rhythmic gymnastics

beautiful sport for girls
with many benefits

Rhythmic Gymnastics

Your Introduction to Rhythmic Gymnastics

When people think of gymnastics, they usually think of the balance beam and uneven bars. However, gymnastics is a diverse sport with several artistic variations. Rhythmic gymnastics is one such example. The practice of rhythmic gym performance may be distinct, but it is related to other expressions of gymnastics and dance. It is a sport worthy of your attention.

Guide to Rhythmic Gymnastic Performance

This is a beautiful, dynamic and competitive sport. However, it is more than spins, twirls and stretches. If you really want to appreciate what this sport has to offer, you have to understand what defines the sport and how it is practiced. Looking back at its history will help you better grasp the nuance of each performance you see.


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Breakdown of the Competition

During a typical competition for rhythmic gymnastic performance, there are two layers of routine. There is an individual component and a team component. Individuals will perform in four categories. These individual events are all performed on the floor with different instruments or tools. Each instrument is chosen to highlight a different form of movement and balance. These instruments include the following.

  • Hoop
  • Ball
  • Clubs
  • Ribbon

When competing as a group, all members of the team will be on the floor at once. Usually, there are two scored rounds. One includes balls, and the other involves members using different instruments. Team routines must be carefully coordinated, and athletes are expected to perform in conjunction with one another. It should look like a cohesive performance with interwoven elements that require the participation of all athletes on the floor.

Scoring Considerations

Scoring is standardized with the Code of Points as defined by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). Scores are assigned with a basic formula that considers the difficulty of the routine with the skill of execution. Deductions are taken for execution penalties in order to come to a final tally. A group dance routine will also look at collaborative elements of the dance routine. The list of criteria for a gymnastics routine will change with annual considerations. The FIG continually monitors the sport and makes amendments to the scoring criteria.

History of the Sport

The practice of a rhythmic gymnastics routine was developed in Eastern Europe. It was formally recognized as a sport in 1961. This recognition came from the FIG, which was in place to govern other gymnastics competitions. In 1963, the first Rhythmic World Championships were held, and the Eastern European countries dominated the sport. The Soviet Union was a noted powerhouse in the sport, and many of the early pioneers in the sport were Soviet. The sport did not gain much traction in the United States until the 1970s. It made its official Olympic debut in 1984 in Los Angeles. The appearance of rhythmic gymnastics Olympics has helped the sport gain recognition and popularity. It is currently a female-only sport, and it attracts participants from around the world.

Skills and Technique

The sport is labeled as a variation of gymnastics, which is why it is no surprise that it requires flexibility and strength. Athletes are expected to be able to move fluidly in a wide range of motions. A regular stretching routine must be adopted in order to achieve higher levels of flexibility that allow the body to be hyper-extended. This must be paired with targeted strength in the legs and core. This allows the athlete to balance in these hyper-extended positions. Athletes also focus on coordination in order to work with the equipment during a routine. Finally, this is a performative sport. Elegance and expression are very important to the final result. Only by combining all of these elements can athletes hope to advance through the ranks and participate at the elite levels of competition.

Apparel and Equipment

When competing in this sport, athletes must have the proper gear and equipment. Like other variations of gymnastics and dance, rhythmic gymnastics leotards are standard. In competition, these rhythmic gymnastics leotards will be ornate with bright colors and sparkling crystals. This goes along with the performative and expressive elements of the sport. Many athletes choose their leotards to match the tone of their performance, and teams will work in coordinating outfits for the sake of unity. Different events will have accompanying equipment. This includes a ribbon, hoop, club, and ball.

Rhythmic Gymnastics Ribbon

The rhythmic gymnastics ribbon is one of the most iconic tools of the sport. The ribbon is attached to a handle, which is long enough to spin and twirl effectively. The length of the ribbon is supposed to be 20 inches, and the width is just under 2 inches. These ribbons are traditionally made of satin, but the color can be chosen to the preference of the gymnast herself. Ribbon performances are the most recognizable part of a competition. Although dancing with the ribbon seems easy to outsiders, it takes a great deal of skill and coordination to perform a fluid and natural ribbon gymnastics routine.

