Gymnastics Glossary


A skills – The lowest level moves in a gymnastic routine. For example, a back handspring is an “A” level skill.

Acro – Tumbling skill on the floor or balance beam. Used most commonly when referring to a combination of dance requirements.

Acrobatics – Elements of gymnastics that require control, balance, strength, and flexibility. Examples include slower skills like a front walkover for women or corner skills for men.

Adagio – A dance term that refers to a slow, sustained movement.

Adolph – A front somersault in the layout position with three-and-one-half twists; performed on trampoline.

Aerial – A gymnastics move in which the gymnast rotates in the air without touching the apparatus with his or her hands. Also referred to as a no-handed cartwheel or front walkover.

All-around – A category of gymnastic competition that includes all of the events. The person with the highest total score from all the events is the all-around champion.

Allegro – A dance term used to describe fast, quick jumps. There are two types: grand (large jumps) and petite (small jumps).

Alternates – A tumbling pass that connects two somersaults (saltos) by use of a handspring. Usually refers to a backward tumbling pass. (e.g. roundoff whip back handspring whip.)

Amplitude – The height or difficulty of a movement. In general, the higher the movement, the better the amplitude and the score.

Apparatus – A piece of equipment used in gymnastics competitions. The common apparatuses used in gymnastics include: the balance beam, parallel bars, uneven parallel bars, pommel horse, vault, floor, still rings, and horizontal bar.

Arabesque – A dance and gymnastics pose where the body is balanced on one leg and the other leg is extended up off the floor behind the body.

Arch position – A backward curve of the body– usually refers to the backward curve of the spine.

Attitude – A dance pose similar to the arabesque. The body is balanced on one leg while the other leg is extended in front of the body, behind the body, or to the side of the body in a slightly bent knee position.


Back flip – A backward somersault in the air performed in either the tuck, pike, or layout position.

Back giant – A skill performed on either the high bar, uneven parallel bar, or parallel bar where the body circles around the bar. The movement starts from a handstand position and ends in the handstand position.

Back walkover – A control skill where a gymnast starts in the standing position, arches into a backbend, and kicks her legs over her head to land on her feet in a step-out landing (one leg followed by the other). It is performed as one continuous movement.

Backbend – A gymnastic skill where the body bends backward in an arch position and the feet and hands touch the floor simultaneously.

Back-in, full-out – A double somersault with a full twist (the complete twist is performed during the second somersault).

Balance – Grounded and secure in position. A skill needed for apparatuses like the balance beam or pommel horse. Also refers to a routine that evenly distributes acrobatic skills and dance movements.

Balance beam – A long and narrow apparatus used by women in a routine designed to emphasize grace and balance. It is a solid piece of wood that is four feet high, four inches wide, and 16 feet long. A balance beam routine includes a variety of acrobatic and dance skills that last for 70 to 90 seconds and ends with a dismount.

Ball-out – A front somersault on the trampoline that is performed by taking off after a bounce on the back.

Bar – An apparatus used by both men and women in gymnastics. Men use the high bar and the parallel bars. Women use the uneven parallel bars. Also referred to as a rail.

Barani – A forward somersault with a half twist performed in the layout position.

Blind change – Performed on the high bar or uneven bars. The gymnast performs a back giant, does a half turn on top of the bar, and continues in a front giant.

Block – A term used to describe a rapid bounce or rebound off the floor or vault with the arms.

Bonus points – Additional points awarded to a routine based on the combination of difficult skills. The FIG has given every gymnastics skill a point value based on skills that are ranked from A to E. The bonus points are awarded if C, D, and E level skills are sequenced together in a routine.

Bridge – Another name for a backbend. Normally started by lying on the back, the hands and feet remain on the floor and the body is pushed up with the back arching and the stomach facing the ceiling.

Buck – A short gymnastics horse without pommels. It is often used to train a gymnast on the pommel horse. Also called a pommel buck.


Candlestick – A shoulder stand with the legs in the air, feet pointed towards the ceiling, and the body rested on the top of the shoulders.

Cartwheel – A common gymnastic skill where a gymnast starts on one leg and places his/her hands on the ground while kicking his/her legs up into a side handstand, before continuing the motion and landing with one foot on the ground followed by the other.

Cat leap – A gymnastic and ballet leap where the gymnast takes off on one leg then bends the front leg at the knee while the back leg turns out with the toe pointed. It is also known as a Pas de Chat.

Chainé turn – A half turn executed on the balls of the feet. The half turns are chained together as the head whips around to look at one spot continuously throughout the sequence of spins.

