Moving up to a new level in gymnastics is exciting and brings with it new skills to master, along with being one step closer to the Elite competition levels. To advance and qualify for the next level, it requires time and dedication, but it doesn’t have to be a mystery to know what skills need to be mastered.
In order to qualify for the next gymnastics level, the gymnast must perform a series of routines on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. Each level focuses on different skills on each apparatus, and they get progressively more complicated as the level increases. There are also strict age requirements to be considered for advancement.
Moving up a level has different age, skills, and scoring requirements, and not every level is competitive. Also, to qualify for advancement, you will have to show your coach you’re proficient enough in the skills to move up a level.
What Are The Factors Involved To Move Up A Level?
While every level is different, they each have specific requirements to meet before being able to reach the next level. Every gymnast will start at level 1, and they will advance to each level in sequential order. The only exception is the ability to skip level 6, which will be discussed later.
There are 10 levels and an Elite level, which is divided into two categories, for dedicated athletes beyond a level 10 gymnast. The requirements that need to be met before moving up a level are:
Each gymnast must be the minimum age for the level before being able to qualify for any competition. Refer to the chart to see the minimum ages for each level.
While the Elite level doesn’t have a minimum age, it can only be reached after successfully mastering Level 10. Most Elite gymnasts are teens.
It’s possible for a gymnast to advance multiple levels in a single year, and it depends on how much they train and how quickly they master the skills. So, therefore, a gymnast can compete at different levels, just as long as once they graduate to a higher level they never go back to competing in the lower levels.
Each level has specific skills you must master before being able to advance to the next level. Every level requires you to learn on all four apparatuses: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. To advance to the next level, you’ll need to take what you’ve learned in Level 1 and add onto those skills to do more complex routines.
Levels 1 through 3 are non-competition levels, but you can choose to compete in Level 3. In the first 3 levels, you’re just focusing on the basics of each apparatus to get familiar with the rudimentary skills. You’ll build on these basic skills in future levels, so it’s really important to master them before moving on to learning more complicated moves.
Vault exercises rely on speed, strength, and posture to stick a landing. In the first three levels, you’re mostly just practicing the same sequence of skills to make sure you master it before moving on, so there aren’t many changes to the vaulting requirements until you reach Level 4.
To move from Level 1 to Level 2, you’ll need to perform and master a stretch jump and handstand.
To move to Level 3, you’ll be required to perform a jump to handstand, as opposed to doing the stretch jump before the handstand as you had already mastered in Level 1. To advance to Level 4, you’ll need to do a handstand then fall back on the mat, instead of doing a jump to help you do the handstand as you did in Level 2.
While there are two bars in the uneven bars, only the lower one is used for Levels 1-4. To go from Level 1 to Level 2, you’ll need to master a routine that includes a pullover, cast, back hip circle, and dismount that’s either a sole-circle or an underswing.
To go from Level 2 to Level 3, you’ll need to perform the same skills as you performed in Level 1, along with a leg cut, a mill circle, and a single leg basket swing. To advance to Level 4, you simply continue to work on the same uneven bars skills to make sure you’re proficient.
To move from Level 1 to Level 2, you’ll need to do a basic routine that includes a jump to front support mount, a 30-degree arabesque (which is where you stand on one foot and extend your other leg behind you at a 30-degree angle while you hold your arms out to your sides), a lever, stretch jump, and a handstand dismount.
To move to Level 3, you’ll need to do a routine that includes all the skills you learned in Level 2 plus a ½ pivot turn. To advance to Level 4, you’ll need to perform a routine with all new skills, including a handstand, a straight jump, a 90-degree split leap, and a dismount with a side handstand. Many gymnasts struggle with the side handstand dismount, so take your time with this to make sure you get the form down.
In Levels 1-4, you’ll only use a portion of the floor during the floor exercises, not the full space.
To advance to Level 2, you’ll need to be able to do a handstand at ¾, a cartwheel, a backward and forward roll, and a 30-degree split jump.
To move to Level 3, you’ll be learning many new skills that you’ll eventually build on in later levels. You’ll need to hold a handstand for at least 1 second, do a 60-degree split jump, a round-off, a backward roll, and a bridge back kick-over.
To advance to Level 4, you’ll need to do a routine with your previously learned skills from Level 3 plus a round-off back-handspring, and a handstand to a bridge kickover combination move.
Level 4 begins the mandatory competition levels, so you will be performing your routines and getting scored on your performance. We’ll go into scoring a little bit later. Levels 4 and 5 are compulsory levels, which means that all the gymnasts will perform the same routine in the exact order in the same way, and you’ll be scored on how well you adhere to the routine.
Once you reach Level 6 you enter the optional levels, which means you’ll be able to add some variety in the routines as long as you create a routine that has all the specific requirements of that particular level. Your routine needs to include 5 A-level skills and 1 B-level skill at Level 6.
During Levels 4-6, you will be learning a lot of the same skills and spend time honing each to make sure you can do them well and safely. You will also have to compete at least once I each before being able to advance to Level 6.
