Written by Dr. Alyssa Vogel, PT, DPT, MS
What is Gymnastics?
Women’s gymnastics is a sport that involves a rotation of 4 events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. During each event, you perform a routine in front of a panel of judges and are given an individual score. The top Individual scores from each event are added together for a team score for that level. Historically, your score ranged from 0.00-10.00 based upon performance. 10.00 was a perfect score and for each error (toes not pointed, falling off the apparatus, separated legs, bent legs, etc.), you are deducted tenths of a point. Now, scores can range above 10.00 and additional bonus points are added for difficulty. Complete rules of Women’s gymnastics can be found here: https://usagym.org/pages/women/pages/rules_policies.html
There are many different levels of USA gymnastics. In levels 1-6 there are routines for each event created by USA Gymnastics that each woman could compete in competition. These are known as compulsory levels. Most young children do not compete levels 1-3, but partake in recreational classes where they can learn these skills. It is more frequent to see competitions for compulsory levels 4-6. Levels 7-10 are known as optional levels. Here, each individual participant can create their own routines on each event, although must meet the necessary requirements for each routine. Here is a website that breaks down the components of each level: http://gymnasticshq.com/gymnastics-levels/
A separate league is known as United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC). The levels for USAIGC are copper, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Ideally, each level corresponds with a USAG level. More information can be found online: https://www.usaigc.com/pdfinformation.cfm
I participated in competitive USAG competitive gymnastics for 9 years and USAIGC competitive gymnastics for 4 years. During my competitive years, I found gymnastics to be a great way to gain strength and flexibility, learn time management and discipline, and have fun along the way.
A vaulting table with a spring board, balance beam, uneven bars, and a spring floor are the necessities for practicing gymnastics. However, there are additional things you may need along the way. This includes: grips for the uneven bars, wrist-bands for underneath the grips, padded mats for landing, and leotards. There are many additional pieces of equipment that can be used for training such as wedge mats, resi-pits, sting mats, tumbling tracks, and foam pits.
How to get Involved?
Find a local gym:
There are many local gyms in each city, which can likely be found with a quick online search! Many gyms offer beginner classes and even adult classes.
Watch a competition:
This is an easy way to see what skills are involved in the sport. You can typically find collegiate gymnastics on TV. You can also watch gymnastics during the Summer Olympics. Local gyms typically host competitions during the weekends too. Additionally, YouTube can be a great resource to view recorded competitions.
There are a bunch of summer camps that offer gymnastics. One of the most renown camps on the East Coast is USA International Gymnastics Camp and Woodward gymnastics camp. For more information check here: http://www.internationalgymnastics.com/ and http://www.woodwardcamp.com/programs/gym.html
Ready to give it a try?
Both USAG and USAIGC are the biggest gymnastics organizations in the United States. Their websites have in-depth rules and regulations of Women’s Gymnastics and skill requirements for each level. Go find a local gym and give it a try!