Sports & Games

What Is a Gymnastics Floor Routine? Simone Biles’s Guide to the Floor Event, Plus How to Perform Basic and Advanced Floor Drills

Written by MasterClass

Sep 4, 2019 • 7 min read

The gymnastics floor is where much of the drama plays out during a high-stakes competition, like the Olympics. The floor is where many gymnasts get to combine their skill, athleticism, and their personality. Learn more about the gymnastics floor event and practice your floor routine by following Simone Biles’s drills, which will help you improve your performance.

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What Is the Floor in Gymnastics?

The floor in gymnastics is both an apparatus (a piece of gymnastics equipment) and a main event in both men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics.

  • Following official Olympic order, the floor is the final main event in women’s gymnastics—preceded by the vault, uneven bars, and balance beam.
  • For men’s artistic gymnastics, floor is the first event—followed by pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar.

The gymnastics floor apparatus itself is a spring floor, meaning it absorbs shocks. The floor has a specifically-designated performance area, the measurements of which are dictated by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique.

  • The performance area is square at 1,200 cm (39 ft) x 1,200 cm (39 ft).

How Is the Floor Event Performed?

For many gymnasts, the floor event allows for the most personal expression. A typical routine is choreographed and performed to music and should last no more than 90 seconds. It must cover the entire span of the floor and include a number of required movements, like leaps and turns. Most gymnasts have four tumbling passes, which demands power and stamina.

According to the code of points, a floor routine must contain:

  • Double saltos
  • A salto with at least one full twist
  • A forward or sideways salto and a backward salto
  • Two dance elements, one of which is a 180 degree split

What Are Some Floor Exercises?

Both elite and junior gymnasts master complex skills by drilling the same movements over and over again until they are committed to “muscle memory.”

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles became the first woman to ever perform a triple-double in their floor routine, meaning she did a double flip and three twists in the air. Simone was able to do this through her precise training regimen and repetitive drills.

Basic Floor Drill 1: Back Extension Roll Half Pirouette Drill

This drill for the floor teaches you how to initiate your pirouette by leading with your toes and not your belly.

  1. With straight arms, do a backward extension roll through candlestick up to a handstand.
  2. Before you reach handstand, post on your dominant arm, and do a half pirouette (called a blind change), ending in a controlled handstand.
  3. Roll out through candlestick to standing.

Basic Floor Drill 2: Back Extension Roll Full Pirouette Drill

Once you’ve tried the drill above, add on another half turn to achieve a full pirouette. This time, step down from the handstand instead of rolling out of it.

Basic Floor Drill 3: Cartwheel Wall Drill

Mark a line on the floor with chalk or tape to help keep your movement in one straight line.

  1. Reach your arms up by your ears.
  2. Step through mountain climber lunge.
  3. Move your hands into cartwheel placement one hand at a time.
  4. Kick up to side handstand with your legs in a straddle position and your feet on the wall. Your hips should be flat and your belly should be facing the wall.
  5. Look under your armpit in the direction you’re going.
  6. Turn your hips square to the wall.
  7. Step down to complete your cartwheel, moving through lever (pictured), with arms up by your ears.
  8. Finish with your hips square and one foot in front of the other.

Basic Floor Drill 4: Knee Floor Cartwheel Drill

After you’ve practiced the drill above against the wall, try it on the floor away from the wall.

  1. Mark a line on the floor with chalk or tape to help keep your movement in one straight line.
  2. Begin in a half-kneeling position: One leg is at a 90-degree angle while the knee of your other leg is on the floor.
  3. Reach your arms up by your ears with your shoulders shrugged.
  4. Move your hands into cartwheel placement one hand at a time.
  5. Kick up to side handstand with your hips flat.
  6. Look under your armpit in the direction you’re
  7. going and turn your hips square in the same direction.
  8. Return to standing with your hips square and your arms by your ears.

Basic Floor Drill 5: Tunnel Drill

Make a passageway by propping or stacking panel mats or eight-inchers. It should be wide enough for you to walk through.

  1. First, try a cartwheel starting from one knee.
  2. Then try it from standing.

Basic Floor Drill 6: Knee Floor Roundoff Drill

Make a line on the floor with chalk or tape to help keep your movement in one straight line.

  1. Begin on one knee with your arms up by your ears.
  2. Place your hands on the line, then kick into your roundoff.
  3. Snap your head to look under your armpit.
  4. Make sure your hips are flat overhead.
  5. Push off of your hands, and bring your feet to the ground together.
  6. Stand up out of the roundoff and bring both arms up at the same time.

Basic Floor Drill 7: Standing Roundoff Wall Drill With Snap

Start facing the wall with your knee lifted. Your arms are up and shoulders shrugged.

  1. Step through mountain climber lunge.
  2. Kick up into a side handstand: First, put one hand down in front of you. Next, place your other hand at a 90-degree angle to the first. Your shoulders, wrist, and torso should be toward the wall.
  3. Your legs will follow. Flex the foot of the leg that’s closest to the wall, and allow the toes to rest against the wall. Keep the other leg vertical in the air.
  4. Practice snapping your entire body into a vertical position all at once.
  5. Step down.
  6. Repeat 10 times.

Basic Floor Drill 8: Cat Back Block Drill

This exercise helps you with the second half of a roundoff.

  1. Place a panel mat on the ground.
  2. Kneel on the floor, and place your hands in front of you on the panel mat.
  3. Round your back like a cat.
  4. Push off your hands all the way through your fingers to practice your block.
  5. Maintain that rounded position in your back and cover your ears with your arms.
  6. Return to your original position.

Basic Floor Drill 9: Back Handspring Drill 1

Position stacked panel mats parallel to one another—the number of mats you need will vary depending on the height of the gymnast. Make sure there’s enough space between the mats so you’ll be able to stand.

  1. Place another set of stacked panel mats at one end, connecting the parallel mats and creating a U-shape. Place a circular mat on top of the two parallel mats, like a bridge.
  2. Sit in chair pose with your back to the circular mat.
  3. Jump up and back, emphasizing turning over your hips.
  4. Place your hands down on the other side of the mat.
  5. Pike your legs down with straight knees. Bring your hands up to finish.

Basic Floor Drill 10: Back Handspring Wedge Mat Drill

This exercise will help you with the first part of a back handspring. Be sure to use a spot when trying this drill for the first time.

  1. With your back facing the wedge, sit into your normal chair position.
  2. Jump up and back, turning your hips over. Instead of completing the back handspring, pause once your hands touch the ground and your hips are extended.
  3. Roll out.

Basic Floor Drill 11: Back Handspring Eight-inch Mat Drill

Place an eight-inch mat on the floor.

  1. Stand on the mat, and sit in chair pose.
  2. Jump up and back, turning over your hips.
  3. Pass through the hand stand. Extend through your shoulders.
  4. Land in a tight, hollow-body position.

Advanced Floor Drill 1: Panel Mat Scoop Through Drill

Place a folded panel mat lengthwise in front of you.

  1. Position a whale mat behind the panel mat. Leave enough room between the mats to complete the skill.
  2. Make a line with chalk or tape on the panel mat.
  3. Stand in front of the panel mat.
  4. Lift one knee, and raise your arms alongside your ears.
  5. Using the same techniques you worked on in prior drills, step onto the panel mat and kick into your roundoff.
  6. Push off of your arms with enough power to scoop your feet under you and land on the whale mat in a rounded position.

Want to Become a Better Athlete?

Whether you’re just starting out on the floor or dreaming big about going professional, gymnastics is as challenging as it is rewarding. At 22, Simone Biles is already a gymnastics legend. With 14 medals, including 10 gold, Simone is the most decorated World Championship American gymnast of all time. In her MasterClass on gymnastics fundamentals, Simone breaks down her techniques for the vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. Learn how to perform under pressure, practice like a champion, and claim your competitive edge.

Want to become a better athlete? From training regimens to mental preparedness, learn everything you need to enhance your athletic abilities with the MasterClass All-Access Pass. Gain exclusive access to video lessons taught by world champions, including Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, World No. 1-ranking tennis player Serena Williams, and six-time NBA All-Star Stephen Curry.

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