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Gymnastics 101: Glossary

Men's Vault London 2012
USA Today Sports

Gymnastics 101: Glossary

Speak the language of artistic gymnastics. 


A maneuver in which the gymnast completes a full rotation in the air without touching the apparatus with her hands. A cartwheel without the use of the hands is an aerial cartwheel; a forward walkover without the use of the hands is an aerial walkover.


A two-and-a-half twisting Yurchenko vault. A Yurchenko is a vault family in which vaults begin with a round-off entry onto the springboard and continues with a back handspring from the board onto the vault table, then performs two-and-a-half twists during one salto (flip) before landing on the mat. The Amanar is named after Romanian gymnast Simona Amanar and is one of the most difficult vaults performed in women's gymnastics.


The height or degree of execution of a move (flight, distance or body angles). In general, the bigger or higher, the better the amplitude and the score.


One of the various pieces of equipment used during gymnastics competitions.


A pose on one leg with the other leg extended behind the body. The rest of the body is lowered from the hips to form a graceful curve. Landing a skill in an Arabesque requires a great deal of control.

Nastia Liukin beam 2008

Nastia Liukin in the arabesque pose on balance beam. Credit: USA Today Sports

Back flip

A move that begins by taking off from one or two feet, then jumping backward and landing on the feet. Also called a back salto.

Back handspring

A move in which a gymnast takes off from one or two feet, jumps backward onto the hands and pushes from the shoulders to land on the feet. Also known as a "flic-flac" or "flip-flop."

Back toss

On men's parallel bars, a backward swing from a handstand with a brief release to re-catch in a handstand.


A static position in which the gymnast holds a distinct shape.


A front flip with a half twist.


Seen on women's floor exercise, two back saltos followed by a half twist in the laid-out, or straight, body position. Named for U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, who was the first to perform this skill in competition. She is currently the only gymnast performing the Biles.  


A forceful thrust (shrug) of the shoulders intended to amplify the height/distance the gymnast will travel -- most notably on vault.

Kristian Thomas vault London 2012

British gymnast Kristian Thomas blocks off the vault at the 2012 London Olympics. Credit: USA Today Sports


Complete program in floor or balance beam with all the necessary requirements (acrobatic and choreographic elements, pirouettes, jumps, etc.).


A complete circle with the legs together and support on both hands. Circles are one of the three basic swings on pommel horse.

Clear hip circle

A skill seen on the women's uneven bars and men's high bar in which the gymnast's hips circle backwards around the bar without touching the bar and the gymnast finishes in a handstand. Often referred to as free hip circle.

Code of points

The catalog of criteria by which judges evaluate gymnasts' routines in major international competitions, including World Championships and the Olympics. Separate codes for men and women are updated by International Federation of Gymnastics (F.I.G.) technical committees at least every four years.


The structure of a women's gymnastics routine (i.e., how each element is arranged to create a complete exercise). Referred to as "construction" in men's gymnastics.

Connection value

Bonus points or tenths of points awarded to gymnasts who incorporate difficult combinations of skills into their routines. The skills must be performed without pause or interruption to receive the connection value points.

Iron cross 

A rings position in which the arms are stretched fully to the side, supporting the body, which is held vertically.

Jonathan Horton still rings 2008

Jonathan Horton performing the iron cross on still rings at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Credit: USA Today Sports


A vault that comprises a half-turn into a backward salto in the second flight phase. Named for Cuban gymnast Jorge Cuervo.

Difficulty score (D-score)

The cumulative amount of difficulty contained in the routine. For vaults, the D-score is predetermined depending on which type of vault the gymnast performs: all Amanar vaults are worth 6.3 difficulty points, for example. For all other gymnastics routines, the D-score is determined by the judges. As each element in the routine is successfully performed, its individual difficulty is added to the total difficulty score. The difficulty score is open-ended with no maximum value, while the execution score is out of a maximum of ten points. The difficulty score plus the execution score equal a total score.


