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Floor Exercise: Everything You Need to Know

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Gymnast Dominique Dawes competes at the 1996 Olympics on floor.

Dominique Dawes

© Getty Images

The floor exercise is both a women's artistic gymnastics and men's artistic gymnastics event. It's the fourth and last of the women's apparatus, competed after vault, uneven bars, and balance beam in Olympic order. Men compete floor first when performing in Olympic order (floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar.)

The Floor Mat:

The floor exercise is a square, about 40 ft. long by 40 ft. wide. It's usually made of foam and springs, and covered with carpeting.

Types of Floor Skills:

Women perform both tumbling and dance skills on floor, while men do tumbling and occasional strength moves or flairs and circles.

Dance skills are often similar to the ones shown on beam, and include leaps, jumps, and turns.

Men and women usually do four or five tumbling passes in a routine, and the passes often contain multiple flips and twists. Some of the most difficult tumbling skills being done today are the double-twisting double back, done in a tucked or layout position, back three and a half twist, and Arabian double pikes or double layouts. There are also combination passes, in which a gymnast performs one or more rebounding skills right in a row, and roll-out skills (at :10). Women are prohibited from doing roll-out skills, and there are safety concerns with this type of move.

Men are required to do a strength move, which often looks like a move similar to one done on rings: the gymnast will hold a position for two seconds before moving on to the next skill. Sometimes, male gymnasts will do circles or flairs similar to those done on the pommel horse.

The Top Floor Workers:

American Alexandra Raisman won the gold on floor at the 2012 Games, and does some of the most difficult tumbling ever done by a woman. (Watch Aly Raisman's floor routine.

In the current women's Code of Points tumbling has become more emphasized than dance and artistry, so you'll see current floor routines with much more tumbling than choreography. Russian Ksenia Afanasyeva won the 2011 world title on floor, and is a stronger dancer than many top floor workers. (Watch Ksenia Afanasyeva on floor). Other top floor workers include Romanian Catalina Ponor (2004 Olympic gold medalist and 2012 silver medalist on floor), Lauren Mitchell (2010 floor world champ and 2009 runner-up), and Sandra Izbasa (2008 Olympic gold medalist on floor).

The most decorated American on floor besides Raisman is Dominique Dawes, a four-time national champion on the event, and the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist. Dawes was well-known for her unique back-to-back tumbling passes to start her routine. (Watch Dominique Dawes on floor.)

Nellie Kim, the current President of the FIG Women's Technical Committee, won two Olympic golds on floor: in 1976, and in 1980 (tied with Nadia Comaneci). (Watch Nellie Kim on floor.)

On the men's side, China's Zou Kai won Olympic gold in both 2008 and 2012, with very difficult tumbling that sometimes exhibits poor form. (Watch Zou Kai on floor). Olympic all-around champion Kohei Uchimura won the 2012 Olympic silver medal on floor and was the 2011 world champ, with a different strategy: slightly less difficult tumbling, but impeccable form. (Watch Kohei Uchimura on floor.)

Americans Jake Dalton and Steven Legendre are the top two current gymnasts on floor. Dalton was fifth at the 2012 Olympics, while Legendre was fifth at the 2011 worlds. Peter Kormann, who won a bronze in 1976, is the only American male to have medaled on floor.

A Floor Routine:

Gymnasts must use the entire floor mat during their routine, but cannot step off the floor mat at any time, or a deduction is taken.

A floor routine lasts up to 90 seconds. Women perform to music of their choice, while men perform without music.

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