There are a lot of different gymnastics terms, so it can be easy to understand how people can miss the fact that there are actually 4 different gymnastics disciplines that you can choose to learn. While each of these disciplines has certain things in common with the other disciplines they are widely different from each other in many ways.
The 4 gymnastics disciplines for girls are: artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, acrobatic gymnastics, and aerobic gymnastics. This is different from the boy’s gymnastics disciplines since only women are allowed to compete in rhythmic gymnastics.
If you are just getting into gymnastics then it can be very confusing to try to figure out just how these are different and which one you should choose to start learning. To help you with your decision I will go over each of them so that you can see what they involve and what skills might be unique to each one so that you can get an idea about which one might be the best overall fit for you.
This is by far the most common type of gymnastics as well as the one that most people think of when they hear the word gymnastics mentioned. In fact, if a gym does not specify what kind of gymnastics that it teaches it is almost sure to be the artistic kind. This means that it is really easy to find a place to learn this discipline at.
When most people picture gymnastics, or go to a competition to see one, two of the most common things that stick out tend to be the balance beam and the uneven bars. These two are most likely the favorite parts of this discipline.
Both of these belong to the artistic gymnastics discipline as well as the vaulting exercise and the floor exercises. These four events make up the different parts of artistic gymnastics for girls, with boys having two additional exercises that only they do.
The balance beam is the 4” wide beam that the gymnasts mount, do various maneuvers on without falling off, and then dismount in some way, usually with a flip or a leap of some kind. While on the beam they do all kinds of things like splits, jumps, cartwheels, flips, and handstands just to name a few all put together into an amazing routine.
Often it can seem like a gymnast is bound to fall off of the beam and get herself hurt as they maneuver around on the beam. This is great for coordination as well as building up strength and flexibility on top of perfect balance.
The uneven bars are the horizontal bars, one higher than the other, which the gymnast gets onto, does all kinds of flips as she switches from one to the other, and then dismounts with a jump or flip of some kind. The spins as the gymnast circles around the bar and let go in midair and grabbing the other bar can look incredible and are what make this event a favorite.
There are a number of different twists and turns to do, almost all of which are done one after the other without losing one’s momentum. This really helps build up strength in your arms and torso and works just a little on flexibility as well.
The floor event can be easily mistaken for ballet sometimes, since it does involve playing instrumental music as you do various leaps, flips, and maneuvers on a marked-off area of the floor. However, it is an important part of this discipline because the movements that you practice on the floor often get moved onto the beam as you move up to greater levels of difficulty.
Other than showing that you can do the various maneuvers on the floor and in time to the music, there does not tend to be as much importance given to this. Still, it is something that you are required to learn to do well enough to compete in. It focuses on flexibility more than strength or precision since there is nothing to push or pull and no spots to hit.
The vaulting table is the one that is perhaps given the least attention out of the four events for the artistic gymnastics. Perhaps part of the reason for this is because it is over with so quickly. However, this skill does require quite a lot of precision because you have to hit the both the spring board and the vaulting table exactly right.
To do the vaulting table the gymnast runs down a runway, onto a spring-board, and then catapults onto the vaulting table which they then “vault” off of while doing a complicated flip or twist to land on their feet at the end.
This kind of gymnastics is perhaps the most competitive out of the 4 different gymnastics disciplines. This is for very good reason though, since it is one out of only two of them that have Olympic teams. All in all if focuses a lot on core strength blended with flexibility and this is really shown best on the bar and the beam.
As mentioned, rhythmic gymnastics is the only one that is solely a girl’s gymnastic sport. It is fairly easy to find a gym that will teach you how to do rhythmic gymnastics, but it won’t be nearly as easy to find as a place that teaches artistic gymnastics.
This discipline is the most similar to ballet and even has many elements of ballet to it. Included here are trampolining and tumbling, though by far the most popular part for this discipline is the floor exercises.
While on the floor there are five different apparatus that you have to learn how to use. These are the ball, ribbon, clubs, hoop, and rop,e but you can also choose to do your floor routine freehand with none of these if you prefer. The ribbon and the hoop tend to be the most popular of the five and are sometimes the ones that are more often seen.
The length of the ribbon must be at least 5 yards long and it can have any color or design. There are also other specifics, even down to how much it has to weight and how it is attached to the stick that you control it by.
When using the ribbon in a floor routine, any knots that form while the gymnast is twirling it get penalized and it has to be kept continuously moving from the beginning to the end of the routine or points will be taken off. This is perhaps one of the best gymnastics exercises for hand-eye coordination and for working on your wrist and hand movement.
The hoop can be made of anything as long as it keeps its shape and weighs around 300 grams. It can be anywhere from 20”-35” in diameter and like the ribbon it can be any color or design. It can be covered with colorful tape if desired and to help improve the grip.
Routines that have the hoop to them include throws, swings, passing through the hoop, and letting the hoop roll up or down your arm or body, but all this must be done without dropping it. This requires not only flexibility, but a very good sense of balance, not just of yourself but also as you have to balance the hoop.
The ball must be around 7” in diameter and weigh close to 400 grams. Though you get to choose what you want your ball to be made out of, it needs to have some degree of bounce and elasticity. This is because throughout the routine it will be thrown, caught, bounced, and other things.