Chassé – A dance movement where one leg makes a small jump and is followed by the other leg. In layman terms referred to as a gallop.

Choreography – A series of artistic elements, ballet movements, and acrobatics that create a floor or balance beam routine.

Clear hip circle – When the body moves in a circle around the bar without the hips touching.

Code of points – The official rulebook for judging gymnastics skills.

Composition – The arrangement of moves in a gymnastics routine.

Compulsories – Required routines that all gymnasts in certain levels (Level 4, 5, 6) must complete. These routines have elements and skills that gymnasts in a certain level of gymnastics should be able to perform and are determined by a governing body such as USA Gymnastics or International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG).

Cross – A strength skill performed on the still rings where the arms are placed outward in a “T” position with the body perpendicular to the floor. Also called an iron cross.


Deduction – An error that causes a gymnast to lose points in his/her score.

Demi-plié – A ballet movement where the legs make a small bend at the knee while the feet remain flat on the ground.

Dismount – The exit from an apparatus at the end of a routine; usually performed with a difficult twist or somersault.

Dive roll – Describes a flying front somersault on the ground. The gymnast runs, leaps into the air, dives onto the floor in a handstand position, and does a forward roll at the end.

Double back – Two back somersaults completed consecutively in the same skill movement.

Double double – Two back somersaults with two twists. One of the harder gymnastics skills performed on the floor exercise and usually performed in the layout or open tuck position.

Double full – A single back somersault in the layout position with two twists.


Eagle grip – A 180-degree outward turn of the thumb and hands when gripping the bar. This movement requires increased shoulder flexibility.

Elbow stand – A handstand performed on the forearms.

Events – The routines done by men and women on the different apparatuses. There are four events for women: balance beam, vault, uneven parallel bars, and floor. There are six events for men: vault, pommel horse, still rings, horizontal bar, parallel bars, and floor exercise.

Execution – How a routine is performed; the level of form and technique used to complete a routine. Good execution might include tight legs, a good toe point, and a stuck landing.

Extension – The height and stretch of the legs or arms that are raised during a dance movement.


Flip-flop – Nickname for a back handspring. This is a common movement where the gymnast takes off from one or two feet, jumps backwards onto her hands, and lands on her feet.

FIG – The International Federation of Gymnastics, the international governing body for the sport of gymnastics.

Flexibility – The ability of the body to stretch into various positions without pain or damage.

Flic-flac – Also see back handspring. A common gymnastic movement where a gymnast takes off from one or two feet, jumps backwards onto her hands, and lands on her feet. Also known as a flip-flop or a back handspring.

Flip – A tumbling element where the body does a somersault in the air without the hands touching the ground. Also called a somersault or salto.

Floor exercise – A routine consisting of a variety of dance and acrobatic maneuvers and is performed on a 40-foot square spring floor.

Flyaway – A back somersault dismount from the uneven bars, horizontal bar, or parallel bars. It can be performed in either the tuck, pike, or layout positions.

Front giant – A forward circle around the bars starting and ending in a handstand position. This is performed with the hands in a reverse grip.

Front handspring – A forward tumbling skill that starts with a step or a hurdle. The body then bounces onto the hands and rotates through a handstand before landing on the feet.

Front hip circle – A forward movement around the bar with the hips resting on the bar and the body rotating around the bar.

Front somersault – A forward flip performed in the air without hands. It can be performed in either the tuck, pike, or layout positions. It can also refer to a forward somersault on the ground.

Front walkover – A gymnastic skill where the gymnast performs a forward handstand then moves into a backbend and up to his/her feet. The entire skill is performed in a continuous motion.

Full – A back somersault with one twist usually performed in the layout position.

Full turn – A complete 360-degree rotation usually performed on one foot. It is a required element for both the balance beam and the floor exercise.

Full-in, back-out – Two somersaults with one full twist where the twist is executed during the first somersault.

Full-in, full-out – Two somersaults and two twists with one twist performed on the first somersault and one twist performed on the second somersault.


Gaylord – On the high bar, an execution that involves a front giant arm-swing into a front one-and-one-half somersault over the bar, before re-grabbing the bar at the end. It was named after USA gymnast Mitch Gaylord.

Giant – An arm swing on the bars in which the body and the arms are fully extended and move in a full circle around the bar.

Grande jeté – A ballet term used to describe a large split-legged leap.

Grande plié – A ballet movement where the legs bend deeply at the knees and the body almost touches the ground. The feet are normally turned out and are in first, second, third, fourth, or fifth ballet position.

