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What Is the Difference Between Rhythmic & Artistic Gymnastics?

Artistic and rhythmic gymnastics are two distinct forms of gymnastics. Both are both governed by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique. Competitions for the two forms are very different and feature different apparatuses and rules. In addition, the rules governing team competition and men's and women's competition vary between the two forms of gymnastics. Both are featured in the summer Olympic games.


Artistic gymnastic events include performances on several different apparatuses. Women perform on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Men perform on the vault, pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars, high bar and floor exercise. Rhythmic gymnastics performances, on the other hand, are all performed on a padded floor and use different props as apparatuses. All rhythmic gymnastics are performed to music, while in artistic gymnastics only the women's floor exercise tradionally features music.


Artistic gymnasts do not use props. In rhythmic gymnastics the apparatuses consist of a variety of props that must be kept in constant motion during a routine. Each routine features one prop or apparatus. Approved props include the rope, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon.

Team Competition

Both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics have team competitions but in very different ways. In artistic team competition, individual members of the team perform one at a time on a given apparatus, often using the same routines they performed in individual competition. Their scores are then summed. In rhythmic team competitions five athletes perform at the same time in a cohesive unit. They are judged on synchronization and harmony in addition to mastery of a skill.

Men and Women

Artistic gymnastics features both men and women. Each gender has its category and rules for performance. Rhythmic gymnastics is only performed by women. Although some men's rhythmic gymnastics groups have appeared in countries like Japan, they are not yet recognized by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique and cannot compete at Olympic events.

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About the Author

Evelyn Broderick has been a writer since 2004. Her work has been published by the Jewish Alliance for Women in Science. She holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biology from Macaulay Honors College and is pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. in immunology at Sloan Kettering. She is also a member of the New York Academy of Sciences.

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