You have to use both hands with the ball and switch hands fairly often depending on what maneuvers you are doing. Again, this is a great way to work on hand-eye coordination, and the same could be said for the next item as well.
The clubs can come in a variety of different forms, but multi-piece ones are by far the most popular. These clubs are specific to gymnastics and are built around an internal rod. This rod serves as a base from which a handle of plastic is wrapped, forming a hollow space and making it closer in shape to that of a bowling pin.
The plastic is not rigid and has some flex to it so that it does not hurt the hands on impact, and the clubs have foam ends and knobs to add to its softness even more while still leaving it firm enough to work with. It is usually wrapped up in decorative plastics and tapes and ranges from 19”-21” in length.
These clubs are thrown and caught with alternate hands, rotating at least once per throw. However, more spins are frequently done as well as trick throws and catches and other maneuvers, making this much like juggling in a lot of ways.
The rope is usually made up of hemp or some similar synthetic material. Whatever it is made of should be flexible yet strong and fairly lightweight. Its length is entirely dependent on the gymnast using it and it should be the right length for the gymnast to be able to step on the middle with her toes and to bring both ends up to where her armpits are.
The ends are knotted and may have an anti-slip coating on them no more than 4” from the ends. The middle of the rope may also be slightly thicker and taper towards the ends. During routines that use this there are a variety of things done, some of which can be similar to complicated jump rope maneuvers. Other things can include swings, throws, and figure-eights.
The key to using the ropes is a combination of flexibility and creativity, though there are a few maneuvers with it that you will learn to at least have a starting point from.
Like the other gymnastics disciplines there is music played during the floor routine and, while you can pick your own music, the music you choose must be an instrumental piece only. Also, the more complicated your moves are as you stay synchronized to the music the better, however this gymnastics discipline does very little in the way of flips and other similar maneuvers.
Unlike artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics can be done in pair on the trampoline or even in small groups on the floor. When doing pairs or groups it is vital to have the movements as perfectly synchronized as possible.
It can be highly competitive too since it is the other discipline that does Olympics. It is simply not quite as competitive as the other can be. All in all there is also much less of a focus on strength and more things that involve coordination instead. Even the flexibility is not in as much of a demand here.
This discipline is sometimes simply called Arco and is solely a group sport that is much like cheerleading in many ways. Since this is one of the two lesser known gymnastics disciplines, it can sometimes be difficult to find a place that teaches it and unless you happen to live close to on you may have to be willing to travel some distance to find classes.
There are no bars, beams, ribbons, or anything else to work with here, all of the routines being done on the floor with no props of any kind. There are essentially three different kinds of routines that are done in this gymnastics discipline. The first is called a balance routine and it focuses on balance and flexibility, most of the time holding difficult positions.
An example of this might be one person standing up straight, holding up a person who is stiff and perfectly vertical, while someone else is on top of them. This can take a tremendous amount of core strength as well as some degree of flexibility to get into these positions.
The second kind of routine is referred to as a dynamic routine and it involves much more movement. Some of these things are throws, somersaults, and catches. It is this kind of routine that is most like competitive cheerleading.
The third routine is called a combined routine and has some of the elements of both the balanced one and the dynamic one. It is also perhaps the easiest to do in some ways since you often do not have to hold the positions for as long as you would in a balance routine and yet are not having the constant and energetic movement of a dynamic one.
The partnerships that are allowed for this form of gymnastics are: a two women group, a two men group, a one of each group, a three women group, or a four men group. Only in the lower levels can there be 3-4 people of mixed genders, and this is called a mixed group.
As with the floor routines of the other gymnastic disciplines, there is music played but only instrumental. While there are world championships for this event, this gymnastics discipline does not participate in the Olympics. One year in 2012 before the Olympics gymnastics event started and during the breaks, groups of acrobatic gymnasts did perform to entertain the crowds, but that is as close as it comes to taking part in the Olympics.
Aerobic gymnastics are the last of the discipline and perhaps the least-known next to the acrobatic discipline. For this reason it can also be the most difficult to find a place to train at and if you really want to learn this then you should definitely be willing to travel.
Aerobic gymnastics routines can be done solo, in pairs, in trios, or in groups. All in all aerobic gymnastics looks a lot like competitive dancing and has many of the same movements.
While in many ways it might look similar to the floor exercises of the other disciplines, there are a few things that are unique to it. For starters is the surprising fact that handsprings, acrobatic flips, and other things are not done, and in some cases are not even allowed.
It is by far the least competitive of the 4 different gymnastics disciplines and partially for this reason is often the easiest to learn. Most people simply choose to do aerobic gymnastics simply as a fun way to work out if they happen to be close to a place that teaches it.
Sometimes this discipline is not even grouped as a gymnastic sport and is instead called Acro dance. This is the case even though this type of gymnastics is called aerobic gymnastics and is not Acro gymnastics, which is a fact that can be more than a little confusing.
All in all, if you are looking for something similar to competitive dancing then you could consider giving this a try, but out of all the different disciplines this one tend to be the least like what people imagine gymnastics to be like.