Gymnastics Jargon Definitions
Many terms are used in gymnastics that can be confusing to those not involved in the sport, or who have only been involved in the sport for a short time or even those involved in the sport from a different region. The following is a clarification on the meaning of these terms on this site. If you find a term on the site that you'd like clarification on please use the form at the bottom of this page and it will be added to the list shortly. Please do not ask for clarifications on skill names. The scope of this list is to clarify global terms, body positions, jargon, etc.
Abduction: Hip abduction is pushing the knees outward. Shoulder abduction is raising the arms overhead by moving the hands out to the side.
Adduction: Hip adduction is bringing the knees together. Shoulder adduction is pressing the arms downward while out to the side.
Agonist Muscle: The muscle being contracted to perform a movement.
All Around: Refers to a gymnast that competes all of their gender specific events. For men this is the 6 events, and for women the 4 events described below. A specialist, in contrast, only competes a sub-set of the events.
Antagonist Muscle: The muscle acting in opposition of an intended movement.
Amplitude: In gymnastics this term means height or spectacular excecution of a particular skill. When a gymnast performs a skill bigger than other gymnasts typically perform the same skill it is said to have a lot of amplitude. At various times the code has given bonus for amplitude.
Block: The term "block" in gymnastics is typically used to describe a rapid rebounding off of the floor or aparatus with the arms. The block comes from the shoulders exploding towards extension.
Center of Gravity/COG: The center of gravity is the point around which a body will rotate assuming no external forces are currently being applied. The location of the COG in a person varies depending on several factors. Typically a male's COG is a bit higher than a female's COG.
Code of Points: The rulebook for gymnastics. The code of points specifies the difficulty value of all skills, as well as outlines requirements that must be fulfilled for each event.
Compulsory: A routine in which the elements are pre-determined by an organization such as USAG or FIG. All gymnasts competing compulsory routines must perform specified skills in a specified order. Compulsory routines have been eliminated from higher level gymnastics competitions to allow for more time to develop optional routines.
Concentric muscle contraction: A concentric contraction is when a muscle shortens while contracting. Pushing up to handstand from a headstand is an example.
Counter Turn: Counter turn is most often used to describe the turning of the hips against the direction of a double leg circle. When a gymnast is in the 12:00 position (legs straight in front of them) their hips should be turned in the opposite direction of their circle. Eg for a clockwise circle their right hip will be higher than their left. This enables the gymnast to extend and drive their heels for the completion of the circle. It enables a much stronger circle, and allows for spindles to be performed dynamically.
Dismount: The term used for the last skill in the routine. For most events the method used to get off of the event. This skill is required to be at most one skill value below the hardest skill in the routine. eg. if there is a D value skill in the routine, the dismount must be of at least C value.
Eagle Grip/L Grip: In an eagle grip a gymnasts hands are turned 180 degrees outward from an over grip. Thumbs are turned out, but in the opposite direction of an undergrip. This position requires flexible shoulders to swing comfortably.
Eccentric muscle contraction: An eccentric contraction is when a contracting muscle lengthens. An example is lowering into a straddle L from a handstand.
Events: The 4 women's events in gymnastcs are Floor, Uneven Bars, Beam, Vault. The 6 mens events are Floor, Pommel Horse, Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, High Bar.
Extension/Flexion: Extension of a joint is moving toward straightness. Flexion is the opposite. Eg total flexion of your knee is when your heels are in contact with your rear. In the case of the shoulders, extension is pushing your arm away from your torso as when doing a handstand and pushing your feet as high as possible.
Flexibility: To have a wide range of motion in a joint. An example of the types of fexibility required of gymnasts is to be able to do the splits, or place ones chin on ones knees without bending ones legs.
Flip: Rotation about the transverse, or the horizontal axis. This axis runs left to right. When you are doing a forward roll you are rotating about the transverse axis.
Grips: Grips are the leather straps that gymnasts wear to help keep a grip on the bars or rings. The purpose of grips is to help maintain a firm grip on the equipment. Though they do help, they do not revent rips. High bar grips are typically 3 finger with a small dowel. Ring grips are 2 finger, long and have a large dowel. Uneven bar grips are 2 finger and have a dowel smaller than rings, but larger than high bar. Parrallel bar grips exist, but are rarely used.
Gymnastics: The definition of gymnastics is extreemly broad. As it pertains to this site the term gymnastics is generally referring to artistic gymnastics, or the competetive gymnastics utilizing the events defined above. There is room on this site for the discussion of rhythmic gymnastics, general gymnastics, sports acrobatics, etc. but the main focus is artistic gymnastics.
Heel Drive: This is a term used quite often in gymnastics. A heel drive is kicking ones heels hard to carry the gymnasts legs in the direction of the gymnasts back. A proper handspring on vault requires a good heel drive to generate proper momentum and rotation. During a heel drive the gymnasts legs should be together and squeezed tight to maximize effectiveness.
Hurdle: The transitional motion from a run to set up to perform a skill. This hurdle can be from one foot to two feet, or one foot to one foot, or in the case of a "jump hurdle" or "power hurdle" from two feet to one foot. In the case of floor setting up for a right round-off, handspring or other kicking skill the hurdle is a skip on the left leg while stretching and bringing the right leg forward to prepare for the lunge. In the case of vault, or two foot take-off skill on floor the hurdle is a low jump from one foot to two feet bringing both feel forward to maximize conversion of forward momentum into height. In all cases a proper powerful hurdle is critical to the performance of many high level skills.
