Guide to the men's apparatus - British Gymnastics

Guide to the men's apparatus


In men’s artistic gymnastics there are six apparatus to contend with. Not all gymnasts will compete on every apparatus but for those aiming for all-around glory this is what they face.

Floor Exercise

The 12 x12 metre sprung floor area allows the gymnast to reach incredible heights following a series of explosive and powerful acrobatic and tumbling skills. Coming back down to earth is only half the fun!

A floor routine can include movements that demonstrate strength, flexibility and balance. Routines combine moves such as somersaults, twists and hold elements. The whole floor area is used throughout the routine and often shows touches of personal expression and execution. An elite gymnast’s routine will typically last between 50 sec. and 1’10 min.

Pommel Horse

Standing 1.15 metres from the floor, the pommel horse is one of the hardest pieces of men’s apparatus to master. It is unforgiving and has been known to buck many a gymnast. Great Britain has a proud tradition of fine pommel horse workers.  

A good pommel horse routine will demonstrate smooth continuous circular and pendulum type swings, double leg circles and scissor movements. It is quite common to see gymnasts move up and down the length of the pommel horse and finish their routine by swinging through handstand after a series of spindles and quick hand placements.  

Parallel Bars

If you thought swinging and balancing on one bar was hard enough, try negotiating two. The parallel bars stand 2.00 metres from floor and ‘bend’ under the gymnasts weight to provide for some complex combinations of skills seen both above and below the bars. 

Like the rings, the parallel bars require a combination of swinging movements with strength or hold elements. Gymnasts often travel along the bars and typically bring the routine to a close with a daring dismount from the end or side of the bars involving multiple somersaults and twists


Imagine charging 25 metres towards a 1.35 metre vaulting table, springing from the top and landing within a set of parallel lines on the other side. This is the task facing the gymnast wishing to master the vault. 

The combination of a fast run and approach to the spring board, quick transition to the vaulting table and explosive take-off should see the gymnast catapult themselves sky high in preparation for a controlled landing. Multiple twists and rotations are seen in the air with gymnasts often approaching the vault in either a forward or backward direction.   


Often described as like ‘watching a bird swing in a cage’, to master the rings a gymnast needs incredible strength, balance and body tension. Suspended 2.80 metres from the floor, there is little room for error. 

Ring routines include a variety of movements demonstrating pure strength, support and balance. Gymnasts often perform a series of swings and holds with both forward and backward elements. The routine culminates in a wound up swing followed by an acrobatic dismount containing multiple somersaults and twists.   

Horizontal (High) Bar

Perhaps the most spectacular of the men’s apparatus, the horizontal bar stands 2.80 metres from floor and sees the gymnast turn multiple swinging circles, daring release and catch elements and tightly wound up dismounts. 

Gymnasts perform continuous clean swinging movements and must not touch the bar with their body. Complex grip changes add variety and risk to routines. Dismounts provide the most ‘heart in mouth’ moments of the horizontal bar routine as the gymnast catapults themselves well above and beyond the bar before safely negotiating a safe and controlled landing.

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