Artistic vs. Rhythmic Gymnastics – Which is the Best?

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To many, gymnastics is gymnastics! But, to those that know there is a definite line between the two types of gymnastics, artistic and rhythmic confusing the two is almost a punishable crime. Whether you talk to a fan of artistic gymnastics or rhythmic gymnastics, you will likely hear a long story or heated debate about which is better and why.

To help you pick a side in the artistic vs. rhythmic gymnastics debate, we have provided you with definitions and the best and worst attributes of both gymnastic types.

Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastics Similarities

While there are significant differences between the two types of gymnastics, there are many similarities as well. For one, both rhythmic and artistic gymnastics are international sports. Both divisions of the sport are also governed by the Federation International of Gymnastics (FIG), and are Olympic events. 

Each of these systems also works on a leveling system from 1 to 10 with 1 being the simplest form of the sport and 10 being the most difficult. Now, we will get into the differences between the two.

Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastics Differences

Understanding Artistic Gymnastics

Artistic gymnastics is completed by men and women competitors and focuses mostly on agility, balance, and strength. An artistic gymnast will compete in many events during a competition, and could compete in all four events in certain competitions.

Men will compete in the pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, high bar, and floor. Women artistic gymnasts will compete in floor exercise, uneven bars, balance beam, and vault. In artistic gymnastics, the floor gymnasts compete on is a spring floor. The only event that is set to music in this type of gymnastics is the floor event.

Understanding Rhythmic Gymnastics

Rhythmic gymnastics is for women only. Unlike artistic gymnasts that compete on one or all four events listed above, rhythmic gymnasts only perform on the floor. Artistic gymnasts also perform on the floor but don’t use any special apparatuses in their routine. Rhythmic gymnasts use a variety of different apparatuses in their routines.

All rhythmic gymnastics routines are set to music and can include the use of ribbons, clubs, balls, hoops, or rope. Gymnasts can perform in many of the events every year. When a team enters the padded floor, they cannot have more than two apparatuses on the floor.

However, guidelines do allow gymnasts to trade apparatuses with a team member at any time, so you could see the same gymnast use two different types of apparatuses in one event. The event rotations are changed every year.

Rhythmic gymnasts concentrate in eye-hand coordination, flexibility, grace, and dance. It’s important to note that some men’s rhythmic gymnastics teams do exist, but they aren’t recognized, and can’t compete in any Olympic events at this time.

Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnasts Compete Differently

Another difference between artistic and rhythmic gymnasts are the way they compete. Both types of gymnasts can compete in team events, but they compete much differently. In artistic gymnastics, gymnasts compete in four events individually and then their scores are tallied up for a team total.

In rhythmic gymnastics, gymnasts compete as a team. Most often, an entire gymnastics team, usually 5, will compete on the floor as a cohesive unit. The rhythmic team is judged based on grace and harmony with one another.

How to Determine Which is Better?

There is no surefire way to determine whether artistic or rhythmic gymnastics is better. It truly is a personal choice. For example, there is no reason some people like basketball better than baseball, they just do.

With that said, many believe artistic gymnastics is more exciting than rhythmic gymnastics. Artistic gymnastics is closer to acrobats than rhythmic gymnastics and can leave audiences awed with difficult tumble passes and flying flips off the uneven bars.

However, rhythmic gymnastics appeals to people who love ballet and graceful events. The artistry and choreography involved in women’s rhythmic gymnastics routine is truly something everyone should experience at least once.

How Gymnast Should Decide Whether Artistic or Rhythmic Gymnastics is For Them

When a gymnast is trying to decide whether they should crossover between artistic gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics, there are a few considerations that should be made. For one, the most successful artistic gymnasts are extremely strong and powerful. The strength and power are needed for propulsion on the vault and difficult tumbling passes on the floor.

Gymnasts that are more flexible and graceful may fare better in rhythmic gymnastics where the primary focus is ballet-like agility.

