Youth gymnastic moves are designed to teach the foundational techniques of gymnastics required for more advanced gymnastic maneuvers. Simple and repeatable, they are designed with a child’s body in mind as things that they are physically capable of doing.
Each move is associated with a unique gymnastic event. There are a total of six different events in gymnastics: vault, floor, balance beam, uneven bars, rings, and pommel horse. However, only four of these are ones that girl gymnasts do. The following is a list of youth gymnastic moves sorted according to event that they are done in.
Although technique and form should be emphasized rather than scoring, many children will eventually enter competitive gymnastics while they are still at an early age. Only events that can be performed by youth have been included. Furthermore, only moves that are feasible for a child to execute have been included.
Within each category I have put the moves in order according to how hard they generally are to do, going from easiest to hardest. Some of what makes a certain gymnastics move harder or easier is something that can vary from gymnast to gymnast based upon their personal strengths and weaknesses.
Some gymnastics moves require other moves to be learned first or at least a certain amount of flexibility or something before you can even begin to learn them. These are considered more advanced than the ones that can be learned without anything else needing to be learned first.
The vault is a fairly popular gymnastics event, and is certainly the shortest in the terms of the amount of time it takes for the gymnast to do their “routine.” Performed by both boys and girls, this event involves the gymnast sprinting towards and leaping off of a stationary apparatus which is called the vaulting table.
The gymnast begins by sprinting down a long, padded runway that is sometimes called “the run”. The gymnast tries to get as much speed as they can as they go down the runway and all of the to where the vaulting table is. To launch themselves onto the vault, the gymnast launches off a springboard that lies at the end of the run on the ground just in front of the vaulting table.
With some form of a jump or a flip the gymnast lands on the springboard and bounces up and off of it as they flip their feet into the air so that they land on their hands on the vaulting table. The gymnast pushes off the vault with their hands, performs a gymnastic move in midair, and lands on a mat on the other side.
Executing even a simple maneuver on the vault requires skill, precision, and the right technique, which is one of the reasons why beginner gymnasts do not really vault at all for the first couple of levels, only learning the simplest of the vaults for quite a while. Vaulters spend years honing and perfecting their form and incorporating new maneuvers.
In a competition, the gymnast’s routine is scored by a panel of judges. The gymnast must land firmly on the mat without tripping or hopping. Additionally, the judges will look at the height reached by the gymnast and the moves they performed while in the air. There are numerous vault moves acceptable for youth. Increasing the child’s familiarity and comfort with and around the vault is the sole objective at first.
Basic Vault Moves
Before completing a full routine on the vault, a young gymanst must first be comfortable coming off the springboard while having the correct hand and arm placement. This move is simple, it involves only a single bounce on the springboard. The child, using a circular motion, quickly rotates her arms into the air as she ascends and places them back to her sides upon descent. This helps them be able to feel the momentum created by using a circular arm motion as they jump off of the springboard.
Step Circle Straight Bounce
This is another basic move to get children comfortable coming off the springboard. Unlike arm circles, here the child will actually bounce horizontally off the board and land on a padded cushion a distance away. There are two main focuses here: the child’s form coming off the springboard and her landing form.
Step Circle Bounce to Handstand
The objective here is getting the child comfortable rotating in the air. Without using the vault yet, the child bounces off the springboard, flips in the air, and lands on an elevated mat in a handstand position. An adult should be present to catch the child and keep her upright after landing at first.
This is a basic move involving the vault itself. The gymnast simply finds a spot on the runway to start from, runs to and bounces off of the springboard, and then lands on the vault in a squatting position. Instead of completing a full routine, the gymnast remains stationery on the vault. This move should make the young gymnast more comfortable executing the jump from the springboard to the vault.
As the gymnast launches towards the springboard she performs the half-turn before the springboard, landing on the board on her feet and facing away from the vaulting table. This requires the gymnast to arch her back considerably to make contact the vault behind her.
The Front Handspring
One of the simplest vaulting moves, a handspring is one way that a young gymnast can flip onto the vaulting table. For this move it’s critical that the child keeps her body completely vertical while rotating in the air. First the gymnast jumps straight onto the springboard and from there flips into a handstand on the vaulting table and the over on the other side.
This move is similar to the front handspring in that the gymnast will do one complete flip in the air. However, with this move there is a half twist onto the vault as the gymnast turns has to turn their body 180 degrees coming off the springboard with their hands hitting the vault with them facing away from the runway. This differs from the front handspring where the gymnast approaches the vault head first and lands on the vault on their hands facing the runway.
For this one the gymnast performs a round off on the springboard followed by a backhand spring off the vault. A Yurchenko is usually finished with a salto.
This event has the gymnast performing a wide variety of moves on a special floor that is made to be firm and yet to give some amount of cushion. The springy floor allows the gymnast to achieve the elevation necessary to execute acrobatic moves in the air and also gives a slight amount of cushion should the gymnast make a mistake and fall.
