Beginner's Guide to Watching and Understanding Artistic Gymnastics, Rings Events


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"Beginner's Guide to Watching and Understanding Artistic Gymnastic Rings Events"​

Hello /r/BWF! I wanted to thank you for everything I've learned here and decided to write my first post.

In the past few months I began paying more attention to Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG) events. They are governed by a Code of Points (CoP) which you can access on International Gymnastics Federation's (FIG) website, but it's 160 pages long―ain't nobody got time for reading that! So I will try to explain how the gymnast's performance is rated, focusing on rings (but the others are all similar).

[sup]Two quick points I want to make are that I don't speak English natively, if anything sounds wrong―please point it out. I don't have a gymnastic background, either.[/sup]

Male gymnast can perform on six apparatus, each with a two-letter acronym useful to make YT video titles shorter:

-Floor eXercise (FX)

-Pommel Horse (PH)

-Still Rings (SR)

-Vault (VT)

-Parallel Bars (PB)

-Horizontal Bar (HB)

He performs an exercise which consists of 10 or more elements. Elements are unique to each apparatus. They're often named after an exceptional gymnast who first performed them at a large event. For diversity, no element can be repeated (if repeated, it won't give more points). Elements are divided into four Element Groups (EG I―III plus a Dismount Group). For variety again, gymnast must do at least 1, but no more than 5, elements from each single group.

The whole exercise is rated by two sets of judges. One adds points for Difficulty and thus gives a D-score. A very good one is 6 or higher. The other judges start with 10 points and deduct each time they see an Execution error, making an E-score, often around 8.

Judges add both D and E scores to find the final points result. Thus an elite score should be >14, and closer to 15, in order to win a medal at Worlds/Continentals

Every element has a difficulty value represented by a letter. It ranges from A=0.1, B=0.2 etc... up to F=0.6 points [sup]to be fair, there is one G[/sup] The final Difficulty score (D-score) is a simple sum of 10 best element values, plus a bonus of +2.0 points for having an element from all four groups (+0.5 bonus from each)

At elite level, D-scores are commonly around 6, meaning the sum is around 4, giving an average element value of D.

[sup]For reference, front/back-levers are worth only A, and the iron cross is just B[/sup]

(The tl;dr ends here)

On rings, the Element Groups are:

I Kip and Swing Elements Through (or to) Handstand

This includes all the cool double saltos etc. There aren't many high-value skills in this group, so it used to be quite underrepresented. Now there's a rule to do an element from this group after doing 3 elements of group II and/or III in direct succession, so that the routine is more balanced. Additionally, a routine must include a swing to handstand (held for at least 2 seconds).

[sup]Fun fact: the "crossfit muscle-up" aka back uprise to support is in this group. It's worth―you guessed it―"A" edit:as pointed out, it's not the same, my bad[/sup]

II Strength and Hold Elements

Including planche (C), Maltese (D) and similar static positions, as well as various presses e.g. from back-lever to cross (Nakayama) (D). Because a routine always starts from dead hang, a popular first element is to press from hang through FL and inverted hang to iron cross (D) named after Azarian.

[sup]Like handstands, all final positions have to be held still for 2 seconds[/sup]

III Kip and Swing to Strength Hold Elements

Self-explanatory name. Again, swing (or kip) then hold for 2 seconds. These are often more difficult, so you might often see e.g. an EG II press to Maltese, but EG III swing to just straddle planche.

IV Dismounts

Just a fancy way to say "jump off". The dismount must be at least value D in order to get all bonus points. If you count the previous 9 elements correctly you will know in advance when the dismount comes, feels fun to predict that!

An interesting rule is that "a maximum of 1 final strength position in each EG may be recognized", meaning one can only do a maximum of two crosses, two Maltese, etc. and one has to be from group II while the other from group III. FIG really tries to force balance and variety into the exercises.

The E-judges pay close attention to Execution errors and remove points from E-score (starting at 10) every time they spot a mistake, aesthetic or technical imperfection.

