How to Do Rhythmic Gymnastics

Six Parts:Becoming Familiar with Rhythmic GymnasticsStarting Rhythmic GymnasticsImproving Your Flexibility, Endurance and StrengthStaying Safe and HealthyImproving Technical ElementsImproving Dance Elements

Rhythmic gymnastics is a discipline of gymnastics in which athletes toss, throw and catch five different apparatuses.[1] Renowned for their flexibility, rhythmic gymnastics also requires upper and lower body strength as well as grace and coordination.[2] Less popular than artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics can be rewarding whether you compete or practice recreationally.

Part 1
Becoming Familiar with Rhythmic Gymnastics

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    Become familiar with the apparatus. Rhythmic gymnasts manipulate five different apparatus: rope, hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon, as well as freehand (no apparatus).
    • The ball is usually made of either rubber or synthetic rubber. Its size is from a diameter of 18 cm (7.25 inches) to 20 cm (8 inches) and must weigh above 400g (0.9 lb). Like the other apparatus, it can be of any color.[3] A ball routine will include bouncing, throwing or rolling. The ball is sometimes held in the arch of the back while a walkover is done. Gymnasts usually start with the ball as their first apparatus.
    • The rope is generally made of hemp or a similar material. The length varies depending on the height of the gymnast. One or two knots are tied on each end to aid in keeping a hold. The rope must be either all or partially colored. Leaps, skipping, swings, throws, circles, rotations, and figure eights are included in a rope routine.[4]
    • The hoop may be made of wood or plastic. The size of the hoop is from 51 cm (20 inches) to 90 cm (35.5 inches) in diameter, and must weigh at least 300g (0.66 lb). The hoop may be of a natural color or may be colored by one or several colors, and may have adhesive tape of any color. A hoop routine includes hoop rotation, rolling, swings, circles, throws, and passes of the body through and over the hoop.[5]
    • The clubs may be made of wood or synthetic material, similar to the hoop. The length of each club is from 40cm (15.75 inches) to 50 cm (19.66 inches). Two clubs are used. Each club must weigh above 150g (0.33 lb) and are typically weighted on each end. The shape is similar to a bottle. The neck and head may be covered with adhesive tape.[6]
    • The ribbon itself may be satin or another non-starched material. It may be any color. It must weigh at least 35g (1.25 oz). The width is 4cm (1.5 inch) to 6cm (2.4 inches) The length from one end to the other must be at least 6m (20 feet). The stick may be made of bamboo, wood, plastic or fiberglass.[7]
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    Become familiar with the scoring. The following elements are essential to understanding for scoring:
    • The victor is the participant who ends with the most points. Points are determined by a panel of judges, who judge the gymnasts' leaps, jumps, pirouettes, balances, apparatus handling and execution. Depending on the level, the routine must contain a number of these elements as well as flexibility movements. A high degree of athletic skills are needed for these movements.
    • The final score is based on a 30 point scale that requires three panels of judges. Each panel delivers scores for artistic expression, difficulty and execution.[8]
    • Dropping an apparatus is the equivalent of falling off an apparatus in artistic gymnastics.
    • If an apparatus breaks during the exercise or gets caught in the ceiling, the gymnast(s) will not be allowed to start over. [9]
    • The sport is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), or International Federation of Gymnastics (IFG), using the Code of Points. This organization regulates all competition.
    • The largest events are the Olympics, World Championships and European Championships.
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    Become familiar with the attire. The following aspects detail the expected clothing and styling:[10]
    • Rhythmic gymnasts wear a variant of the artistic leotard. A rhythmic leotard has a short skirt as well as crystals and other decoration. It is also permitted to wear a unitard. The base color of a leotard may not be nude.
    • Rhythmic gymnasts wear half shoes to aid in turning or completely barefoot.
    • No jewelry is allowed.
    • Hairstyle must be neat.
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    Become familiar with the history of rhythmic gymnastics. Rhythmic gymnastics has its origins to the early days of ballet. It began to take modern shape at the Swedish School of Rhythmic Gymnastics in the 1900s. When apparatus were incorporated in Germany in 1929, this became 'Modern Gymnastics." The Soviets made the sport competitive. It has been called "Modern Gymnastics," then "Rhythmic Sportive Gymnastics," and now it is known as "Rhythmic Gymnastics". The FIG officially recognized it as a sport in 1961.[11]
    • Rhythmic gymnastics was originally judged on a 10.0 scale.
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    Become familiar with the competition. Russia is the dominant force in rhythmic gymnastics.[12] Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Spain are other dominant teams. Other Asian countries such as China also excel at rhythmic gymnastics. Many gymnasts train from very early ages.