The floor itself is 40 square feet and it has the edges of the square clearly marked with deductions being given if the gymnast goes outside of these lines. The floor is a unique event because of what it requires of the gymnast. Not only is she expected to do some sweeping acrobatic moves, but her routine must be rhythmic with the moves complimenting each other.
During a usual routine a gymnast will often incorporate elements of dance in addition to traditional floor exercise moves. A routine is scored based on the gymnast’s jumps, balance, flexibility, and how she holds her poses.
Basic Floor Moves
The gymnast completes one full roll from a crouched position. This move is a good way for children to become comfortable flipping on the floor and it is often one of the first things that gymnasts learn to do right. It is important that the head and legs remain tucked in during the roll.
This is another one of the most basic moves performed on the floor. There are different ways to enter into a handstand such as from a swiss press or from a straddle press. However, when a gymnast it first learning this foundational move they usually start up against a wall until they can build up the muscles needed in order to get up to it another way.
While in the higher levels of gymnastics an ordinary cartwheel is not really used, this is one of the foundational moves that is needed to learn some of the more complicated gymnastics moves. Beginning in the upright position, the gymnast bends and places her hands on the ground one after the other letting her momentum carry her into the handstand position before rotating back in the same way back to a standing position.
Back Extension Roll
This move is the complete reverse of what a handstand into a forward roll would be. The gymnast rolls quickly backwards starting with her head and letting her momentum carry her all the way around. The move is completed when the gymnast falls back gently back onto her two feet in a standing position.
This is yet another of the great foundational moves that young gymnasts can learn. Beginning with a running start, the gymnast pushes off the floor with her hands and performs a front flip in the air.
The gymnast performs a front flip in the air. Here, the gymnast gets a short running start before bouncing off the floor with both feet. While in the air the gymnast tucks her knees into her chest and lands on the ground in sitting position.
Also known as an aerial cartwheel, this gymnastics move has a lot in common with a cartwheel. In fact, this move is a cartwheel that is done without the hands of the gymnast touching the floor which is why you have to first have to master the cartwheel first.
Front Or Back Tuck
Either of these are very hard to do for a young gymnast, especially the back tuck. For these the gymnast has to do a complete flip like they do with the aerial without touching the ground with her hands at all, starting on her feet and ending on her feet. The front tuck is doing this forward and the back tuck is doing this backwards. Either way, the “tuck” is the position that this is done in with the gymnast’s knees pulled up close to her chest.
The balance beam is a beam that is 4” wide and 16’ long and it is elevated a few feet off of the floor. A balance beam routine usually lasts between 70 and 90 seconds and may include a variety of jumps, turns, and positions.
The judges also look at how the gymnast mounts and dismounts from the beam and how she lands after dismounting. To score highly on her landing, the gymnast must land squarely without stumbling, tripping or even waving her arms to catch her balance.
Basic Balance Beam Moves
A standing position often used between moves during routines, the releve is foundational balance beam move for a beginning youth gymnast. The gymnast stretches her arms into the air at a horizontal angle and moves onto the tips of her toes with her heels hanging off of the edge of the beam. Her feet are separated by a few inches.
This is a 180-degree turn performed on the balance beam. The turn is performed rapidly while the gymnast remains on the tips of her toes with both arms extended, but the gymnast’s arms should not waver at all as she does this.
In order to do this the gymnast works up to it by doing a small hop on the balance beam. First, the gymnast lifts the leg she will land on to a 45-degree angle and then pushes off with her plant leg. The foot of the raised leg will land flatly on the beam and the leg she jumped with will remain in the air at roughly a 45-degree angle for a moment. This finishing position is known as an arabesque hold.
To execute a cartwheel on the beam, the gymnast will keep her legs astride with her lead foot elevated slightly. When the move is completed the gymnast will end with legs astride further down the beam. The proper hand placement is critical here, as any wavering to either side could result in a fall from the beam.
There are a few different ways to get into a handstand position on the beam once a gymnast gets enough practice getting into a handstand on the beam. One way is that she can have her legs astride with her hands vertically above her head and then lower her head and hands as she kicks her back legs into the air. To come out of the handstand position, one way to do this is to separate both legs into a scissor position and rotate them slowly down by her sides so she can sit on them.
One of the simplest leaps to perform and an important foundational move for a young gymnast, this form of a leap is a move that involves the gymnast leaping into the air from a stationary position and creating a split with her legs while airborne, placing her legs together again to land on them.
There are many kinds of aerials utilized in numerous gymnastic events. The front aerial is a common move on the balance beam and resembles aerials used in other events. As mentioned, it involves the gymnast performing a cartwheel without using their hands. This should only be attempted when the gymnast has mastered doing it on the ground.
The apparatus for this is a set of bars standing around 5 and 8 feet off the ground respectively. The gymnast swings between the bars performing moves as she travels through the air. The bars are fairly flexible allowing the gymnast to build momentum as she twirls around them.