Points or parts of points taken off a gymnast's score for errors. Most deductions are pre-determined, such as a 1.00 point deduction for a fall from an apparatus.

Gabby Douglas beam fall

Gabby Douglas struggles to stay on the beam at the 2012 London Olympics. Credit: USA Today Sports


Seen on parallel bars, a forward swing with a 360-degree turn on one arm, returning to a handstand. Named for Soviet gymnast Sergei Diamidov.


To leave an apparatus at the end of a routine, usually done with an acrobatic element such as a twist or salto.


Any double salto backward with two twists.

Eagle giant

A front giant with hands turned 360 degrees inward and with shoulders passing over the top of the bar before the rest of the body.


A single move that has a recognized way of performance and technical value.


The performance of a routine, or the form, style, and technique used to complete the skills included in a routine. Bent knees, poor toe point and an arched or loosely-held body position are all examples of poor execution.

Execution score (E-score)

Each routine starts with a maximum E-score of ten points, with execution errors, such as taking steps or stumbling after a landing, subtracted during the routine.


The performance of a sequence of skills, also referred to as a routine.


Federation Internationale Gymnastique, the international governing body of gymnastics.


One of the three basic swings on pommel horse, a flair is a hybrid of legs swings and circles. Each flair consists of two undercuts and one circle, which looks complex at full speed.

Sasha Artemev on pommel horse 2008

U.S' Sasha Artemev performs on the pommel horse at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Credit: USA Today Sports


A double salto with a full twist performed during the first salto.


A double salto with a full twist performed during the second salto (as opposed to a full-in, where the twist is performed on the first salto).


Backward salto, taking off from one leg.


A swing through 360 degrees around the bar, with the body fully extended in the straight position. It can be performed in uneven bars, high bar, rings and parallel bars, backwards or forwards.


Leather hand guards worn during bar routines for protection from friction.

Still rings grips

A male gymnast uses grips on the still rings. Credit: USA Today Sports

Half-in, half-out

A double salto with a half-twist on each salto.


A linking move where a gymnast takes off from both feet, jumps forward and by placing the weight on the arms and pushing strongly from the shoulders, springs off the hands forwards (or backwards) and lands on the feet.


A full twist following a handstand while releasing one arm and maintaining support of one hand. Seen on uneven bars and parallel bars, where it's also known as a reverse Diamidov.

Inbar skills

On horizontal bar or uneven bars, a skill where the body bends and comes in close proximity with the bar. Stalders, toe-ons and free/clear hips are examples of inbar skills.

Inward turn

A turn in the direction of the supporting leg or arm; also known as a "reverse turn."

Inverted giant

Front giant with hands turned 180 degrees inward and the wrists being the first body part to break the vertical plane. The body then hits a handstand position as the rest of the body catches up with the wrists.


Seen on high bar, a release from a front giant to a front somersault and re-grasp on the same side of the bar.

Kyla Ross uneven bars 2013

Kyla Ross performs a jaegar on the uneven bars. Credit: USA Today Sports


On high bar or uneven bars, movement from a position with the body piked and the legs directly between the hands backward until body is stretched and hands are turned 180 degrees outward.


A gymnastic element in a floor exercise or beam routine that takes off from both legs.


A vault family in which vaults start with a quarter-turn onto the vault, a push off the hands and a back salto with a full twist before landing. Difficult to distinguish from a Tsukahara.


A move from a position below the bar of an apparatus to a position above it; seen on the uneven bars, parallel bars and high bar.


A common method used to get to a handstand on uneven bars and high bar. Also known as "cast to handstand."

Leg circle

A standard pommel-horse move where a gymnast keeps the legs together and swings them in a full circle around the horse, with each hand lifted in turn from the pommel to let the legs pass. Can also be performed on other apparatus (floor, parallel bars and balance beam). The gymnast keeps the legs together and swings them in a full circle around his longitudinal axis passing his legs alternatively under his hands.


A traveling movement performed on the pommel horse. There are two Magyars seen on the apparatus. The first is a backward move the length of the horse while circling the legs. The second is one circle of the legs with a simultaneous full counter-turn of the body. Named for Hungarian gymnast Zoltan Magyar.


