sport. And students from all classes of the society got their admission.
Johann Christoph Friedrich Guts Muths (1759–1839) is known as the grandfather of modern gymnastics. Obviously, he was a famous teacher at Philanthropist school in Schnepfenthal.
He divided gymnastics into two divisions, natural gymnastics, and artificial gymnastics. The natural gymnastics stressed the health of the body.
Similarly, the exercises developed by Per Henrik Ling (1776–1839) in Sweden and Neils Bukh (1880–1950) in Denmark also emphasized the health of the body.
Per Henrik Ling was the prime mentor of natural gymnastics. In 1813, he started Royal Gymnastics Central Institute in Stockholm and it was a teacher training center. He devised a system of exercises to give health benefits to the athletes.
Calisthenics is thought to be his contribution which also includes free calisthenics, that is, exercises without the use of hand apparatus such as clubs, wands, and dumbbells.
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn
The father of gymnastics, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, founded the Turnverein movement and he was responsible for the development of gymnastics throughout the world.
He opened a playground on the outskirts of Berlin and he held competitions there. Ernst Eiselen, who was his assistant, co-authored the book, The German Gymnastic Art.
In the book, he explained in detail the exercises he developed on the ground. They used the pommel horse for leg-swinging exercise and for vaulting. Parallel bars was Jahn’s invention, which he used to develop the upper body strength of his students.
They used immense towers to raise the level of courageousness of the students. Jhan also used balance beams, horizontal bars, climbing ropes, and climbing poles.
The students practiced primitive pole vaulting along with other athletic games. Moreover, the wide variety of facilities they provided attracted young men in large numbers.
Involvement of politics
Jahn also imparted his political ideology to the students. He dreamt about German unification and getting rid of French influence in Prussia.
By 1815 student unions like the Burschenschaft were fighting for the constitutional form of government, arming the citizenry, and instituting greater civil freedoms.
In the year 1819, a Burschenschaft gymnast murdered the German playwright August von Kotzebue. Following the incident, the Prussian King Frederick William III closed approximately 100 gymnastic fields and centers in Prussia.
The administration arrested Jhan and jailed him under house arrest for the next five years. When released, the authorities sent him to a faraway place from Berlin, which had no facilities for gymnastics.
Jhan lost two of his three children and his wife during this time. Moreover, three of his close followers fled to North America as they feared arrest. Other followers who were in Prussia went underground until King Fredrick William IV lifted the ban in 1842.
Beginning of international competitions
In 1860, Turnfest, the first German gymnastic festival was held in Coburg. In a way, it marked the beginning of the international competition, as families of Turners outside Germany were invited to participate.
The followers of Jahn introduced gymnastics to the Americans in the 1820s. They formed a national union of Turner societies in the year 1848.
In 1861, American Turners and turners from Germanic regions attended the second Turnfest in Berlin. Then the modern Olympics began in Athens in 1896. By the time, eight Turnfest meets were conducted with the growing number of participating countries.
The Fédération Internationale Gymnastique (FIG) was formed in the year 1881. The organization began to supervise international competitions.
The 1896 Olympic games was instrumental in the growing interest in gymnastics. The FIG organized World Championships for men in 1903 and for women in 1934.
The gymnastic games were not free from track and field events until the 1928 Olympics. Women gymnasts competed for the first time in the 1928 Olympics. In the 1932 event, the organization added floor exercises.
Types of gymnastics sport
Though there are a wide variety of gymnastics sport as per the events grouped together, it will be useful to know about the seven types of gymnastics, which is official.
Women’s Artistic Gymnastics
It is the most famous of all and participants exhibit willingness to perform in women’s gymnastics. And it is also one of the most sought after games in the Olympics.
In this type, the women athletes compete on four apparatus like the vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise.
In the Olympic competition, there will be five athletes on a team. And there are also individual events. Women’s gymnastics is a beautiful combination of power, flexibility, and grace.
Men’s Artistic Gymnastics
It is the oldest form of gymnastics sport which dates back to the early days of the Olympics. In this type of gymnastics, men athletes compete both individually and as a team.
It consists of six events like floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. The events demand the highest-flying tricks and strength.
The Olympic games consist of three formats such as team, all-around and individual events. The men athletes compete in six events while women compete in four events.
Rhythmic Gymnastics is a female-only sport in the Olympics. In this game, women compete both individually and as a team. And they have to play five apparatus that include rope, hoop, ball, clubs, and ribbon.
The women athletes perform jumps, tosses, leaps and other moves with different types of apparatus which requires amazing flexibility and strength. Moreover, floor exercise is also part of the event in the lower level of the competition.
In the individual all-round event, the athletes compete on four of the five events and the total score is added.
A champion is announced on each of the four events currently in rotation in the individual event.
Five gymnasts participate in two different routines in the group competition. In one routine, all athletes use the same apparatus, but in the second routine, they use two different pieces of equipment.
Trampoline is the most recent type of gymnastics sport and it found its place in the Olympics only in the year 2000. In this type of gymnastics, both men and women participate.
The athletes perform the tricks using a double mini-trampoline but in the case of trampolines, two athletes perform on two different trampolines at the same time.
It produces more bounce than the floor exercises and so the gymnasts exhibit gravity-defying flips in these competitions.
In the Olympics, the athletes play a compulsory and a voluntary routine and each consists of ten skills. They perform it on the same type of trampoline. The competition involves individual events for women and men.
The gymnasts do power tumbling on a spring runway. The runaway offers much more bounce than the artistic gymnastics floor. It helps the athletes to perform complicated tasks in succession.
Tumbling has not yet gained its place in the Olympics. But in the United States, athletes take part in the Junior Olympics program.
In tumbling, the athletes perform all the events on the same strip and they do two passes in each stage of the competition, with eight elements in each pass.
In acrobatic gymnastics sport, there is no use of any gymnastic equipment. Instead, members of the gymnastics team use themselves as equipment.
In this type of gymnastics, the gymnast team performs all types of handstands, holds and balances on each other and the members of the team throw and catch their teammates.
The athletes perform it on the floor exercise mat. And they compete in men’s pairs, women’s pairs, mixed pairs, women’s groups (three gymnasts) and men’s groups (four gymnasts).
It is also not an Olympic sport. But, athletes perform it in the Junior Olympic program and at the international level.
Group Gymnastics Sport
In the United States, the gymnasts perform it under the name TeamGym. In the event, the athletes compete in a group of six to 16 gymnasts.
The group may be all-female, all-male or mixed. In the U.S., the participants in TeamGym compete in the group jump event and the group floor exercise.
TeamGym is not an Olympic event. But the gymnasts participate in invitational meets, as well as local, regional, national and international competitions.
Gymnastics Sport Equipment
Though there are many types of gymnastics sport, the Organization of Olympics recognizes women’s and men’s artistic gymnastics, women’s and men’s trampoline and women’s rhythmic gymnastics as Olympic gymnastics sports.
Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Equipment
The events in Men’s artistic gymnastics are the parallel bars, high bar, still rings, floor exercise, vault, and pommel horse.
Two parallel bars supported by a metal frame form the apparatus for the event, parallel bar. On the bars, the players perform their swinging and balancing acts.
On the other hand, the high bar is a single bar that stands at 2.75 m height from the ground. And the bar stands on a solid metal structure.
The still rings hang on flexible straps. The rings are 50 cm apart and are at 2.75 m distance from the floor. The gymnasts hold on the unsteady rings and maneuver it by body stillness and core strength.
The pommel horse has two handles called pommels attached to the top of the platform. The players display their strength and agility through coordinated hand placements and body movements.
Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Equipment
The balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercise, and vault are the events in women’s artistic gymnastics.
The balance beam which is 10 cm wide stands at 1.25 m above the mat. The players exhibit leaps, flips, and handstands that require balance.
Unlike other apparatus, the uneven bars are held together by an adjustable metal frame. The gymnasts adjust it as per their height and preferences. Usually, the players prefer 2.4 m height for the high bar, 1.6 m height for the low bar and 1.6 m spacing between the bars.
For floor exercises, the players use the 12 sq m carpeted floor, which contains springs or foam padding. And they perform a tumbling and dance routine by using the entire mat.
For vault, the players perform on a solid platform that is placed at the end of a 25 m long runway. The gymnasts after performing various handsprings jump onto the vault.
A springboard is an apparatus that has coiled springs between two boards. In addition to the vault, the gymnasts use the springboard to mount the beam or uneven bars.
Women’s and Men’s Trampoline Equipment
The trampoline is a gymnastics apparatus that consists of a nylon spring bed supported by a metal frame. It is 5.05 m long, 2.91 m wide and 1.155 m high.
On the bouncy trampoline, the gymnasts can reach up to 30 feet during their performance of flips and twists.
Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics Equipment
The events in the women’s rhythmic gymnastics are the ball, hoop, rope, club, and ribbon. During the performance, the gymnasts use the equipment with creative movements and move on a 13 sq m carpeted mat.
The ball used will be either a rubber ball or a plastic one, which measures 18 to 20 cm in diameter and weighs 400g.
The hoop is 80 to 90 cm in diameter and weighs a minimum of 300g. It is made of wood or plastic.
