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For gymnasts and gym owners it’s all about grace under pressure
There were three types of gymnastics at the Rio Olympics. What can we all learn from the incredible gymnastics squad?
What Is Gymnastics?
Like so many of the sports at the Summer Olympics Games, gymnastics refers to lots of events. In fact, gymnastics itself features three times on the Olympics agenda. We'll be watching “artistic gymnastics”, “rhythmic gymnastics” and trampoline (the most recent addition to the sport).
Artistic gymnastics are the events on the apparatus: pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, horizontal bars, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor.
Rhythmic gymnastics is one of few Olympic sports exclusively performed by female athletes. It combines gymnastics and dance, and uses hand apparatus including rope, hoop, ribbon, ball and clubs.
It’s no surprise that gymnastics in some form has been part of the Olympic Games since the ancient games. It’s the ultimate display of human strength, I think. Gymnastics can be a jaw-dropping demonstration of how strong, agile, and powerful even the tiniest human body can be.
Gymnasts tend to have perfectly balanced, muscular, very lean physiques. It’s a discipline which seems to encourage the perfect combination of strength, power, and physical control. My favourite is the artistic gymnastics. How about you?
Did You Know?
The first Olympics women’s gymnastics was held in the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. But the only event was synchronised calisthenics.
Gymnastics For Beginners
Although I’m known for my “age is no barrier” stance, I will concede that youth (or at least an early introduction to the sport) is probably a benefit here. But if you want to learn the basic skills of a gymnast, there are plenty of opportunities.
And learning how to move your body like a gymnast will benefit anyone. After all, it’s about controlling your own weight, building muscular strength and endurance, and maintaining strong and healthy joints. Basic gymnastics skills carry over into many other sports - and into every movements too.
Gymnastics is governed by the FIG on an international level, and by individual national governing bodies. FIG was founded in 1881, making it the oldest existing international sports organisation around today. There are 128 national federations affiliated to the FIG, under four Continental Unions: the UEG (European Union of Gymnastics), the AGU (Asian Gymnastic Union), UAG (African Gymnastics Union) and PAGU (Pan- American Gymnastics Union).
Getting involved in your local gymnastics club will give you access to the three kinds of gymnastics you’ll see at Rio 2016. But there’s more. Amateur and club gymnastics also includes aerobic gymnastics and tumbling.
Or you might like to try TeamGym. TeamGym was developed by the European Union of Gymnastics and is offered by various federations, including British Gymnastics. It’s a fun and inclusive entry-level sport which combines elements of gymnastics in a friendly, competitive team atmosphere. It looks brilliant fun!
Gymnastics is not currently part of the Summer Paralympic programme, but there are plenty of opportunities for disabled athletes to train. The governing body FIG is dedicated to supporting opportunities for impaired gymnasts, and held a huge international symposium in 2014 which was attended by representatives from Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden and USA gymnastics. Individual countries are now rolling out their own disability programmes. I’M IN is one example, it’s run by British Gymnastics to providing coaching and participation to disabled gymnasts. In the USA, the Gymnastics for All programme offers TeamGym for gymnasts with disabilities and special needs.
How Do Gymnasts Train?
Gymnastics training is synonymous with equipment: picture someone holding their bodyweight on gymnastics rings. But gymnasts use an incredible range of training techniques and kit. They don’t tend to do a great deal of pure strength work, using barbells or dumbbells. More functional kit and plyometric moves are useful. This is great news for enthusiastic amateurs: you can use Bulgarian bags, slam balls, battle ropes, and weighted clubs at home or in your local gym.
4 Gymnastics Skills You Can Master
Gymnastics might look difficult, but we can all work on basic elements regardless of our athletic background. Here are four that I’m going to try and work on over the next year (and I’m a bodybuilder!)
- Handstands - Builds strength, balance, and co-ordination.
- Splits - Builds flexibility… and patience!
- Tumbling - Builds speed, co-ordination, and courage.
- Rings - Builds strength, power, and flexibility.
Olympic Gymnastics Fun Fact
Russian gymnast Nadia Comăneci won three gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. She was the first gymnast to be awarded a "perfect 10" in an Olympic gymnastics event. All at the tender age of 14 (competitors minimum age was changed to 16 in 1997).
The Skills and Strengths Of A Gymnast
Gymnasts tend to be smaller individuals who have a good strength/power/bodyweight ratio. But they also display these emotional strengths:
- incredible patience in training and competition
- a calm and focused mind
- the ability to switch off from distractions
- the willingness to drill movements over and over again
- the mental strength needed to work on specific skills over a number of years
5 Things You’ll Develop If You Train Like A Gymnast
If you incorporate gymnastics training in your existing workouts, or join a gymnastics club as an adult, you will….
- get incredibly strong and be able to control your body
- learn to move your body in a naturally athletic way
- overcome fears and learn to get up and try again
- get an immense sense of achievement when you master new skills
- be able to impress your mates with your new gymnastics moves
Image: gymnastics –showing strength
Who To Watch
Go and follow the incredible Simone Biles, artistic gymnast Ellie Downie, rhythmic gymnasts Melitina Staniouta and Laura Zeng on social media. Not forgetting Team GB superstars Max Whitlock, and Louis Smith!
Gymnastics Memories From 2016 Rio Olympics
Simone Biles! What an athlete. The superstar of the Games - certainly of the sport - this 19-year-old 4 ft 8 inch power house won four Gold medals: women’s vault, the women’s team all-around, women's floor exercise, and the individual all-around.
All-around success. After 108 years, Britain medalled in the men’s all-around when Max Whitlock took bronze.
Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar missed out on bronze in the women's vault by a fraction, and is the highest-performing Indian gymnast in Olympic history. She is the first Indian woman gymnast to have qualified for the Olympics
Swanson for Martha Karolyi, the U.S. women's gymnastics national team coordinator. After 54 years in the sport, the 73-year-old has announced that she will retire after these Games.
French gymnast Samir Ait Said broke his leg landing a vault at the Rio Games. He missed the London 2012 Games with a broken leg, too.
The USA women’s team. They went 12 for 12 on their routines and posted the winning team score on all four events. Nicknamed “The Final Five”, the team is Laurie Hernandez (16-years-old), Biles, Hernandez, Raisman, Douglas and Kocian.
Unity in sport. At a podium training session in Rio, gymnasts Hong Un-Jong from North Korea and Lee Eun-Ju from South Korea took a moment to snap a selfie, putting sport in front of politics despite upheaval at home.
Team GB medal haul. Max Whitlock took two gold medals in just 75 minutes, becoming the first British man to win an Olympic Gold l in the floor gymnastics. On the same day, team-mate Louis Smith took silver in the pommel horse final.
Get in touch
If you want to know more about the equipment we've mentioned, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on one of these numbers:
UK: +44 (0)1733 313 535
USA: +1 (614)-706-4462
Germany: +49 (0)2921 590 10 70