A strength hold in which the gymnast's body is straight and parallel to the ground. Seen on the men's floor exercise, rings and parallel bars.


An element with which the gymnast starts her program, and, in most cases, gets onto the apparatus. On the floor exercise, the first tumbling pass is known as the mount.

Neutral deductions

Deductions that are not part of a gymnasts' E- or D-score, and are made after the gymnasts' total score is calculated. For example, an out-of-bounds deduction is a neutral deduction.


A turn on one foot around the body's longitudinal axis (defined by the spine) in dance elements.


A turn on the ball of the foot.

Pike position

Position in which legs that are kept straight but brought closer to the upper body, so the lower and upper body form an L shape. The elements performed in this position are more difficult than the ones in tuck position.

Aliya Mustafina uneven bars

Aliya Mustafina performs a piked release move on the uneven bars at the 2012 London Olympics Credit: USA TODAY Sports


A strength hold in which the gymnast's hands provide a base of support and the body is held straight and parallel to the ground. Seen on beam, floor, rings and parallel bars.

Press handstand

A fundamental strength skill in which the gymnast slowly lifts the legs backward to a handstand position while supported on the hands.


The catch, with a swing through, after a release skill on the apparatus.


The action of leaving the bar in order to perform a move before grasping it again. There are many releases, the most complicated include somersaults and twists.


A cartwheel finishing with the feet together. Commonly used as an accelerator on floor, vault and beam to change forward running power into back saltos and back handsprings.


A combination of movements or maneuvers on one apparatus displaying a full range of skills.


A flip or somersault where a gymnast rotates around the axis of the hips.


A balance on one leg, with the other leg raised backwards, sideways or forward and the upper body lowered slightly.


A hybrid of leg swings and undercuts where the left leg and right leg switch positions on the pommel horse.


An acrobatic move in which the body makes a complete turn (360 degrees), heels over head. It is performed as a mount, dismount and during routines. Commonly referred to as a "salto."


A position where one leg is extended forward and the other backward. The legs form an angle of 180 degrees, at right angles to the body.

Nastia Liukin beam 2008

Nastia Liukin performs a split on the balance beam at the 2008 Olympics. Credit: USA Today Sports


A backward circle around the bar in the straddle or pike position. Seen on horizontal and uneven bars. Named for Swiss gymnast Joseph Stalder.

Static strength skill

Any move demonstrating strength that is held for three seconds. Some examples are v-sit, planche, maltese and Manna.


Completing a landing without taking any steps, and therefore receiving any landing deductions. "Sticking a landing" is every gymnast's hope at the end of a routine and can be very difficult, depending on the difficulty of the dismount.


A position where the legs are split sideways.

Straight position

A position in which the body is straight, or stretched out. Gymnastics elements performed in this position are the most difficult.

Total Score

The gymnasts' D-score and E-score added together.


A vault family in which vaults start with a quarter-turn onto the vault, a push off the hands and a back salto before landing. Also, a full twisting double back on floor and a full twisting double flyaway off high bar. Named for Japanese gymnast Mitsuo Tsukahara.


A position where knees and hips are bent and drawn into the chest, with the body folded at the waist. When the body is in this position it turns more easily for somersaults, and other acrobatic elements.


A rotation on the body's axis supported by one or both feet.


A move in acrobatic skills where a gymnast rotates around the body's longitudinal axis (the spine).


A move where a gymnast moves from a standing position through a handstand position to a standing position while "walking" through the air with the feet.


A vault family in which vaults begin with a round-off entry onto the springboard and continues with a back handspring onto the vaulting table. A gymnast that performs a "double-twisting Yurchenko" vault would then perform a flip with two twists off the vaulting table. It is named after the Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko. Common in women's gymnastics. 

Gymnastics 101

Learn more about gymnastics:

Basics | Competition format | Scoring | Qualification | Venue | Equipment | Apparatus | Glossary | Olympic History

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