Gymnastics classes progress through skills in a logical way, building on the basics as strength, endurance and flexibility improve. Skill progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced classes is clearly defined for each event, including floor, beam, bars and vault. Fitness and flexibility goals may also play a key role in skill progression for young gymnasts.
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Floor exercises are performed on a 40-by-40-foot spring-mounted floor. Floor routines include tumbling, jumps and rhythmic dance elements. Beginners work on forward and backward rolls, cartwheels and roundoffs. Intermediate students practice bridge kickovers, handstands, handstand rolls and master the back handspring -- a skill in which the gymnast jumps backward off of two feet, places her hands on the floor and returns to a standing position -- before moving on to more advanced skills. Advanced gymnasts combine elements, adding height, twists and intricacy to dive rolls, tucks and layouts. These last two skills require the gymnast to jump off of two feet, flip completely over in the air and return to a standing position without touching the ground with her hands.
The balance beam is a 4-inch wide wooden beam. Gymnasts turn, leap and even tumble on the beam. Beginning gymnasts learn to mount and dismount from the beam, turn and do simple, straight jumps. Intermediate students practice more complex jumps and learn to do a cartwheel to a side handstand on the beam. More complex tumbling adds to the difficulty of beam routines for advanced gymnasts.
Uneven bars are a high-flying apparatus, requiring the gymnast to flip and rotate over and between two bars. Beginners work on the low bar, learning to do a pullover and back hip circle, in which the gymnast rotates around the bar with her hips nearly touching it. As students advance, they perfect these skills and learn front hip circles. Work on both bars begins for intermediate students. Once gymnasts reach an advanced level, they work evenly between both bars, transferring their weight from bar to bar with complicated flips, releases and turns.
In the vault, the gymnast runs toward a padded horse, then lifts herself using the momentum from her run to propel her into a series of twists and flips. Students new to gymnastics will begin to learn vault skills without the actual vault, practicing running, hurdling and doing forward rolls onto stacked mats. As students progress, they continue to learn these skills without doing vaults, using stacked mats to practice handstands and falling straight back to learn positioning. Vaulting, using the apparatus, is reserved for advanced gymnasts.