The look of most gymnastics equipment has remained constant through the years; however, numerous equipment modifications have been made over the years to increase the safety for athletes. Overall, though, the competition floor looks the same has it did in the past.
The equipment is listed in alphabetical order, men and women apparatus combined:
Balance Beam (BB) - Women’s (WAG)
The balance beam is an aluminum frame covered by rubberized foam cushioning to provide shock absorption for the ankles and wrists; a synthetic suede top surface allows for greater moisture absorption, better grip, and a non-slip performance. The beam measures 5 m long, and only 10 cm wide. In competition, the height of the beam is set at 125 cm.
Beam routines include combinations of turns, jumps and leaps, tumbling, acrobatic and dance elements, followed by a dismount. The routine is not to exceed 90 seconds, and a fall from the beam is an automatic deduction of 1.0 points, with 10 seconds to remount.
Floor Exercise (FX) – Men’s (MAG) & WAG
The majority of competitive gymnastics floors are now spring floors; they contain springs and/or a rubber foam and plywood combination. This composition makes the floor bouncy, softens the impact of landings, and enables gymnasts to maximize height during tumbling. The performance space of the apparatus measures 12 metres by 12 metres, with a diagonal pass of approximately 17 metres. In addition, the out-of-bounds area is indicated by a border of white tape or mats of a different colour.
Dance and tumbling elements, combined with creative choreography, make the floor exercise one of the most popular gymnastics events. Both the men’s and women’s routines have required elements. The men’s routines can be up to 70 seconds and are done without music, while the women’s routines can be up to 90 seconds and are performed to music.
Horizontal (High) Bar (HB) - MAG
The high bar rail is 240 cm wide and is set at a height of 260 cm from the mat. The bar is typically made of steel and is held rigidly in place by a system or cables and stiff vertical supports.
Routines on the high bar involve a series of swings with various grips, “in bar” work, turns, release and regrasp skills, and a dismount. It is a very dynamic event, often regarded as the most exciting gymnastics event due to the spectacular nature of the aerial release moves and powerful swings.
Parallel Bars (PB) - MAG
The apparatus consists of two parallel bars that are held in place by a metal support framework. The bars are made of a fiberglass core with a wood veneer covering; they are 3.5 metres long and are held 2 metres above the floor. The gymnasts adjust the width between the two bars according to their body size.
A parallel bars routine consists of swinging, flight, and strength elements. Top level routines will consist mainly of swing and flight elements, with no more than three stops permitted throughout the exercise. Gymnasts must travel the full length of the apparatus, and must work both on top of below the bars.
Pommel Horse (PH) -MAG
The pommel horse is an apparatus with intense strength requirements. Modern pommel horses have a metal body that is covered with foam rubber and leather, and have plastic handles (pommels).
The height of the top surface of the apparatus from the floor is 115 cm. The top surface is 160 cm long, and 35 cm wide; the height of the pommels from the horse is 12 cm, and the distance between the pommels is 40 cm.
Still Rings (SR) -MAG
The ring tower has spring-loaded swivels combined with built-in shock absorbers to help reduce the jolt and stress on the athlete’s shoulders and back. The rings are suspended by non-stretch nylon straps and plastic encased cables. They are suspended at a height of 260 cm from the mat below.
A routine on the rings will contain a combination of swing, strength, and hold elements, all while controlling the movement of the rings. A high, clean, and controlled dismount finishes off the routine. One of the most demanding of the men’s events, this apparatus is a sheer test of strength, power, and muscular endurance
Uneven Bars (UB )- WAG
The rails of the uneven bars are made of fiberglass with a wood veneer covering. They are held parallel to each other (and the floor) by a system of cables and steel vertical supports; the upper bar measures 241 cm from the floor, and the lower bar 161 cm from the floor. Athletes may adjust the width between the two bars to a maximum of 180 cm.
Uneven bar routines should be continuous, with elements flowing from one into another. They include swinging, turns, flight elements, and a dismount. A fall from the bars results in an automatic deduction of 1.0 points, with 30 seconds to remount.
Vault (VT) - MAG & WAG
The vault table for both men and women measures 120 cm in length and 90 cm in width; the height is set at 135 cm for the men, and 125 cm for the women. The runway is 1 metre wide, and a maximum of 25 metres long. The stiffness of the springboard that precedes the vault used to be adjusted by changing the springs. This practice is no longer authorized in competition, so organizers provide 3 boards for athletes: a soft, a medium, and a hard board.
Gymnasts may either run directly onto the board to do their vault (forward entry) or do a roundoff on the floor to land on the board facing away from the vault (Yurchenko entry vault). When an athlete performs a Yurchenko entry vault, the use of a collar around the board is mandatory for safety reasons.
In January 2001, the FIG launched a new era in vaulting with the introduction of the new vaulting table. Until that time, the vaulting apparatus had been a “horse”, much like the pommel horse but without handles. The women vaulted across the horse widthwise, and the men lengthwise. This narrow surface made the newer and more difficult vaults increasingly dangerous for athletes, and led to some serious accidents in international competition. The new, larger support surface of the vault has made this apparatus much safer for both the men’s and women’s athletes.
WAG: Women’s Artistic Gymnastics
MAG: Men’s Artistic Gymnastics
GCG: Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique
FIG: Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (International Gymnastics Federation)
Terminology of apparatus in the Olympic order of competition
FX: Floor Exercise
PH: Pommel Horse
SR: Still Rings
PB: Parallel Bars
HB: High/Horizontal Bar
UB: Uneven Bars
BB: Balance Beam
FX: Floor Exercise
AA / All Around: Competition in artistic gymnastics where the outcome is based on the cumulative scores of all apparatus (women = 4 events, men = 6 events)
AF / Apparatus Finals: Competition in artistic gymnastics where the outcome is based on the highest score for each individual apparatus. This may require qualification of the top 8 athletes on each apparatus in the All Around competition, or it may be based on scores from the All Around competition.