Like in Level 3, in Level 4, you won’t use the vault table to do your vault exercises. To move from Level 4 to 5, you’ll need to do a front handspring vault, which involves a hard block off the vault to master it. To advance from Level 5 to 6, you’ll need to perform the same vault exercise as you did in Level 4, the forward handspring vault. You’ll want to continue mastering all 5 phases of the forward handspring vault to make sure you can perform it well during a competition.
If you earn a high qualifying score in the Level 5 competition, you can have the option to skip Level 6. Level 6 is the only level that can be skipped in gymnastics. To move from Level 6 to Level 7, you’ll need to master and perform one of three vault exercises.
The first is the forward handspring, which is what you’ve been practicing the last two levels. The second is the Tsukahara vault entry, which involves jumping off the board with a ¼ to a ½ turn to land on the vault and doing a back handspring to twist or flip off the table and onto the mat stack. And the third is the Yurchenko vault entry, which involves doing a round-off on the springboard to land on the vault table and do a back handspring to flip off the table and stick the landing onto a mat stack.
Starting in Level 4, you’ll learn how to do kips, which are really important to master because you’ll use them to mount the bars when you get to more advanced levels. Kips are one of the more challenging skills to learn at this stage because it requires a strong core and arms, so make sure you’re doing a lot of training exercises to strengthen these areas. In Level 4, you’re going to be working on the lower bar only.
To advance to Level 5, you’ll need to do a straddle or pike kip, long hang kip, and back hip circle. To move up from Level 5 to Level 6, you’ll need to learn even more new skills than you learned in Level 4. Your routine will still need to include kips, but you’ll also need to do a backward sole circle, long hang pullover, tap swings, and a flyaway dismount, which includes a flip from the high bar.
To advance to Level 7, you’ll need to do a routine that includes a 360-degree circling element, 1 bar change, and a flyaway dismount like you performed in Level 5.
To move up to Level 5, you’ll need to do a cartwheel, handstand, a 120-degree split jump and split leap, and a ¼-turn dismount off the beam. You’ll already know how to do a cartwheel and handstand from your vault exercises, but you’ll be challenged in Level 4 to perform these on the much narrower balance beam.
To advance from Level 5 to Level 6, you’ll need to do a routine that includes your first backwards skill (a back walkover, which is similar to a bridge kickover), a split jump, a sissonne (which is a leap that you keep your leg extended backwards when you land), and the same ¼-turn dismount that you performed in Level 4.
To advance to Level 7, you’ll need to keep practicing your splits and acro elements. You’ll need to do a routine that includes an acrobatic element, a leap with a 180-degree split, a one-foot turn of 360 degrees, and a dismount at the A-level.
Like mentioned earlier, in Level 4, you won’t be using the full floor area for your routines, but you will in Levels 5 and 6. To master Level 4 and move to Level 5, you’ll need to perform a back walkover like what you’re doing on the beam. You’ll also need to do a back-extension roll, a front handspring and land on both feet, and a straddle jump with a 120-degree split. You’ll also be using your Level 3 skill: a round-off back handspring.
To move to Level 6, you’ll need to do all the skills you learned in Level 4, plus a stretch jump, a front tuck, and a full turn. To advance to level 7, you’ll need to work on your aerial skills. You will need to include 1 salto or aerial acro element, one of which is an aerial cartwheel, better described as a cartwheel without hands for which you will need to strengthen your leg muscles. You will also need to do an acro series with 2 flight elements plus another element of your choice, and a dance passage that includes a 180-degree split and another leap of your choice.
Once you reach Level 7, you’ll be able to do a mixture of compulsory and optional exercises. This means that each gymnast’s routine will be unique, but there are still required elements. An additional requirement of Level 7 routines is that each must include 5 A-level skills and 2 B-level skills.
When you reach Level 8, all the routines are optional, but there are very specific requirements to include in your routine, so make sure you meet them when you’re choreographing your routine, so you don’t get any point deductions. At Level 8, you’ll need to include 4 A-level skills and 4 B-level skills.
Once you reach Level 9, the requirements for the optional routines will get more complex, so remember to pay attention to make sure you’re included all of them. At Level 9, you’ll need to include 3 A-level skills, 4 B-level skills, and 1 C-level skill. You can choose to perform a D-level or E-level skill, but they’ll just be counted as a C-level skill and give you bonus points.
To move up to Level 8, you’ll need to do one of the three vaults you had to choose from when moving from Level 6 to Level 7. These are the forward handspring, the Tsukahara entry, and the Yurchenko entry vaults. To advance to Level 9, you’ll need to perform one of the 3 vaults listed above to qualify for advancement.
To move from Level 9 to Level 10, the final level before Elite, you’ll need to perform one of the same 3 vault exercises we’ve discussed before, but you can include different twists and tucks to increase the value of the vault. For example, you can do a layout, pike, or tuck variations of the Tsukahara and Yurchenko vault entries with different twists.
In Level 7, to move up to Level 8, you should be able to do a cast handstand, two 360-degree circling skills with at least one being a B-level skill, and an A-level salto dismount. By now, you should be used to doing saltos, but now you’ll be doing them on the uneven bars. To move up to Level 9, you’ll need to do a minimum of one bar change, which you practiced in the last level, a B-level flight skill, a B-level element, and an A-level salto dismount.