Deductions can be -0.1, -0.3 or -0.5 (for small, medium and large error, -1.0 for major falls but that happens rarely). Some examples:
  • Small (-0.1): using false grip, slightly bending body or legs, using inverted/piked hang to rest for >2 seconds
  • Medium (-0.3): landing with feet wider than shoulders, not holding a strength position still for the required 2 seconds, lack of a swing to handstand element
  • Large (-0.5): supporting legs on cables (straps), holding a position (e.g. torso during planche, arms during cross) at a large angle 31-45° from perfect

Again, good E-score is >8

This is gonna be all. I recomend you take a quick look at CoP table of ring elements to get some more vague idea about how difficult and valuable some of the skills are. Other than that I hope you can now enjoy the events a lot more and will have an idea of what the scores mean.

Thanks for reading
@stonesoffire The back up rise to support is not a crossfit muscle up. Way harder and I've seen many crossfit athletes try and fail numerous times to do it.

The kipping muscle up is a lot closer to a front up rise with bent arms to bottom of a dip support.

Otherwise, cool summary man. Very easily digestible
@stonesoffire Ex-gymnast here. Didn't do anything with it in college but I was Junior Olympic level 10 for four years. If anyone wants to talk to someone who trained as a gymnast, I'd be happy to share my experiences. (or just work out tips).
@stonesoffire Depends on you. You did a great job describing the code of points and how routines are sequenced.

However, I think for most people, the types of strength moves done by Olympians, collegiate and even J.O. gymnasts are much too advanced. Hell, most crossfitters I've met couldn't even do a single dead-hang muscle up. I think I learned that around the age of 12 or 13.

If you were to incorporate what you learn from gymnastics into what you are already doing/capable of, then more power to you! So again, up to you.
@seangibbons You're totally right, but it's definitely not impossible. Especially if you're specifically training for the skill itself. Front levers are really hard, I could barely do those in my 'prime' lol.
@boundlesslove I can comfortably do planche on P bars and the floor, but transitioning to the rings is a nightmare! What type of training do you recommend for planche on rings?

I've tried static holds in tuck/advanced tuck, as well as press to planche from support with a pause at the top, but haven't been able to achieve it yet
@calo97 Congrats on the planche! It's not exactly an easy move, especially if you are doing straddle or straight body.

Planches on rings are a lot harder because the thing holding you up, is not stable like on p. bars or floor. So your body, specifically your shoulders and chest have to do much more work in order to stay up. Which I'm sure you realized quickly if you've tried it on the rings.

Here are some general tips/drills for a tuck planche on rings.

Lock arms, turn rings slightly outward and don't look down.

On the planche, rings are facing outward (meaning palms facing forwards) so that you can better utilize your chest and lats. You don't need to look upwards, but having your chin down on a planche will hollow out your back whereas you really want it as straight as can be.

It's okay to swing/kip/jump into the position

If you do this, focus on locking into the proper position and holding it as long as you can and SLOWLY coming back down to support before jumping off (ideally going back to support and finishing a set).

Tuck planches on p.bars/floor

Pretty obvious here, just keep working on your 'base' strength. If you have access to floor p bars rather than real ones, turn the bars outwards a little into a v shape with the point coming at you. Same on floor, make sure your hands are slightly outward. This will help strengthen proper planche form on rings.

Support holds

Jump up to support, lock your ams with the rings turn slightly outwards and hold. This helps further your shoulder/chest strength.

Hopefully this is helpful for you! Good luck!
@boundlesslove So you were able to hold a maltese on floor without previously training on floor? I know some gymnasts who can hold a rings maltese but can't hold one on floor since they never really trained it on floor.
Now hopefully this wasn't too long. Some of the things I simplified so not everything is always 100% correct, there are exceptions, but it should apply in most cases. And again, thanks for being an awesome community!
@stonesoffire WOW! Awesome post! Since I started the RR, I've found myself watching Gymnasts routines from all kinds of competitions. In the past, I never knew what I was looking for, but now I have a better eye for it.

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