Gymnastics is a very physically demanding sport that covers a range of disciplines and is used in both conditioning and competition.
It features systematic exercises that are often assisted by rings, bars, and other equipment. Gymnastics is an all-encompassing sport that requires training in many physical abilities and encourages the development of many beneficial mental traits.
It Came from the Greeks
Gymnastics was first introduced by the ancient Greeks. The ancient civilization is known for being in great physical shape because they valued physical fitness very highly. Both Greek men and women used gymnastic exercises to develop their bodies into vessels of strength and endurance. When Rome conquered Greece, it took gymnastics (which, until then, had only been a form of body conditioning) and turned it into a sport. Roman generals made their soldiers train using vigorous gymnastic exercises. As the Roman civilization fell, people lost interest in gymnastics. The only echo of gymnastics left after the fall of Rome was tumbling, which was used for entertainment.
The Rise of Modern Gymnastics
Johann Bernhard Basedow began combining physical exercises with other activities at his school in 1774. This was the first step toward gymnastic evolution. In the late 1700s, Germany’s Friedrich Ludwig Jahn introduced the side bar, the horizontal bar, the parallel bars, the balance beam, and jumping events. These were innovations that became so crucial to the sport of gymnastics that Jahn is considered the “father of modern gymnastics.” Germany continued to produce gymnastic innovations, like different methods of the sport and more apparatus for the sport to use.
After centuries of evolution, gymnastics today is a well-oiled machine with set rules and expectations of its gymnasts and 6 different categories, with 4 that are featured in the Olympic Games and 2 that are featured in the Junior Olympic Program.
- Women’s Artistic Gymnastics – This is the most mainstream form of gymnastics. Its events include both individual and team versions of Vault, Uneven Parallel Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise.
- Men’s Artistic Gymnastics – In this category, men compete individually and on teams in the following events: Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar.
- Rhythmic Gymnastics – This category is female only and includes individual and team events with Rope, Hoop, Ball, Clubs, and Ribbon.
- Trampoline – This is the most recent gymnastic category added to the Olympics. Both men and women can participate in the events, which are single routines on double mini trampolines and synchronized routines with a partner.
- Power Tumbling – This category is only available in the Junior Olympic program and it consists of performing tumbling passes that follow a series of 8 elements.
- Acrobatic Gymnastics – This form of gymnastics is also only available in the Junior Olympic Program and it consists of teams of 2-4 people (all one gender and mixed genders allowed) that perform things like handstands, holds, and balances on each other. There is no equipment involved because the gymnasts are the equipment.
See gymnasts training on the balance beam here:
Gymnastics: The Super Sport
It is no secret that gymnastics is an incredibly physically demanding sport. It requires balance, agility, endurance, strength, coordination, and flexibility. It utilizes the muscle groups of the shoulders, arms, back, chest, legs, and abdomen. It develops courage, alertness, self-confidence, precision, and self-discipline. Gymnastics is a sport that encourages growth in skill, fitness, and brainpower.
While gymnastics is not easy, it is still a sport that can be learned and perfected by many people. There is an unspoken requirement of a moderate level of fitness before starting to train in gymnastics. It is a graceful and elegant sport that requires commitment.