What is Power Tumbling and How is it Different From Gymnastics?
Have you ever heard of the sport called power tumbling? Although kids and adults all over the USA and the world are involved in this sport, power tumbling, which is also called ‘trampoline and tumbling’ or simply ‘T&T,’ remains relatively unknown to much of the general public.
Power tumbling is a form of gymnastics, although it is different from traditional gymnastics. Traditional gymnastics, often called “artistic gymnastics” by those involved in the sport, is the form most people are familiar with. For girls and women, artistic gymnastics involves performing skills on the floor, balance beam, uneven parallel bars and vault. Boys and men who participate in artistic gymnastics perform their skills on the floor, pommel horse, vault, rings, high bar and parallel bars.
So then, what is power tumbling? Power tumbling involves many of the same skills as artistic gymnastics, but uses a different set of equipment. In power tumbling, men, women, boys and girls alike all perform tumbling skills on the floor, a traditional trampoline and a double mini trampoline.
Power Tumbling Apparatus: Rod Floor
In power tumbling, the piece of equipment known as the floor is a long, narrow, slightly elevated tumbling surface. It is often referred to as the “rod floor,” because it is made from a series of fiberglass rods. The rods flex and provide additional bounce that an ordinary floor does not. The rods are covered in padding, and the padding is covered in a flooring material suitable for tumbling.
Unlike traditional artistic gymnastics, where routines are performed on a large 39′ x 39′ floor, power tumbling’s rod floor is a 6′ x 84′ runway. Although some lower-level skills are executed from a standing start, power tumblers typically begin at one end of the floor, take a running start, then complete a series of skills called a pass. In competition, power tumblers perform and are judged on two, three or sometimes four passes, depending upon their skill level and the rules of that specific competitive meet.
Many of the skills performed in power tumbling passes, such as back handsprings, layouts, whips and tucks, are the same as those performed in artistic gymnastics floor routines. However, artistic routines take longer to perform than power tumbling passes, and female artistic gymnasts perform their routines to music. Power tumbling passes are not set to music.
Power Tumbling Apparatus: Trampoline
Power tumblers also perform skills on the trampoline. Regulation competitive trampolines are similar to standard back yard trampolines, but are designed to provide a higher, more powerful bounce. Competitive trampoline routines look effortless as the athletes fly high into the air, sometimes performing multiple skills within each bounce. Lower level trampolinists typically perform and are judged one trampoline routine. Higher-level trampolinists may perform two routines, depending upon their level and each meet’s rules.
Most trampolinists compete indiviually. However, higher-level trampolinists may also choose to compete in synchronized trampoline, provided they have a partner and attend a competitive meet that offers this event — not all of them do. In synchronized trampoline, two athletes perform the same trampoline routine at the same time, on side-by-side trampolines. Each two-person team is judged on how well they execute the routine, as well as how closely the athletes’ movements mirror one another.
Power Tumbling Apparatus: Double Mini Trampoline
While just about everyone knows what a trampoline is, most have never seen or heard of a double mini trampoline. From its name, you have probably already guessed that a double mini trampoline has two jumping surfaces and is much smaller than a standard trampoline. To perform a pass on a double mini trampoline, athletes typically take a running start, jump onto the first jumping surface, which is angled toward the floor, jump onto the next surface, which is parallel to the floor, and then perform a tumbling skill as they dismount. In competition, athletes usually complete two different double mini passes. The scores from each pass are added together to get the athlete’s final score.
Competitive Power Tumbling
Like artistic gymnasts, power tumblers may choose to compete against other athletes who are at the same skill level, are the same gender and around the same age.
If you’re serious about competing in power tumbling and do well, you can travel the world for your sport. In the United States, competitions start at the local level, and advance to state, regional, and national levels. If you are 12-18 years old and progress past USAG level 10 to the elite level, you may qualify to compete at the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) World Age Group Championships, an international competition which is held in a different location each year. Some recent past locations include Birmingham, England; St. Petersburg, Russia and Metz, France.
At the most advanced level and/or for those older than 18, the FIG holds Wold Championships in trampoline and tumbling each year as well. See the video to the right and at the bottom of this page for an example of the incredible skill and talent on display at the FIG Wold Championships.