Grips – Leather straps that gymnasts wear on their hands to help them maintain a firm and solid grasp of the bar. Also known as hand guards.


Half-in, half-out – A double somersault with a half twist on the first somersault and a half twist on the second.

Handspring – (see also flic-flac) A hand touch somersault used on various apparatuses where the body springs from the feet onto the hands and lands back on the feet. It can be performed in either forward or backward direction; it is usually used to link movements of a routine together.

Handstand – A movement where the body is balanced on the hands and the feet are in the air, with the legs together or in a straddle or split position.

Head in – A position where the head is tucked into the gymnast’s body. It is usually seen when a gymnast is in a handstand position.

Head out – A position in a handstand where the head is out away from the body causing the back to arch. Not a favorable position in most events.

Healy – A gymnastics movement on the bars where a gymnast removes one arm while moving forward in a handstand and completes a full twist before re-grasping the bar with both hands.

High bar – This term can refer to men’s horizontal bar apparatus or the women’s top bar on the uneven parallel bars.

Hip circle – A circle around the bar in either the forward or backward motion where the hips are resting on the bar throughout the circle.

Hollow – A term referring to the body position of the gymnast. The hips are pulled under, the butt is tucked in, and the core of the body is scooped in rounding the chest forward.

Horizontal bar – The high bar in the men’s gymnastics events.

Horse – Slang for the former vaulting apparatus for both men and women. Women would vault over it when it was sideways and men would vault over it lengthwise. In 2001, it was officially replaced with the vaulting table that both men and women use in competition.

Hurdle – The step and skip that is used prior to a tumbling movement on the floor exercise. It is usually seen right before a gymnast performs a round-off.


Inverted cross – A strength pose on the still rings where the arms are outstretched in a “T” position and the body is in a handstand.

Iron cross – A strength pose on the still rings where the arms are outstretched in a “T” position and the body is perpendicular to the floor in a straight position or “L” shaped position.


Jeté – A ballet term used to describe a leap from one leg to the other. There are several types of jetés including grande and petite (big and small).


Kip – Usually performed on the bars, a movement that takes the gymnast from below the bars to above the bars. It is a compulsory requirement for level 5 gymnasts, ideally performed in a gliding motion.

Kolman – A release move performed on the bars where the gymnast leaves the bar, performs two back somersaults and one full twist over the bar and then re-catches the bar at the end. It is named after Yugoslavian gymnast Alajz Kolman.


Layout position – A straight and stretched body position.

Layout step out – A back somersault in the layout position where the legs are split in the air and the body lands on one leg followed by the other. It is normally performed on the balance beam as part of a tumbling series.

Leg circle – A pommel horse movement where the legs are together in a straight position and the body circles around the pommel horse. The hands alternate lifting up and down from one pommel to the other as the legs pass. This can also be performed on the floor, parallel bars, and balance beam.

Leotard – A one-piece uniform, similar to a bathing suit, that is standard for women’s gymnastics.

Limber – A term that describes a gymnast’s flexibility in the forward and backward direction.

Lunge – A position of the body where the legs are spread apart on the ground and the front leg is bent and the back leg is straight. The arms are generally above the head.


Mat – A piece of gymnastics equipment that is soft and made of polyurethane foam to help cushion landings on dismounts from apparatuses such as the bars, balance beam, and vault. It is also used when a gymnast is learning new gymnastics skills.

Mixed grip – A term used to describe the grip of the hands on the uneven parallel bars and horizontal bar when one hand is in the forward grip position and the other hand is in the reverse hand grip position.

Mount – The entry onto apparatuses like the balance beam, parallel bars, uneven parallel bars, horizontal bars, and pommel horse. It is also used to describe the first element in a gymnastics routine.

Music – Used in women’s gymnastics floor exercises when the routine performed is done to a specific piece of music. Gymnasts spend many hours developing a routine that is suitable to the music as well as choosing a piece of music that will best fit the gymnast and her routine.


Nail – (see stick) Refers to a perfect dismount from an apparatus or a tumbling pass where the feet make no movement once they touch the ground.

Needle scale – An arabesque performed on the floor and balance beam where the body is lowered while the hands are touching the toes, floor, or balance beam. One leg remains planted on the floor or balance beam while the other leg is elevated up to the ceiling.


Okino – A balance beam skill where the gymnast performs a triple pirouette (turn). It is named after Betty Okino.