Since rhythmic gymnastics isn’t a sanctioned event yet, any serious male gymnast should focus their efforts on artistic gymnastics. If men’s rhythmic gymnastics is ever recognized by the Olympics, male artistic gymnasts could easily crossover to compete in the sport.

Now that you understand the fundamental differences between artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, you can determine for yourself which is better. It’s important to remember that each of these types of gymnastics offers different performances and is sure to gather their own types of fans.Photo Credit: © Ukrphoto & Alexey05 | Dreamstime.com

8 Comments on “Artistic vs. Rhythmic Gymnastics – Which is the Best?”

  1. I was wondering about injuries..
    Wouldn’t artistic gymnastics be a more risky sport ..i’m not an overprotective parent but concerned about my daughter wanting to try ..would rhythmic gymnastics be safer?

    1. Rhythmic gymnastics is a lot safer as it doesn’t perform as many risky tricks. You can get hit by an apparatus but the worst thing that would do is make a bruise. On the other hand in Artistic you can break you arms and legs easily from just putting your hand or leg slightly in the wrong place while doing a flip. But if your daughter is young she wont get hurt either way so you do what your daughter wants.

      1. As a rhythmic gymnast myself many people miss understand what types of injuries rhythmic gymnasts can suffer. The sport is way more than just tossing a ball in the air. Lots of stretching and conditioning goes into a good routine. Yes, you could get a bruise from a club hitting you in the leg, but some injuries are way more severe. For example, lots of rhythmic gymnasts experience some sort of sever sprain while training. Some even have permanent knee and foot damage from overworking the body!

  2. Rhythmic gymnastics is the best!! It combines strength, flexibility, grace, and style with music. Also, RG gymnasts have to have a certain body type.

  3. Many people say that rhythmic requires a specific body type, but that’s not true. It is easier when you are very skinny and with arms and legs stiff like sticks and joints as bendy as rubber, but you can also train into that as well. I did artistic for a few years, I barely learned anything and it was not very appealing to me, but it might be for others. On the other hand, I did rhythmic for six months and learned loads, especially conditioning, coordination and stretching skills that will help me my whole life, and with this I have been doing ballet the whole time I have been doing both rhythmic and artistic so obviously rhythmic would be more appealing to me. I also think that rhythmic gymnasts look beautiful when performing, and artistic gymnasts don’t care about grace, they just do a flip and there’s nothing to it, so rhythmic is harder and can make you or break you, but it won’t break you if you are dedicated and willed. Rhythmic provides you with skills you can use all your life, as artistic is only for the gym, and you need special equipment to do artistic or you could get hurt, but for rhythmic you can do it anywhere, apparatus is easy to bring places, but speaking of equipment, rhythmic equipment is very expensive especially if you’re getting good equipment, so before you buy anything make sure you’re committed, so if you’re doing rhythmic your whole life then it is probably cheaper than if you’re doing artistic your whole life. Speaking for artistic, you can do it for your entire life if you start early enough and are strong enough when you get older, but rhythmic you can only do until you are in your mid-twenties, so you can’t really do it for that long but it does teach you important life skills. Thanks for reading.

  4. Me being an artistic gymnast I’ve never broken anything. The only terrible injury I’ve had in my 11 years is a concussion otherwise my injuries were mainly pains in my ankle, wrist, knees, shoulders, and I had shin splints and severs. Also recently my back pain has been getting worse but thats the most pain i’ve ever really experienced.

  5. It is not technically correct that rhythmic gymnasts usually perform in groups during competitions. I competed in rhythmic gymnastics for five years; everyone from my rhythmic gymnastics club, including myself, always competed individually. Until I watched the Olympics, I was not even aware that rhythmic gymnasts ever compete in groups.
    When rhythmic gymnastics was introduced to the Olympics, gymnasts could only compete individually. Now, rhythmic gymnasts can also compete in groups.

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