The rope the gymnasts use is made of hemp and has knots at each end. The height of the gymnasts determines the length of the rope.
The clubs which are made in wood or plastic resemble the bowling pins. The gymnast uses two clubs in this event and each club weighs 150g.
The ribbon is a 7 m satin strip attached to a wooden stick. The gymnast keeps the ribbon in motion throughout the routine.
How to become a gymnast
It’s a sport that requires a high level of physical condition that includes strength, flexibility, and endurance. To attain maximum flexibility, many individuals start to practice it early in their life.
You can start to practice the game by enrolling in a gym or in your school. Then you have to master the skills one by one. During the learning process, you have to take utmost care about your health and should take the necessary steps to prevent you from injuries.
It’ll be good if you consult a sports physician before starting your training. Because it’s highly demanding physically. Your medical examination might involve a series of queries and examinations to assess your fitness.
Join in a class
Now it is time to join your local gym. Trying on your own won’t do any good as Gymnastics needs learning under proper guidance.
Join a gym in your area and start to learn the basics of gymnastics with proper techniques. The help of professionals will save you from injuries.
Choose the course which suits your age and your experience. As gyms are offering varieties of courses, consulting a coach will be helpful in choosing the right one for you.
Start in your school
If you are a student, start to learn gymnastics in your school. Students in University or College level could start there by enrolling in the gymnastic classes.
In educational institutions, you have the opportunity to learn the sport as part of your education. There, you get all the facilities you need, the professional training and also the chances to play in the competitions.
Get familiar with the gymnastics sport
As we already saw in this article, there are different types of gymnastics being played now. Though, you would have selected one, knowing and getting familiar with the main types of gymnastics such as artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, and acrobatic gymnastics, will be good for you.
Undergo Strength Training in gymnastics sport
It’s a sport that relies more on muscle power. So, a trainee should undergo strength training in the learning period.
During this period, you should focus on building overall strength and skill-specific strength. You’ll get strength training which focuses on your body weight. For gymnastics sport, resistance training like weight lifting does not have more importance.
Moreover, the training consists of a routine that alternates between push and pulls strength-building exercises. And the aim of strength training in gymnastics is to achieve the maximum possible strength for the smallest possible muscle area.
Improve your flexibility in gymnastics sport
The next important component in gymnastics sport is flexibility. You have to try a combination of stretching, massage and breathing exercises to improve your flexibility.
Static stretches like slow shoulder rotations, biceps stretches, lumbar extensions, and hamstring stretches are helpful to expand your range of motion.
And dynamic stretches, like lunges, kicks, and torso rotations warm up your muscles and increase your flexibility. Yoga is also helpful in building flexibility and strength.
Learn basic techniques in gymnastics sport
The handstand is the basic and most important gymnastics skill. And it is the basis for some other gymnastics techniques like walkovers and handsprings.
To get this technique right, you have to practice walking by your hands. In practice, the gymnasts practice it against a wall.
To start with, they stand with their back against the wall. They put their hands on the floor by bending down. Then, by standing on their hands, they raise their feet up and let their stomach touch the wall.
After a while, the gymnasts will learn to stand on their hands unsupported.
Learn how to cast gymnastics sport
A cast in gymnastics sport is a basic skill in the bars. During learning, the gymnasts practice it by pushing themselves up on the bar with their arms straight and legs and feet together.
By moving their body back and forth, the gymnasts try to attain the position, where they could hold their body parallel to the floor for a brief time.
Learn side and middle splits gymnastics sport
In performing side splits, a gymnast has to lower the body to the floor by keeping the legs stretched to the front and back of the body.
Similarly, in doing middle splits, the legs are stretched sideways i.e) the gymnasts keep their legs on either side of the body.
To get the splits right, the gymnasts have to practice stretches that focus on building your flexibility in your hamstrings and hips.
Further, the gymnasts have to practice split leaps in which they get a split position while jumping high off the ground.
Learn round offs gymnastics sport
In doing the round-off, a gymnast starts in a lunge position with one knee forward. And also, the players do it with lifted arms, straight above the head and will have their palms in the forward direction.
Following it, they will land on their palms with their hands rotated. Before that, the gymnasts lean forward with their torso while keeping the legs up.
Learn to turn on one foot gymnastics sport
In this turn on one foot, the gymnasts put the foot they will turn on in a relieve position to start the full turn. And they stand on the ball of the foot while keeping the top of the foot parallel to the chin. The turning is part of many beam and floor routines.
Then they will pull the other foot up to the ankle or knee. During this move, they keep the hip straight and at the right level. By keeping their core tight and shoulders straight, they go for a full turn with the heel to swivel around.
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