Olympic order – The competition order for international competition, decided by FIG. The order for women: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. The order for men: floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar. The order for rhythmic gymnastics: rope, hoop, ball, clubs, and ribbon.

Optionals – A category of gymnastics competition where the gymnasts and coaches create their own routines with individual skills and the required elements that are determined by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG). Optional gymnasts are ranked higher than compulsory gymnasts.

Overgrip – The grip of the hands on the bar where the gymnast’s hands are on the bar and the palms of the hand are facing down with the fingers facing away from the gymnast’s body.

Overshoot – A release move from the high bar to the low bar. The gymnast starts on the high bar, swings up and over the low bar, does a half twist, and catches the low bar.


Parallel bars – One of the events that men perform in artistic gymnastics. It consists of two bars that are the same height (195 centimeters) and length (350 cm) and about 52 cm apart from one another. It is also referred to as p-bars.

Pas – A dance and gymnastic term that means “to step.”

Passé – A ballet position where one leg is firm on the ground and the other leg is raised so the thigh is horizontal, the knee is bent, and the toes touch the inner part of the standing leg’s knee.

P-bars – Nickname for the parallel bars.

Peel – An involuntary release of the bar that generally results in a fall to the ground. This can happen on the uneven bars, p-bars, or high bar.

Pike position – When the body is bent forward at the hips with the legs straight.

Pipe – A term used to refer to the men’s high bar.

Pirouettes – A ballet term that refers to the skill of turning the body on a longitudinal axis. It is either performed with one leg on the floor or while the body is in a handstand on the floor, balance beam, or bars. The turns are generally measured by degrees of half turns.

Pit – A training tool that consists of large pieces of soft foam that are used to cushion a landing. It is used for almost every apparatus except the pommel horse.

Pivot – A dance term that refers to a turn on the ball of the foot.

Plié – A dance movement that is defined by the bending of the legs. The legs can either be bent deeply (grande) or slightly (demi). Most ballet techniques start with or end with a plié.

Point – Refers to a gymnast’s toes that are stretched from the ankle to the toes, creating a straight line with the floor. A toe point is a very important element in gymnastics—judges expect to see pointed toes in almost all gymnastic movements.

Pommel horse – The apparatus used by men that is similar to a vaulting horse, but has two sets of handles or pommels on either side of the horse (45 centimeters apart). It is generally 115 cm high, 35 cm wide, and 160 cm long. A pommel horse routine is performed by using circular body movements around the horse and adjusting the hands on and off the pommels.

Puck – A slang term that describes a gymnastics position that is in between a tuck and a pike position. It is not a position that is allowed in competition.

Punch – A term that refers to bouncing off the floor, vault springboard, or balance beam instead of jumping. The legs are generally together and the reflexes are quick and strong. A common example is the punch front on the floor or balance beam: a forward somersault in the air that starts and ends with two feet.


Quad twist – A single somersault in the layout position with four twists.

Quadriffs – Any quadruple somersault with a twist.


Rail – A horizontal bar on which gymnasts compete. This includes the parallel bars, uneven parallel bars, and the horizontal or high bar.

Release – A term that refers to the body leaving the bar. The body leaves the bar to perform an execution and then re-grasps the bar at the end of the execution. A release can be performed on the uneven parallel bars, high bar, or parallel bars.

Relevé – A ballet term used to describe the body rising onto the balls of the feet.

Rhythmic gymnastics – Officially called Rhythmic Sportive Gymnastics (RSG), it is a women’s Olympic sport performed by one to five women as a floor exercise. It requires extreme flexibility combined with ballet-type dance movements and is performed with props such as ribbons, balls, ropes, and hoops. Routines do not include difficult tumbling maneuvers.

Rip – The tearing of a flap of skin from a gymnast’s hand while performing on the bars.

Round-off – A common gymnastic movement that leads into many more difficult skills. It is performed by pushing off one leg, swinging legs quickly in a cartwheel motion, and landing on two feet. It is usually the initial skill in a tumbling pass.

Routine – A combination of skills and dance moves, sometimes performed to music, on a singular apparatus.


Salto – A somersault or flip performed either forward or backward.

Scale – A gymnastics and ballet position where one leg is raised high into the air (ideally in a 180-degree split) while the other leg stays firm to the ground.

Scissors – A requirement for pommel horse competition. The legs make a back and forth and side to side motion over the apparatus. It can also be performed on the floor.

Sequence – A combination of two or more skills performed one after the other.