Good technique is critical to achieve a high score on the balance beam routine. Judges will focus on a variety of factors including the difficulty of the moves performed, the gymnast’s mount and dismount, and whether she kept her legs straight while maneuvering around and transitioning between the beams.
Basic Uneven Bars Moves
The support move is the most basic of the positions that a gymnast can have on the bars and is quite frequently used in many of the more challenging of the bar skills. To get into this position a gymnast has to have their arms straight and supporting their weight on the bar with the rest of their body being perfectly straight at and at a slight angle.
This is also a great foundational skill that every gymnast learns. In order to get into the position the gymnast swings forward to get momentum and then back into the handstand on the bars.
This is one of the first dismounts a young gymnast learns. She lets go of the high bar before going vertical, flips in the air, and then lands on the other side of the high bar.
Also known as the still rings, this is a difficult event for a young gymnast to perform because of the upper body strength it requires. Therefore, a child may not begin this event until later in his gymnastic career. Only boys learn how to do the ring event which features two circular rings suspended in the air by a specific kind of rope that will not break.
The moves here involve the gymnast turning and rotating while also holding himself up on the rings. During his routine, the gymnast must keep his body straight at all times A routine also must consist of at least two “handstands” with the rings as well.
Basic Ring Moves
This move is as simple as it sounds, however, it is rather difficult to perform. The gymnast simply pulls himself up while on the rings. This is one of the first techniques a young gymnast will learn because so many more advanced moves are derived from it. A training exercise might involve the gymnast continuously pulling himself up and lowering himself on the rings to develop the muscles necessary to hold a support.
This is another basic move that forms the foundation for more complex moves. The gymnast will enter into the support position and slowly raise his legs until perpendicular with his body, thus forming a L shape with their body which they practice holding.
In order to do a handstand on the bars the gymnast will pull himself into the support position and swing upwards, building enough momentum to enter into the handstand position. The arms of the gymnast should be a vertical position pushing down on the bars and not in a horizontal position which is the a different ring skill.
For this gymnast pulls himself into the support position and flips his legs up behind him so his head is facing the ground. His arms should be horizontal with the rings and not vertical as they are in the handstand position.
This is one of the most basic moves a gymnast can perform on the rings. It is critical that a young gymnast learns how to swing as every routine must contain a swing element. While keeping his body in an arched position the gymnast should kick his legs forward until he builds enough moment to enter into a swing. At the highest point of the swing the gymnast should be in a supine position.
A pommel horse is a small platform that is 5 feet long and 1 foot wide and which is suspended four feet off the ground. It has two handles on its top which are separated by a distance of 16 inches. This event if for boys only and involves the gymnast swinging his body around the pommels and performing a variety of acrobatic moves while doing so.
Moves are divided into single and double leg work with double leg work making up the majority of most routines. During a formal competition, a routine on the pommel should include a move from each of the element groups. The element groups are single leg swings, scissors, circles and flairs, side and support travels, and dismounts.
Before a child can perform a full routine on the pommel horse, they must first develop the necessary upper body strength to remain suspended above the horse for an long period of time while being only supported by their hands.
During a competition, a routine is judged according to a variety of factors. The judges look at the difficulty of the moves performed and whether the gymnast keeps his legs together and feet pointed when they are supposed to be. Additionally, points can be deducted if the gymnast does not use multiple areas of the horse.
Basic Pommel Horse Moves
The was is a fairly simple foundational move for the pommel which has the gymnast rotating their legs around the pommel horse in a circle. This is one of the earliest moves a young gymnast will learn as many more advanced moves are derived from it. As with almost every move on the pommel horse, hand placement is critical here. In order to main balance while performing a circle the gymnast should work to keep his body straight to get a little momentum.
In order to so this the gymnast swings around either end of the horse gaining sufficient elevation to spread his legs apart into a scissor-like position. This move requires a strong understanding of how to transfer one’s weight and momentum. This is one of the most basic moves that a young gymnast can practice after learning how to swing around the horse in a circle.
The main objective of youth gymnastics is for the young and beginner gymnasts to learn the correct form and technique so that they become habits. Without the correct technique, a young gymnast will not be able to do the more advanced routines down the road properly.
Each child learns at a different pace, and it is up to the teacher to determine which moves are appropriate for each child. New gymnastics moves and routines are being developed year, but most of these basic moves for young gymnasts are ones that show no signs of changing and, to the contrary, are increasingly important for young gymnasts to master.
When a child is first learning gymnastics the appropriate safety precautions should always be observed, and a child should only be performing moves with the supervision of an adult when they are first learning them. It is also important that the limitations of a child’s body are understood since some children are naturally more flexible than others are.
Before performing the more advanced gymnastic moves, a child should learn the foundational movements of an event. Before ever approaching the apparatus by themselves, he or she should be comfortable performing the basic motions required for the event by first practicing the on or near the floor.