Sports & Games

6 Gymnastics Vault Exercises: How to Do Gymnastics Vault Moves

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 15, 2019 • 5 min read

In men’s and women’s competitive gymnastics, vaulting is one of the events that make up a broader sport known as artistic gymnastics. Artistic gymnastics comprises the events that most people associate with the overall sport of 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. Vaulting is one of two events, along with the floor exercise, that is performed by both male gymnasts and female gymnasts in Olympic competition.

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What Is the Vault in Artistic Gymnastics?

The gymnastics vault involves feats of skill that begin with a running start, a jump off a springboard, and the use of a stationary device called a vault or a vaulting horse. Along with the floor exercise, balance beam, and uneven bars, the vault is one of the events that comprise women’s artistic gymnastics.

Famous vaulters include the Russian female gymnasts Svetlana Khorkina, Yelena Produnova, and Oksana Chusovitina, who has competed under three nation’s flags (the ex-Soviet Unified Team in the 1992 Olympics, Germany in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and Uzbekistan in the 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2016 Olympics).

How Do You Do a Vault in Gymnastics?

A gymnastics vault routine contains four components:

  1. A running start
  2. A leap off a springboard
  3. An athletic maneuver involving a vaulting horse
  4. A landing

The event involves different body positions, including tucked, piked, and stretched. Vaulters are judged on proper body alignment, form, repulsion, height and distance traveled during the flight phase, saltos, and twists. Lastly, gymnasts should "stick" their dismount, which means landing in place without needing steps to steady themselves.

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6 Common Vault Moves

Compared to the floor exercise and the balance beam, the vault showcases fewer overall gymnastics maneuvers. Nonetheless, the vault remains a critical component in determining a gymnast’s overall score in the sport of women’s artistic gymnastics. Here are some key vault moves:

  1. Front handspring: much like the front handspring on the floor and beam, a vault handspring involves a forward flip. A handspring on vault involves a running leap, a flip into handstand position on the vault, and then a push-off to complete the flip and land on your feet. Handsprings frequently feature one-and-one-half twists.
  2. Yurchenko: Named for the gymnast Natalia Yurchenko this move combines a roundoff onto a springboard, a back handspring from the springboard onto the vault, and a backflip off the vault onto the floor. Yurchenkos frequently feature two or more twists. Learn about the Yurchenko here.
  3. Amanar: This maneuver is a variant on a Yurchenko. An Amanar starts with a roundoff onto the springboard, followed by a back handspring onto the vaulting platform, and then two-and-a-half twists into a layout back salto off the table and into a landing. In men’s gymnastics, an Amanar is sometimes referred to as a Shewfelt. (Both Amanar and Shewfelt are last names of prominent gymnasts known for performing this maneuver.)
  4. Tsukahara: Named for the gymnast Mitsuo Tsukahara, this move combines a half turn onto the vault with a backflip. This move is sometimes called colloquially a moon somersault or a moon salto. Tsukaharas frequently feature twists.
  5. Produnova: Named for the gymnast Yelena Produnova, this maneuver is sometimes referred to as the “vault of death.” It combines a front handspring onto the vaulting horse with two tucked front somersaults off of it.
  6. Chusovitina: Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina has two vaulting maneuvers named after her—both are derived from the Tsukahara. The first begins with a handspring forward onto the table, followed by a piked salto forward with full twist off. The second Chusovitina (which is sometimes known as a Rudi, named for another gymnast) features a handspring forward onto the table and a straight salto forward with one-and-a-half twists off.

All vaulting maneuvers are preceded by a running leap off a springboard and a solid, confident landing on two feet once the maneuver is completed.

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How Do You Score Vault in Gymnastics?

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In artistic gymnastics, which includes the vault, 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 her 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 his or her 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.

What Is the Compulsory Score and the Optional 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). The optional score in competitive gymnastics is based upon routines that the gymnast designs to showcase his or her own strengths.

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