The Types of Balances in Gymnastics

Gymnast balancing on a table

Balance is key to success in gymnastics because athletes are required to maintain composure while contorting their bodies and maneuvering through events. "Balances" refers to moves that require the gymnast to hold their body still while balancing. There are upright and inverted balances, and they are required in many gymnastics events.

Upright Balances

Upright balances are positions in which the gymnast's head is above the waist. Examples include the leg lift, chassé, sissone and relevé. Upright balances require strong calf and ankle muscles so that gymnasts can retain their position and stay up on their toes, similar to being on point in ballet.

Inverted Balances

Inverted Balances are moves in which the gymnast holds position upside down. Headstands and handstands are common beginner-level inverted balances. Advanced balances include the inverted tuck, inverted pike (in which the legs are horizontal but the torso is vertical), and the inverted shoulder stand. Other inverted balances are specific to the event. For example, the herculean inverted cross, in which the gymnast suspends himself arms out sideways and upside down, is only performed on the rings.

When Balances are Used

Balances are used by gymnasts during events to increase the difficulty of the routine and gain a higher score. Some events, such as the men's floor routine, require a single arm or leg balance. Balances are common on the balance beam as well.

Partner Balances

In acrobatic gymnastics, gymnasts compete in groups ranging in size from two to four people. In the balance routine, acrobatic gymnasts perform partner balances and pyramids. Partner balances can be inverted or upright, but they add complexity by requiring cooperation among multiple athletes. Partners must use counter-tension through pulling or counter-balance through leaning to maintain position. Types of partner balances include top partner handstand on base partner knees, and top partner standing on top of base partner shoulders.