Part 2
Starting Rhythmic Gymnastics

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    Find a club. In the US, as rhythmic gymnastics is not as popular, it may be difficult to find a club. You can find a list of all the US clubs here. When looking for a club, make sure it has adequate room, high ceilings, stall bars, multiple coaches, is in good condition and is well lit.
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    Find a practice leotard. Generally, to practice, rhythmic gymnasts wear a black dance style leotard with black leggings or shorts with their hair tied back. Many gyms have dress codes, so make sure you adhere to them.
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    Get the necessary supplies. When starting out, the gym will generally provide the apparatus, but it is beneficial to have toe shoes, as well as a gym bag to hold water bottles and the like.
    • Make sure to get a high quality bag. You will be using it a lot, and it will be worth it.
    • Explore different styles, such as a duffel bag or a backpack.
  4. Image titled You need to be ag ril.png
    Be female if you wish to compete in rhythmic gymnastics. Though men's rhythmic gymnastics is developing, only females can participate in FIG sanctioned events, and only female rhythmic gymnastics is considered a sport by the FIG. Many clubs do not offer men's rhythmic gymnastics.
    • Men compete in four events[13]:
      • Stick (like a baton)
      • Rings (two small hoops)
      • Rope
      • Clubs
  5. Image titled Start young.png
    Start young. Though it may look easy to toss apparatus, rhythmic gymnasts train from a very young age. It is very difficult to start rhythmic gymnastics late and still excel. The optimal ages for starting range from 4 to 8.

Part 3
Improving Your Flexibility, Endurance and Strength

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    Become flexible. A key aspect of rhythmic gymnastics is flexibility. Very early on you will begin to improve your flexibility, most likely even before you begin apparatus training. Practicing at home will also help. Many gyms have home requirements for days without practice. Aim to learn to do all the stretches below:
  2. Image titled Flexbleeee.png
    Improve flexibility. You thought just doing a split would be enough? Think again. You need to be very flexible for rhythmic gymnastics. Try the following to improve flexibility:
    • Get oversplits on all legs.
    • Grab your ankles with your hands in a bridge.
    • Try to straighten your legs in a chest stand.
    • Get a needle with and oversplit.
    • Point your toes to the ground with straight legs.
  3. Image titled Runny!.png
    Improve endurance. Rhythmic gymnasts compete from 1:15 individually to 2:30 in a group. While that may sound like a short time, you are constantly moving quickly and endurance training will help. Here are some ideas to assist with endurance:
    • Run a mile.
    • Do a routine directly after a run.
    • Consult your coach.
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    Improve strength. Rhythmic gymnastics requires incredible strength, though to the untrained eye it may no seem so.
  5. Image titled Extension.png
    Become one with your apparatus. You should feel completely at home with your apparatus. Try to make it look natural that you are tossing apparatus into the air. The best rhythmic gymnasts make the apparatus look like an extension of their body.

Part 4
Staying Safe and Healthy

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    Eat healthy. Needing to be as physically fit as possible, almost all serious competitors are put on strict diets. While there is nothing wrong with being a diet, its is important to make sure that there is still enough protein, calcium, carbohydrates, and yes, even fats in the diet. The diet of an athlete should be about cutting out unhealthy food, not food all together.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables should always be included in a meal to provide the body with essential minerals and vitamins.
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    • Eat foods high in calcium. Calcium is good for your bones and teeth as well as essential to the workings of your nervous system, muscle contractions, and blood vessel expansion. [14] Foods high in calcium include dairy products, leafy green veggies and beans.
      Image titled Dairy.png
    • Eat enough carbs. Sure, carbs get a bad rap, but carbs provide the energy a gymnast needs to perform her best.
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    • Eat enough protein. Protein helps strengthen and rebuild the muscles. Eating 3 to 4 ounce of lean meat after training is ideal for lean muscle building.
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    • Eat enough fat. Consuming a small amount of fat can help improve endurance. Gymnast or not, everyone should avoid saturated fats. Non-saturated fats can be found in fish, nuts and olive oil.
      Image titled Fish.png
  2. Image titled Eating disorder.png
    Avoid eating disorders. There is a lot of controversy over the fact that many rhythmic gymnasts do not maintain a healthy diet. Many gymnasts are too thin and don't practice healthy eating habits.[15] Unlike artistic gymnastics, where the ideal build is short, muscular and compact, rhythmic gymnasts aim to be tall and lean. If a gymnast wants to win, not only do they have to perform technically perfect, but they have to look good doing it. This can lead to anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders because the pressure to have the 'perfect' body is so high in rhythmic gymnastics.
  3. Image titled Listen.png
    Listen to your body. Only you know what your limit is. Rhythmic gymnastics, like artistic gymnastics, is very stressful the body and if care is not taken, serious injuries can occur. While you may desperately want to train and improve, ignoring pain can actually worsen your skill level.[16] Ignoring injuries can result in more serious conditions that may lead to having to take more time out of the gym.

