Floor exercises: history, equipment and performance features

Floor exercises

In the article “Floor exercises” we will tell you about one of the types of gymnastic competition. You will get acquainted with the history of gymnastics, with the peculiarities of the performance.

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Sports gymnastics is not an easy sport because it requires the highest level of mastery of the body from the athlete. In gymnastics there are hundreds of exercises with and without apparatuses, because not without reason the word “gymnastics” comes from the ancient Greek “gymnazo”, which means to train, to exercise.

In Ancient Greece this sport was in special esteem because the training of the ancient Olympians was unthinkable without gymnastic exercises. In Europe, the first competitions began to be held only in the 19th century. Russia did not lag behind in this beautiful sport.

In 1885 in Moscow the first gymnastic tournaments were held. As for Olympic history, gymnastics was included in the first modern games, which took place in Athens in 1896.

In 1936, the Olympic gymnastics program took on a modern form, the hexathlon for men and the quadrathlon for women. The modern gymnastics all-around includes competitions on apparatus, floor exercises and vaulting. Medals are also awarded separately in each gymnastics event.

Larisa Latynina
Larisa Latynina

Only an athlete who has managed to win medals in several competitions becomes an absolute Olympic champion. This award is the pinnacle of any gymnast’s sporting career.

The Soviet athlete Larisa Latynina, the absolute champion of the Olympic Games in 1956 and 1960s, rose to an unreachable height in this sport. Her collection includes 18 medals, 9 of them gold. No gymnast has ever managed to repeat her record.

Domestic gymnastics school is rightly considered the strongest in the world. Today the names of Russian athletes decorate the table of world records. Among them is Alexei Nemov, the 4th Olympic champion.

In 2000 he managed to become the undisputed champion and win 6 medals (2 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze). Among the numerous victories of Alexey there are two world champion titles just in floor exercises. We will write about these exercises in detail.

The gymnasts perform the floor exercise without using any apparatus. The athlete has at his/her disposal an elastic square platform (mat) 12 by 12 meters with an additional safety curb 1 meter wide. On this platform, the athlete must demonstrate all his/her capabilities.

Platform in gymnastics
Platform in gymnastics

The carpet covering the platform must be elastic to ensure athletes have a soft landing. It should not be stepped over during the performance, otherwise the scores will be reduced. The platform itself consists of a shock-absorbing element, which is covered with chipboard.

Then, on the particle board is laid a gymnastic mat and 3 layers of foam connected to the mat as a whole. It is very important that the covering of the mat is natural, because synthetic can burn the athlete in a fall.

So what do freestyle exercises look like? These are combinations of elements of varying complexity, a variety of somersaults, somersaults, splits, handstands, etc. The transition from one element to another is done with the help of ligatures, which can have a different tempo.

Composition of the gymnastics platform
Composition of the gymnastics platform

There is a reason we wrote about the size of the platform, because the athlete should use the area of the mat as much as possible during the performances. Acrobatic ties, series of jumps, somersaults from one side of the mat to the other diagonally are a mandatory element of freestyle exercises.

Thus, the more distance an athlete can use, the more elements he can use in a bunch. Sometimes it is possible to observe at the competitions that the athletes finish their bindings against the edge of the platform.

All the somersaults are practiced on the acrobatic track. It’s a sort of rubberized trampoline of 18 meters in length. It’s easier to push off and gain speed.

Acrobatic track
Acrobatic track

The men’s gymnastics performance lasts 1 minute and 10 seconds and the women’s 1.5 minutes, and the difference is not only in the timing of the program. The women’s floor exercise is accompanied by musical accompaniment, and the performance itself includes dance steps, almost like in rhythmic gymnastics.

Strict judges evaluate the complexity of elements and the program as a whole, as well as the purity and accuracy of the execution. In addition to technique in this sport means a lot in originality and artistry of athletes, especially in women. That is why not only the head coach, but also the choreographer prepares the women’s performances.

The Women’s Gymnastics Program includes choreography and acrobatics, and it is very important to choose the right music to accompany the performance. The choreographer must divide the selected music into bars, time intervals, and think about what will fill each part, i.e. select the elements of the program.

Once the choreographer has created the program, the training begins. They require a huge effort and dedication of the athlete and her coach, all for us to see the 1.5-minute performance.

Only 90 seconds, but a lot of work went into it. Each combination, or rather, each movement is carefully thought out. It seems to the viewer, from the outside, that the athlete performs an easy and graceful dance, and everything happens by itself. But if you look at the performance in detail, you can see how acrobatic jumps of varying difficulty are alternated and how they are combined with other elements.

In addition to the complex acrobatic elements, the performance includes movements from folk, classical and ballroom dances. It depends on the music that the coach and choreographer have chosen for the program.

Flips in gymnastics
Flips in gymnastics

The men’s and women’s programs are slightly different. The men’s program has more acrobatics, however, both perform various somersaults, somersaults, jumps and hops. All elements of the floor exercise are divided into difficulty groups, which are marked with a letter code from “A” to “I”.

A polished calculation, built on the knowledge of mechanics, will always help to predict in advance whether one or another element is feasible in principle and how it should be performed. As an example of an element that uses the capabilities of the human body, the backflip can be mentioned. This is the most spectacular element in floor exercises.

The somersault is taught in sports clubs. Of course, it cannot be performed on the first day, but the earlier you start training, the faster will be the result.

Coaches say that the best period for gymnastics is from the age of 4 years. Of course, first children undergo general training and master the simplest elements, because it is important for a gymnast to have a good physical shape, to develop strength, endurance and coordination.

Ability to assess the professional coach, but even if your future does not promise you an Olympic medal, it’s not a reason to give up on gymnastics. After all, you can practice for yourself to be strong, agile and fast. Maybe even to surprise your friends with a somersault or a series of somersaults.

About floor exercises


Floor exercise - a type of competition in gymnastics, in which athletes perform acrobatic combinations in combination with gymnastic elements of varying difficulty on a special square platform.

The most difficult element in the floor exercise is the "Nagorny element," named after the Russian gymnast Nikita Nagorny. The ultraright element, the triple backflip bent, was first demonstrated at the European Championships in 2021.

In women's exercises, in addition to acrobatics and gymnastics elements, the performance includes movements from folk, classical and ballroom dances, which historically were accompanied by piano music. Men in floor exercises demonstrate their strength and power, and women in addition to this also grace and self-control.

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