Isometric muscle contraction: An isomentric contraction is when a muscle is contracting but does not change in length. An example is any static hold (L sit, iron cross, etc)
Mixed Grip: Gripping with each each hand differently. eg one hand fingers facing away from you, other hand fingers facing you.
Mount: This term is used to identify the first skill in a routine. Mount meaning to get on the apparatus. Gymnasts have found very inventive ways to get onto the equipment.
Optional: A routine in which the gymnast may perform skills of their choosing under the constraints of special requirements. The skills can be performed in any order but must fit the requirements as specified in the FIG code of points.
Overgrip: Hanging onto the bar with your fingers facing away from you.
Peel: Peeling off of an event is when you involuntarily let go. On uneven bars or high bar peeling is usually followed by a short uncontrolled flight. On rings peeling is usually followed by an almost immediate impact with the ground. Peeling is almost entirely preventable by proper hand and body positions, and equipment review (including grips).
Pig: Another name for the pommel horse.
Pipe: Another name for high bar.
Pit: A pit is typically a hole in the ground filled with chunks of open celled foam. Though injury is still possible in a pit, the amount of give in a pit greatly reduces the risk.
Plyometric: Plyometric excersise is defined as rapidly contracting a muscle from a fully extended start position. A full understanding and implementation of plyometric training is necessary for optimal gymnastics development..
Pointed/Flexed Toes: Toe point is an important factor in gymnastics. When the toes and foot are pulled downward so that the line from the knee to the tip of the toes is essentially straight and their is no angle in the ankle. Flexed toes means the opposite. The toes are pulled upwards till the ankle forms a 90 degree angle.
Pronation: Forearm pronation is where your hands are rotated inward towards palms facing down. Pronation of the ankle is rolling the ankle inward to place pressure on the inside of the foot.
Punch: Bouncing off of the floor or apparatus rather than jumping. Jumping involves bending your legs and pushing, while "punching" involves anticipating the floor and springing off using both any spring in the floor as well as power in your legs.
Reciprocal Inhibition: When contracting an agonist muscle the tension in an antagonist muscle is inhibited by impulses from motor neurons.
Rep/Set: Rep is short for repetition. When doing an exersize a rep is simply one cycle of the motion. A set is a collection of reps done without stopping. eg doing 20 pushups 5 at a time would be 4 sets of 5 reps.
Rip: A "Rip" in gymnastics is when a flap of skin tears off of your hand when you are swinging an event.
Rotation: Circular motion around an axis. A forward roll is a rotation, as is a twist.
Routine: A routine is a sequence of skills on an event. The number and difficulty of skills depends on the competition format, and skill level of the competetors.
Salto: Another term for flip or roll. A rotation about the transverse axis.
Set: A set is the initiation of most aerial skills. Eg. A set for a back tuck is when the gymnast leaves the floor stretching their arms towards the ceiling, lifting their chest, and spotting the wall in front of them. A set is often counterintuitive and therefore takes focus and determination to maximize its effectiveness.
Specialist: A gymnast that competes selected events as opposed to competing All Around. A gymnast that competes only pommel horse would be referred to as a pommel horse specialist. This often, but not always, allows for a higher degree of competancy on the specialized event.
Spotting: Spotting or to "spot" someone in gymnastics means to assist them in safely completing a skill. The amount of spot can range from simply tapping a leg to completely carrying the gymnast through the motion. A spot can be used to reduce risk of injury, or to ensure proper technique. Spotting can be done hands on, or with a spotting device such as a spotting belt.
Spotting belt: A spotting belt is a belt that a gymnast wears that is attached to ropes or cables that are generally attached to pulleys connected to the ceiling or a tower. This device allows a coach to "catch" a gymnast when working multiple flipping or twisting skills in a situation when a hand spot would be unfeasable.
Supination: Supination of the forearm is rolling the hands outward towards palms facing up. Supination of the ankle is rolling the foot outward to place pressure on the outside of the foot.
Stick: To stick a landing is to land, and remain standing without requiring a step. A proper stick position is with legs bent, shoulders above hips, arms forward. Sticking consistantly takes regular practice.
Tap: Typically a dynamic motion used to generate momentm. The term is most often used on swinging events to describe the kick used to generate the required speed and rotation for a skill.
Tight: This term is used by coaches A LOT, but what does it really mean? A tight body position is not simply straight, or extended, but taught. The muscles involved in the extension are squeezed. Positions are held rigid so that different parts of the body can move together. Any flexing in the joints can reduce the effectiveness of certain motions. Much of a gymnasts strength training is to enable "tightness".
Timer: A drill that simulates the feel of a skill, or the set for a skill without the risk of completing the skill. Eg. a 1 1/4 back to a stack of mats is a timer for a double back.
Turnover: When turnover is mentioned in gymnastics it is referring to rotating the body along the axis through the hips perpedicular to line of sight with the head straight forward. For example aggressive turnover on the front swing on rings means to quickly drive your toes towards the ceiling, thus inverting your body and enabling your swing to travel upward.
Twist: A rotation about the longitudinal, or vertical, axis. This is the axis that runst from your head to your feet. When you spin in a circle while standing you are "twisting". A right twist is defined as the right shoulder going backwards, the converse for a left twist.
Undergrip: Hanging on a bar with your fingers facing you.
What are the fractions?: The fractions are used in order to describe twist. A 1/1 twist is a 360 degree twist. a 3/2 twist is 1 1/2 twists or 540 degrees of twist.