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The Types of Gymnastics

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JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 3: Luis Vargas of Puerto Rico competes in the parallel bars during the Tyson American Cup finals at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena March 3, 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Doug Benc/Getty Images

When you think of gymnastics, you may picture young women doing flips on the 4-inch-wide beam, or men doing incredible feats of strength on the rings. But those images actually represent only two of the seven commonly-defined types of gymnastics. Surprised? Here are all seven:


Women's Artistic Gymnastics

Women's artistic gymnastics has the most participants and is generally the most well-known of the types of gymnastics. It's also one of the first tickets to sell out at the Olympic Games.

The Events: In women’s artistic gymnastics, athletes compete on four apparatus (vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise).

Competition: Olympic competition consists of:

  • Team -- Five athletes are on a team. In preliminaries, four athletes compete on each event and three scores count. In finals, three athletes compete on each event and every score counts towards the team total.

  • Individual All-Around -- An athlete competes on all four events and the total score is added up.

  • Individual Events -- An event champion is named on each apparatus.
Watch It: 2007 and 2008 US national champion Shawn Johnson


Men’s Artistic Gymnastics

This is the second most popular type in the United States, and the oldest form of gymnastics.

The Events: Men compete on six apparatus: floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar (usually called high bar).

Competition: Olympic competition is held in the same format as women’s artistic gymnastics, with team, all-around and individual events competition. The only difference is that the men compete across their six events, whereas the women compete across their four events.

Watch It: Two-time Olympic medalist Jonathan Horton


Rhythmic Gymnastics

Gymnasts perform jumps, tosses, leaps and other moves with different types of apparatus. This is currently a female-only sport in the Olympics.

The Events: Athletes compete with five different types of apparatus: rope, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Floor exercise is also an event in the lower levels of competition.

Competition: At the Olympics, rhythmic gymnasts compete in:

  • Individual All-Around -- An athlete competes on four of the five events (every two years, one apparatus is rotated out for that time period) and the total score is added.

  • Individual Events -- A gymnast is named champion on each of the four apparatus currently in rotation.

  • Group Competition -- Five gymnasts compete two different routines. In one routine, all of the athletes use the same piece of apparatus. In the second routine, the gymnasts use two different pieces of equipment (e.g. three gymnasts will use ball and two gymnasts will use hoop).
Watch It: The 2007 world champion Russian Group



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