Part 5
Improving Technical Elements

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    Improve masteries. A mastery is a "technical element performed without the help of hands or with a roll on the body, which in addition uses a change of direction, level or a change of body in space, with or without loss of visual contact." [17] Simply put, it is an element in which the apparatus is manipulated while doing another skill such as a back walkover. Masteries can include a toss of the apparatus. Body coordination, balance, spacial awareness, and of course, skill with the apparatus can all help improve masteries. Examples of masteries are detailed below:
    • Rotating the hoop around the ankle while doing a back walkover.
    • Throwing the ball, then catching it with knees while sitting.
    • Placing the clubs on one foot, then doing a back illusion to pick them up.
    • Tossing both clubs with rotations, then catching the clubs with one hand.
    • Boomerang tosses with the ribbon (throw the ribbon stick out then pull back on the ribbon to bring it back)
    • Doing a full stag leap while jumping over the rope.
  2. Image titled AHHH its a risk.png
    Improve risks. A risk is a mastery with loss of visual contact with the apparatus. This just means that it has to be a blind catch or ending. A risk without a throw "Always a rolling of the apparatus on the body during a body rotation around the horizontal axis, with loss of visual contact with the apparatus,"[18] while a risk with a throw must have at least a total of two "rotation of the body on the vertical or horizontal axis, with or without passing on the floor," during the toss and "loss of visual contact with the apparatus during of an element with body rotation on the horizontal axis," during the catch. [19] With risks come a higher difficulty than masteries. Examples of risks are detailed below:
    • Toss of the apparatus, forward roll(s)
    • Toss, Illusion forward and catch at the end of a roll forward on the floor without hands
    • Rolling the ball from the tip of the hands down the spine with a catch at the end
    • Boomerang roll of the hoop up the legs of a back walkover
    • Toss, three pas chaîné turns to catch

Part 6
Improving Dance Elements

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    Improve leaps and jumps. Jumps and leaps are a crucial part of rhythmic gymnastics. The difference between a leap and a jump is while a jump starts and lands on two feet, a leap takes off of one foot and lands on the other. With this display of flexibility along with the look and feeling of weightlessness, rhythmic gymnasts spend much of their time on these elements. Some types of jumps and leaps to master are:
    • Split Leap, also known as a Grand Jete in ballet and a split jump (jump with a split at the height)
    • Sissone (a split jump landing like a leap)
    • Switch Split (the gymnast scissors her legs before ending in a split leap)
    • Stag Leap (the front, back, or both legs are bent) and stag jump
    • Wolf Leap (One leg is pulled up in a tuck position while the other is straight, landing on the leg which was tucked) and wolf jump
    • Side leap, also known as a straddle leap and straddle jump.
    • Leaps with twists (such as switch half or wolf full, which are leaps where a turn is added while in the air) or jumps with twists
    • Cat Leap
    • Ring leap (the gymnast kicks her back leg close to her head. Can be performed with or without a switch.) and ring jump (A.K.A phoenix)
    • Donut or sheep jump (the gymnast touches her head with both feet)
  2. Image titled Turns.png
    Improve turns. Along with leaps, turns are something that rhythmic gymnasts focus on. Turns often include more than one rotation. Improving ankle strength to avoid sickling, and improving balance will help when learning turns and pirouettes. Some turns to aim to learn are:
    • Fouettés (often done en tournant or a la second)
    • Pirouettes (Usually in passé, with leg upright (in front or behind), with an arabesque or at attitude)
    • Double or Triple Pirouettes
    • Cossack turns (also known as squat or cat turn.)
    • Front scale turns (top half of body is held parallel to the ground)
    • Ring turn (a turn in a needle or scorpion position)
    • Penche turn (scale turn with a full or oversplit)
    • Front and back illusions.
  3. Image titled Balance with ball.png
    Improve balances. A balance is "a fixed and well-defined shape.. performed on the toes or on one knee," meaning that they simply must be a pose en relevé. Most of the dazzling flexibility the rhythmic gymnasts display is through balances. All balances must:
    •  Be performed on the toes or on one knee;[20]
    • Be maintained long enough in order to be clearly visible[21]
    •  Have a fixed and well-defined shape, without moving the free leg or the support leg during the difficulty;[22]
    •  Be connected with a Mastery element of the apparatus[23]


  • Practice at home. Unlike artistic gymnastics, many of the elements can be done safely at home.


  • As with any sport, there is a risk of injury.
  • Do not force yourself into any stretch.

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