One of the biggest changes when moving from Level 9 to qualify for Level 10 is that you’ll be doing a minimum of 2 bar changes. You’ll still need to do a B-level flight skill, but you’ll also need to include a C-level flight skill. Your dismount should be a B-level salto, such as a flyaway with a twist.
On the balance beam, to advance to Level 8 from Level 7, you’ll need to do an acrobatic series with a minimum of 2 skills, one of which has to be a flight skill, a leap with a 180-degree split, and an A-level aerial or salto dismount from the beam.
To move up to Level 9, you’ll need to perform the same elements that you performed in Level 7 to qualify for Level 8, but you’ll also need to include a 360-degree turn on one foot in your routine.
To advance to Level 10, one of the biggest changes will be to do a dance series with 2 skills of your choice. You’ll also need to do an acro series with 2 flight elements and a B-level aerial or salto dismount.
Dance passages will now be a familiar skill you’ll need to include in your floor routines from now on.
To move up to Level 8 from Level 7, you’ll need to include a dance passage with at least 2 different skills, and you’ll need to do an acro series with at least 3 flight skills.
To advance to Level 9, you’ll need to include all the elements you performed to qualify for Level 8, plus at least 3 saltos, with the final salto being at least an A-level salto. Finally, to advance to Level 10, you’ll need to do all the elements you included to advance to Level 9, but the final salto needs to be a B-level salto as opposed to an A-level.
Level 10 And Elite
Level 10 is the highest level in the Junior Olympics, so if you’ve reached this level, it’s a huge accomplishment. All the routines at this level are optional, just like Levels 8 and 9, but like the other levels, there are specific requirements you’ll need to include to qualify otherwise you get deductions. Your routines must have 3 level-A skills, 3 level-B skills, and 2 level-C skills.
After Level 10, you’ll advance to the Elite level. You’ll be able to advance once you’ve been able to perform all the skills you’ve been learning. When a gymnast reaches the Elite level, it means they’re ready for Olympic-level competitions and may represent the USA in World competitions.
Scoring For The Different Levels
The first three levels are non-compete levels, so you won’t get scored on your performances, or if you do it is more something that you coach will do to give you a better idea of where you can improve and as a way to teach the scoring system.
At the competitive levels of gymnastics, starting at level 4 and moving upward, you’ll need to reach and maintain a score called a mobility score, or sometimes called a move-up score. You’ll be deducted points if you don’t stick a landing or if your form is off. Especially in the compulsory levels, you need to perform the routine exactly as choreographed; otherwise, you’ll lose points.
Each level has a required minimum score to move up except for Level 10. To qualify for Level 4, you’ll need to have a 75% proficiency for all exercises in Levels 1 through 3, and to advance to the next level, you’ll need to get a score of 34.00 AA.
You can choose to skip Level 6 if you want, but in order to do so you will need to get at least a 32.00 AA score at the Level 5 competition to qualify to jump to Level 7. If you don’t want to skip Level 6, you still need to get a score of 32.00 AA at the Level 6 competition to move up to Level 7. You have to get a mobility score of 32.00 AA at Level 7 to move up to Level 8.
To move up each sequential level from Levels 8 through 10, you need to reach a mobility score of 34.00 AA at each level. Here you can earn some extra points in each of your routines by choosing to do certain moves at more difficult levels. The more difficult a move is, the more points you can potentially earn, however this is only up to the perfect 10.00 point score for each event still.
This is because these levels incorporate what is called bonus points. In these levels you do not start off with a perfect 10.00 points unless you include not only everything that you need in your routines, but you also must have difficult skills in there in order to get some of your bonus points. There are two ways of getting these bonus points, and a maximum amount of points that you can get for each.
The first of these is called combination points, and you get these from doing combination moves that put difficult skills together. The second way of getting bonus points is simply having skills that are a level D or so. If you manage to get all of the bonus points, as mentioned, you can still only score a 10.00. However, since there are more bonus points available than are needed to get you to that score, these are used to “cover” any mistakes that you might make and therefore you can potentially get a perfect score even if you make a mistake.
There score requirements to move from Level 10 to the Elite level are much the same, and you can move up when you’ve mastered all the Level 10 skills and shown that you have done so at a qualifying meet that is specifically for moving up to the elite level.
Can You Move Down A Level?
The only levels you can move up and down without a petition are Levels 5 and 6. Remember, you can skip Level 6 and go straight to Level 7 from Level 5 if you wish, but you can also go back down to Level 5 from Level 6 if you want to practice the skills longer.
The only time you are never allowed to go down a level is after you compete in a sectional meet or state championship since you’ve already performed at your current level. If you did not qualify for the state championships, though, you can move down a level and start there at the beginning of the next gymnastics season.
If you’re in the Elite level and want to drop back down to the Junior Olympics Level 10, you can, but you need your coach to submit a petition explaining in detail the reasons why you feel that you need to do this. At that point, you’ll be considered a Junior Olympian again until you move back up into the Elite levels.