Whether a gymnast plans to eventually compete on a team or wants only to participate in the sport recreationally, all gymnasts in the USA Gymnastics program must master the required skills in Level 1 before advancing to the next level. Girls learn the floor, beam, vault and bars and might practice on a trampoline, but trampoline is not a recognized event in artistic gymnastics. USA Gymnastics is the sport's governing body in the United States.
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In Level 1, a gymnast learns forward and backward tucked rolls, cartwheels and bridges. She must master the candlestick, which requires resting on the back of her shoulders, her legs together, feet pointed to the ceiling. Also required are leg swings, tuck jumps -- bring the knees to the chest -- and coupe walks. In coupe walks, a gymnast walks on her toes, bringing the toes of one foot to the ankle of the opposite foot.
In Level 1, a gymnast learns to mount the beam by jumping to a front support with the beam at her hips, and to dismount with a stretch jump, meaning she stretches her body up as she jumps with her arms above her head. A gymnast also learns the tuck sit, with her knees at her chest. She practices the coupe walks and candlestick on the beam, as well as releve walks, which are simply walking on the toes with the arms outstretched above the head. Finally, she must hold an arabesque, also known as a scale, by standing on one foot while leaning forward, extending the other leg behind her and outstretching her arms at her sides.
Vault and Bars
In Level 1, a gymnast doesn’t actually use the vaulting table. Instead, she simply does a straight jump onto a mat that is at least 8 inches high. On the bars, she performs a pullover -- pulling her legs completely around the bar. In the Level 1 cast, she begins in a front support with her hips at the bar and pushes her hips off the bar, driving her legs behind her. In the back hip circle, she begins with a cast and then returns to the bar, and rolls her body backward around the bar. The final progression is pushing off a cast as a way to dismount. USA Gymnastics allows a minimal spot, or assistance, on some Level 1 bar skills.
USA Gymnastics adjusts its level skill requirements from time to time, but Level 1 skills generally stay the same. The skills listed are current as of September 2011. Some gyms do not start their youngest gymnasts at Level 1. Instead, gymnasts at the preschool and kindergarten ages often start in classes that teach basic form and body positions. If a gymnast learns these fundamentals, she can begin Level 1 at age 4. In the men’s program, boys begin on all six events at Level 1, practicing rolls, bridges, cartwheels, handstands and headstands on the floor, and the equivalent skills on the vault, rings, parallel bars, horse and horizontal bar.