Split – A stretching position of the legs. One leg is stretched in front of the body and one leg is stretched behind the body. Done correctly, the legs are parallel to the floor and straight without any bend to the knees. It can be performed in a jump, on the floor, or in a handstand and in a front-to-back position or straddle.

Spotting – The physical assistance of a gymnast while performing a new or dangerous skill. It helps to ensure that the gymnast will complete the skill safely.

Spotting belt – A training tool that a gymnast will use to learn a new skill. It consists of a belt that a gymnast wears around his/her waist that is attached to ropes and a pulley system operated by an experienced coach. It enables a gymnast to safely learn new skills as well as perfect skills already acquired and is usually attached to a trampoline.

Start value – A value placed on a gymnastics routine based on the degree of difficulty.

Step out – Refers to landing on one leg followed by the other leg when completing a tumbling maneuver, as opposed to landing with two feet.

Stick – Slang term used for a landing that is executed with correct technique and little to no movement.

Still rings – The apparatus and event in men’s artistic gymnastics. It consists of a tower that is 575 centimeters high with two wooden/fiberglass rings attached to a cable that is 300 cm long and 50 cm apart. The goal of a still rings routine is to keep the rings as still as possible while executing swinging maneuvers and strength poses.

Straddle – A position of the legs where one leg is extended to the left side of the body and the other leg is extended to the right side. The legs are straight without a bend to the knees. This position is executed in jumps, handstands, on the floor, on the bars, and on the balance beam.

Straight position – A body position that has no bend in the legs or the body. Also called layout position.


Tap – A term referring to the kick needed to initiate the speed of a circling motion on the high and uneven bars.

Timer – A drill that simulates a gymnastic element without the risk of completing the maneuver to help prepare for a more complicated element. For example, a timer for a double back is a back one-and-three-quarters to the back landing on a stack of mats.

Tondue – A beginning level ballet position, extending a leg forward with toe pointed, while standing firmly on the other leg.

Tour jeté – A half-turn, split-leg leap, where the gymnast takes off from one leg and lands on the other leg.

Tuck – A body position where the knees are bent and drawn up to the chest and the body is folded at the waist.

Tumbling pass – A series of connected tumbling elements in a routine on the floor exercise.

Turnout – Refers to the rotation of the hips, legs, and feet in an outward direction away from the body.

Twist – A rotation around the body’s longitudinal axis.

Tzukahara – A men and women’s vault element where the gymnasts perform a quarter or half onto the vault and a back salto off. It is named after the Japanese gymnast, Mitsuo Tzukahara.


Undergrip – The type of hand grip used on the bars where the body is hanging below the bar and the fingers of the hand are facing the gymnast. Also called a reverse grip.

Underswing – A release move from the high bar to the low bar. The gymnast swings from the high bar, up and over the low bar, does half twist and grabs the low bar. Also called a shoot over or overshoot.

Uneven bars – A women’s apparatus and event that consists of two fiberglass bars: A low bar that is 148 centimeters high and a high bar that is 228cm high, set apart at a maximum of 150cm. A routine consists of release moves, swinging maneuvers from one bar to the other, circling skills, and pirouettes.

USA Gymnastics – The governing body of gymnastics in the United States


Vault – Men and women’s apparatus and event performed over a vaulting table. The gymnast runs down the vaulting runway, springs off a springboard, vaults onto the table, and lands on his/her feet on the mat behind the table.

Vaulting horse – The former apparatus for men’s and women’s vault. It was placed lengthwise for men and widthwise for women. It was officially removed and replaced with the vaulting table in 2001.

Vaulting table – The new vaulting apparatus that is used for both men and women. It has a wider and longer top surface which gives the gymnasts a larger margin of error for hand placement.

Virtuosity – The flow or artistry of a movement. The more cohesive and artistic the skills, the higher the score.

Voluntary routine – A routine that consists of optional elements instead of compulsory elements.

V-sit – A position of the body where the gymnast sits with legs in the air in a deep pike position and their body balancing on the bottom and hands.


Walkover – A compulsory gymnastic element used on the floor and balance beam. The body starts in a standing position, walks into a handstand position, and continues into a backbend and finishes in a standing position. This continuous movement can be performed in either the forward or backward direction.


Yurchenko – A vault maneuver that starts with a round-off onto the springboard, a back handspring onto the vault, and some type of back somersaulting motion off the vault. The somersault off the vault will often be a twisting somersault. Named after Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko.


Zero – The score received if a gymnast does not perform a routine or does not perform some critical element of a routine. An example would be performing a vault and never touching the vaulting table.

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