Gymnastics and Cheerleading: What is the Difference?

gymnastics-vs-cheerleading

Throughout my life, I have heard that cheerleading is not a sport. When you hear the word “cheerleading”, what comes to mind? Pom-poms? Cheers? Football? Of course all of those things are affiliated with cheerleading, but would you ever think of gymnastics? That’s right! Many people actually talk about the two like they are the same. Cheerleading does consist of tumbling, but do you see cheerleaders performing on vault? How about on bars? The answer is no.

Though the two sports may have similarities, many ask which sport is better and which sport is harder? I am here to explain the differences and let you be the one to decide.

So, What are the Differences and Similarities?

Cheerleading is a sport that is usually done on floor. You typically see cheerleading at sports events for schools because they are there to get the crowd excited after all. Cheerleading is meant to express happiness and is super vocal.

I was a cheerleader in high school and I remember my coach screaming at our team for not smiling enough. If you did not show you were excited about cheering- you were cut from the team.

Cheerleading does consist of tumbling just like gymnastics does. It is most common for cheerleaders to do back handsprings and back tucks during competition and games whereas gymnasts learn a lot more complicated tumbling that may take years to perfect. Some of the things that are considered “illegal” in cheerleading is actually required in gymnastics.

A big difference between the two are the routine music during competition and the fact that cheerleading competitions are more about team against team. Yes gymnastics is team vs. team as well, but when gymnasts are one the floor they each get individual scores and perform by themselves.



Cheerleading only has a floor routine which the entire team is on the floor working together. Competitive cheerleading has music that is more up-beat and fast, making the team move a lot more quickly. There is also more dancing involved when it coms to the routine. Gymnastics meets are more quiet so the gymnast can concentrate, plus the floor music is less up-beat.

I hear epic music, relaxing music, sassy music, and happy music when it comes to gymnastics floor routines. The music does not have a bunch of songs combined into one with a lot of loud dings, record reverse sounds and whips like cheerleading does. Whenever I heard cheerleading competition music I always felt like I was at a club and that there was a DJ playing!

Another main difference is that cheerleaders make human pyramids and perform stunts that involve a few people at once. Gymnastics does not do this, for gymnastics focuses more on one individual at a time

Gymnastics routines are more elegant than cheerleading routines. The looks on a gymnast’s face is so serious and focused whereas a cheerleader is constantly nodding their heads, waving, and of course- smiling. Judges of both sports do pay attention to the performer’s formation, though.

Gymnastics requires more strength especially when it comes to the upper-body. Gymnasts need to build their strength, particularly their upper-body, because they need to use that strength to be able to handle themselves on bars. Both of the sports call for flexibility, but you would have to train long and hard to be flexible enough for gymnastics.

Gymnastics also requires more training than you will ever know. My boyfriend’s youngest sister is currently a level eight gymnast working on becoming a level nine. This girl is 10 years old and only has two days off a week from gymnastics. It feels like she is there from the time the sun rises up until the time it sets down. Most of the time she has two-a-days and a handful of her teammates are homeschooled due to the dedication and intensity of the sport!

Gymnasts are CONSTANTLY training and conditioning their bodies because physical strength is key. Cheerleading training is not as intense as this for many teams learn a routine within about a week and perform in front of a crowd.

Though these sports have similarities and differences, they do go hand-in-hand. Many gymnasts belong on a cheerleading team since some of the rules are similar. I do not recommend saying the two are exactly the same, but I do suggest going to a competition for each therefore you are able to see the differences yourself, plus they are both entertaining to watch!

In conclusion to the two questions asked at the beginning of this post, I would say that they are both great sports and are both hard in their own ways. I would not say one is harder or better than the other because everyone has a different perspective and their own personal experiences. Please comment below and let us know what you think!

About the Author

Cara Devenney

Cara Devenney is a journalism and communications graduate from The Reed College of Media at West Virginia University.

Cara became involved with gymnastics from her boyfriend’s younger sister, and has developed an interest in the sport due to watching her perform. Cara personally thinks that it is inspiring to watch how dedicated young gymnasts are, and hopes to share advice and experience with her viewers!

Facebook Comments

3 Comments on “Gymnastics and Cheerleading: What is the Difference?”

  1. I’d also like to add that the physical conditioning that a gymnast has to go through is extrememly intense! My 10 year old daughter has an 8-pack and muscles that would put most little boys to shame!

  2. My 9 year old daughter has done competitivr cheer, competed TNT gymnastics and has competed the last 2 years in ACRO. ACRO consists of tumbling, dance and stunting. She loves it. She spends more hours training for ACRO and TNT then she did for cheerleading. I think that there is a difference in tumbling in cheer and gymnastics. Much prettier in gymnastics IMO.

  3. You compared Women’s Artistic Gymnastics to Cheerleading ( bars, beam, vault and floor). One of 7 Gymnastics disciplines. The disciplines are Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Men’s Artistic Gymnastics ( parralel bars, pommel horse, vault, floor, rings and high bar, Rhythmic Gymnastics (can be team and individual), Trampoline and Tumbling, Aerobic Gymnastics, Acrobatic Gymastics and Gymnastics for all. Cheerleading and Artistic Gymnastics may have tumbling in common but Cheerleading has a lot of similarities with Acrobatic Gymnastics as both involve working on the floor as a team. In Acrobatic Gymnastics their teammates are their apparatus. They perform 3 routines Balance ( stunts), Dynamic (tossses) and Combined (mixture of both). They are judged synchronisation, execution of stunts and tosses and dance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *