Sports & Games

14 Gymnastics Floor Moves, Explained

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 15, 2019 • 5 min read

In men’s and women’s competitive gymnastics, the floor exercise is one of the events that make up a broader sport known as artistic gymnastics. Through various acrobatic events—including floor exercise, balance beam, uneven bars, parallel bars, high beam, vault, rings, and pommel horse—artistic gymnastics propels athletes through feats of strength, agility, and grace. The floor exercise is one of two events, along with vaulting, that is performed by both male gymnasts and female gymnasts in Olympic competition.



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What Is the Gymnastics Floor Exercise?

The floor exercise is one of the events that comprise a total artistic gymnastics program. In women’s competition, the other events are balance beam, uneven bars, and the vault. In men’s competition, the other events are parallel bars, pommel horse, still rings, and the vault.

A floor exercise is set to music and involves gymnasts performing a series of tumbling and athletic feats interspersed with dance choreography. Judges look for versatile use of floor space, changes in the direction and level of movement, theatrics, dance elements, command of music, and height and distance of jumping and tumbling maneuvers. The floor routine lasts no more than 90 seconds and must cover the entire floor area. Judges require a minimum number leaps and turns in all floor routines.

The apparatus for floor exercise is a performance area measuring 1,200 centimeters x 1,200 centimeters (± 3 centimeters). Some gymnastics floors have springs to enable higher jumps; some do not. A spring floor is common in most competitive circumstances.

14 Different Floor Exercise Moves

The floor exercise showcases the widest array of moves in both men’s and women’s gymnastics. Some highlights of the floor routine include:

  1. Back handspring: a key tumbling move involving a backward flip into a handstand position, and then a forward flip back to your original standing position. Learn more about the back handspring in our guide here.
  2. Front handspring: the same as a back handspring, only the gymnast starts by running, and moves forward instead of backward. Learn more about the front handspring in our guide, including front handspring drills, here.
  3. Front walkover: Similar to a front handspring, but in a front walkover, the gymnast’s legs move one after the other, resulting in a smooth, fluid motion. Learn more about the front walkover here.
  4. Back walkover: the reverse of a front walkover where once again the gymnast’s legs fluidly move one after the other.
  5. Somersault: also known as a front somersault or forward somersault, this involves a forward flip along the floor with knees either tucked or in pike position.
  6. Backward somersault: the reverse of a somersault, with tucked knees and a backward flip along the floor.
  7. Cartwheel: a sideways rotation of the body where a gymnast begins in a standing position, rotates sideways with hands on the floor and legs in a split position, and continues rotating until once again in standing position.
  8. Roundoff: a cartwheel-style maneuver that involves a half-rotation, a brief pause in a handstand position, and a return to the original standing position.
  9. Aerial cartwheel: also known as a side aerial or just an aerial, this involves a cartwheel performed in midair, where hands do not touch the ground.
  10. Aerial walkover: also known as a front aerial, it is similar to an aerial cartwheel in that the gymnast performs a complete revolution without touching the ground. Unlike a cartwheel an aerial walkover involves a forward tumble, not a sideways one.
  11. Straight jump: A forward jump where the gymnast keeps straight legs during flight and when landing.
  12. Scissors leap: Also called a switch leap, this is a forward leap where the legs move in a scissors-style motion.
  13. Split leap: A running forward leap where the gymnast passes through split position while airborne.
  14. Cross handstand: A variant on a handstand where the hands are planted close together on the ground.
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How to Score Gymnastics Floor Exercises

In artistic gymnastics, which includes the floor exercise, gymnasts are judged by the Code of Points, a rule book issued by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) that outlines the point values of various skills in international competition.

A gymnast’s final score is calculated from a start value, where the gymnast begins with the highest possible score and then has points deducted for elements that may have been lacking in their routine. A technical committee of judges determines these deductions.

In the past, FIG’s scores used to have a maximum value of 10—you’ve probably heard the expression “a perfect 10.” But in 2006, FIG altered its system to factor the difficulty of skills and routines into its scores. These days, the total score for a gymnast’s routine is actually the sum of two scores: the Difficulty Score (D) and the Execution Score (E).

  • The Difficulty Score reflects the total difficulty value (DV) of skills plus the connection value (CV) and compositional requirements (CR). Two judges make up the D Panel. Each judge independently determines their Difficulty Score, and then the two judges must come to a consensus.
  • The Execution Score rates the performance in terms of execution and artistry. The Execution Score is determined by six judges on the E Panel. The score begins at 10, and deductions for errors in execution, technique, or artistry are subtracted from this baseline. Judges separately determine their scores for a routine, the highest and lowest scores are dropped, and the average of the remaining four scores becomes the final Execution Score.

When you’re creating and executing a routine, familiarize yourself with the Code of Points that relates to your level of competition and the organization within which you’re competing. That way, you can make sure your routine is designed to achieve maximum points for your skill range and that you hit all the requirements.


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What Is the Compulsory Score in Gymnastics?

The compulsory score in gymnastics is based on the performance of a specific routine that all amateur gymnasts must learn to be judged against one another. Compulsory routines vary depending on what official level a gymnast is competing at. These levels range in difficulty from Level 1 (the simplest) through Level 5 (the most challenging).

What Is the Optional Score in Gymnastics?

The optional score in competitive gymnastics is based upon routines that the gymnast designs to showcase his or her own strengths. In a gymnast’s optional floor exercise routine, the choice of music and choreography lets a competitor’s personality shine through.

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