What Is the Meaning of Gymnastics?

Gymnast on pommel horse

Literally translated in Greek, gymnastics means "to exercise naked." However, most people recognize gymnastics as a physically demanding sport filled with intricate tricks and impressive stunts performed with style and grace by both genders. Though men and women have the chance to showcase several skills during performances, women's and men's gymnastics are composed of several different events. Each event gives men and women the chance to demonstrate their athleticism, precision, flexibility and strength.


Gymnastics is known to most as a men's and women's sport consisting of the demonstration of skills requiring strength, flexibility and agility during a performance of several tricks and stunts. However, gymnastics was not always known as such. The sport actually evolved greatly from its origins in Greece in which it was only a men's sport. During this time, gymnastics focused on strength-building exercises such as wrestling, throwing, jumping, swimming and running to physically prepare men for war after Greece was defeated by the Romans. It later evolved in the 1700s and 1800s to include 30 pieces of apparatus and was brought to the United States.

Women's Gymnastics

Women's gymnastics is composed of four events -- vault, floor exercise, balance beam, and uneven bars. Each event attempts to challenge the grace, agility, coordination and strength of the gymnast. The balance beam, perhaps the most challenging event, involves the use of balance and agility while performing acrobatic and dance movements on a 4-inch-wide beam. Vault requires great strength as gymnasts explode off the vault to perform flips in the air, while the uneven bars require coordination in order to swing from bar to bar while switching hands and using various transitions. Floor exercise, which is set to music, seems to be a crowd-pleaser, as female gymnasts incorporate elements of acrobatics and dance that showcase their personality. In each event, gymnasts aim to "stick" their landing by taking no extra steps.

Men's Gymnastics

Men's gymnastics includes floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, high bar, parallel bars, and vault. Each event requires high levels of power and control. The vault, high bar, still rings and parallel bars showcase the male gymnast's strength as he manages to perform swinging, twisting and flipping movements while maintaining balance. The floor exercise and pommel horse highlight precision, coordination, balance and control.

Rhythmic Gymnastics and Tumbling

Rhythmic gymnastics and tumbling both require hand-eye coordination, musicality, agility, power and flexibility. While both events involve acrobatic moves and synchronized somersaults across the floor, only tumbling is performed by both genders. Furthermore, rhythmic gymnastics is performed to music and sometimes employs the use of ribbons, hoops and rope by women. Rhythmic gymnastics also includes various leaps, jumps and choreographed dance moves.