Rhythmic Gymnastics Ball

During a rhythmic gymnastics floor routine, a ball may also be used. The ball will be carried, spun, thrown, and caught. For added difficulty, the ball can also be balanced or rolled on various parts of the body. This requires a lot of poise and composure. The ball is typically made from rubber, and it must be at least 14 ounces. In group events, balls are commonly tossed and caught. This is often done with advanced synchronization to maximize the effectiveness of the routine.

Rhythmic Gymnastics Clubs

Rhythmic gymnastics clubs are brightly colored and heavier on one end. They are traditionally crafted from wood, but synthetic materials are allowed today. The head of the club should be no more than 3 centimeters in diameter, and the whole club must not weigh more than 150 grams. Clubs are often thrown and caught during floor routines.

Rhythmic Gym Hoops

The final piece of equipment is the hoop. While the hoop can be spun, thrown and caught like other elements, the hoop has an added element of difficulty. When using the hoop during a performance, the gymnast can pass through the hoop. This is visually stunning, and it requires a decent amount of technical prowess. The interior of the hoop should have a diameter of 90 centimeters. This allows for fluid movements in and around the hoop.

Differences with Artistic Gymnastics

Although the sport has its own distinct following, it is impossible to not look at the sport in comparison to other types of gymnastics. Rhythmic and artistic gymnastics share some similarities. Some of the early training in these sports is the same. However, artistic gymnastics focuses on more technical skills. A rhythmic gymnastics routine is inherently more graceful. In this way, it is a bit like rhythmic ballet. Strength is the primary focus in artistic gymnastics. Flexibility and grace are more important in rhythmic performances. It is easy to group these two sports together, but they are different in many important ways.

Comparison to Ballet

People often compare this sport to artistic gymnastics, but it actually has much more in common with ballet. In fact, some people refer to the sport as rhythmic ballet. Many young girls can get started with ballet classes for kids before turning to rhythmic gym instead. This is because many of the elements of grace and flexibility are shared between the sports. To train, these gymnasts can use a ballet barre, and ballet balance is deeply useful for these gymnasts. In ballet for kids, students learn ballet turns. Many of these turns are evident during a gymnastics routine. While artistic gymnasts must perform routines with strength and power, ballet and rhythmic ballet focus on grace and expression to a much higher degree.

Growing Popularity of the Sport

For years, rhythmic gymnasts have not enjoyed the same notoriety in Western countries as their counterparts in artistic gymnastics and ballet. Even today, ballet classes for kids and artistic competitions are far more common. However, the sport has been gaining visibility in recent years. Many experts argue that the sport is incredibly difficult, and it deserves more respect. Because it is easy to watch a rhythmic gymnastics Olympics routine every four years, more and more young girls are gravitating toward the sport. Ballet for kids is a saturated market, and artistic gymnastics is not much better. Many aspiring athletes are starting to consider taking their talents into the rhythmic field for better visibility and more unique challenges.

Competition Schedule

While it is possible to pursue rhythmic training recreationally, those who choose to compete often start at a young age. Many gyms will host small competitions on a local scale to help athletes understand the scoring and performing elements of the sport. As athletes advance in their training, more competitions are available. These could include state-wide or regional competitions. Of course, the sport also has more elite competitions. At the international level, the FIG hosts three tournaments for rhythmic gymnasts. This includes the World Championships, the World Cup, and the Olympic Games.


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Famous Athletes

Many of the most notable athletes in this sport are still from Eastern Europe. For example, Yevgeniya Kanayeva is from Russia, and she won 39 medals in her career. This included an Olympic performance. From Ukraine, Tamara Yerofieieva gained worldwide acclaim. After competing in the Sydney Olympics, she took her talents to Cirque De Soleil. Although the sport is still less developed in the United States, the country is beginning to produce real talent. Laura Zeng is the most relevant example. She competed in the Rio Olympics, and she has been the national champion three times in recent years. Athletes like Zeng serve as a motivation to younger generations who are considering taking up the sport.

Get Started with Training

There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to this sport. If you are thinking about getting started, a great place to start is with ballet classes for kids. In ballet for kids, athletes will learn how to flex, bend and balance. More importantly, they will learn how to perform. These are the skills that will translate into success in a rhythmic gymnastics floor routine. Reaching the highest levels of the sport can require a lot of work and sacrifice, but many find the process inherently satisfying. Whether you aspire to compete on the international level or just want to have some fun expressing yourself, you may find your niche as a rhythmic gymnast.

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