Power Tumbling for Fun, Recreation and Fitness
Of course, you don’t have to compete in power tumbling. You can always take tumbling classes for fun, recreation and fitness. It’s great exercise and with hard work, plenty of practice and a solid coach, you’ll learn lots of impressive skills. If you’re into cheerleading, tumbling classes are a terrific way to improve your cheer skills. In fact, many cheer coaches require their cheerleaders to take tumbling classes.
Tumbling classes are available for all ages and all levels, from toddlers to adults and beginners to advanced tumblers. To find tumbling classes in your area, type “tumbling classes” or “trampoline classes” and the name of your town into your favorite search engine’s home page, or look in your phone directory under gymnasiums, tumbling classes, gymnastics classes or cheerleading teams. You can also ask friends and neighbors if they can recommend a tumbling gym in your area.
Every gym is different, but many offer classes in floor tumbling only or trampolining only, as well as classes that teach combined skills in all three power tumbling events. Some also offer cheer-tumble classes especially geared toward cheerleaders who want to improve their tumbling skills.
Is power tumbling or artistic gymnastics a better fit for you?
If you love gymnastics, it’s likely that you’ll love power tumbling, also. Many of the floor skills are the same. However, if your favorite apparatus is bars, beam, rings or pommel horse, you may prefer to stick with artistic gymnastics. If you enjoy performing skills on the trampoline and are disappointed by the fact that you don’t get to train on it very often in your artistic gymnastics classes, power tumbling may be a better fit for you. Many gymnasts find that the vault and double mini trampoline are comparable, although of course these two pieces of equipment do have their differences.
There are additional items to consider when choosing between artistic gymnastics and power tumbling:
Height, Weight and General Body Size: The most advanced artistic gymnasts tend to be short in stature, thin and very muscular with a great deal of upper body strength. However, power tumbling is much more forgiving of those who do not fit that physical mold. Typically, athletes who are taller and/or heavier have a better chance at doing well in power tumbling as opposed to artistic gymnastics. I’m not to saying that those who are short, thin and muscular will have less chance at succeeding in power tumbling. I’m simply pointing out that in power tumbling, an athlete’s size is less important because trampolines provide plenty of bounce to propel participants into the air.
Also, while upper body strength is important for power tumbling, power tumbling skills typically do not require the degree of upper body strength that many artistic gymnastics skills do. Specifically, bars, rings and pommel horse require a great deal of upper body strength, while floor tumbling and trampolining skills require mainly “leg power.”
The Dance Factor: For females, artistic gymnastics requires dance skill. If ballet is not your thing, you might prefer power tumbling. In power tumbling, skills must look as though they are effortless and must be performed correctly and in clean form, such as with straight legs, a tight body position and pointed toes. However, in power tumbling, body control and overall power is more important than grace and artistry.
Joint Impact, Injuries and Age: While tumbling on either a gymnastics floor or a power tumbling rod floor poses the threat of impact injuries, working on a trampoline is gentler on the joints because of the bounce and give. For this reason, athletes with injuries are often able to remain competing on the trampoline, or switch to trampoline, even though their injuries may force them to abandon other gymnastics pursuits. Additionally, because less stress is put on joints, trampolinists often find they can remain in the sport long after artistic gymnasts have been forced to retire. For example, British Olympic trampolinist Jaime Moore retired in 2010 at age 30, although many expected her to continue training for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team.
Training Time: If you’re a busy student with tons of homework and lots of extracurricular activities and interests, you may find it difficult to compete in artistic gymnastics, as a rigorous practice schedule is needed to properly train for the different artistic events. Many busy people find that power tumbling fits into their schedules more easily than artistic gymnastics, because power tumbling typically does not require such an extensive number of practice hours for athletes to succeed on a competitive basis.
Competitive Meets: Because power tumbling is not as well-known as gymnastics and has fewer participants, there are fewer competitive meets. If you have plenty of time and the desire to compete at a gymnastics meet every weekend, artistic gymnastics may be a better choice for you. On the other hand, if you have a busy schedule and a number of interests, power tumbling might be a better fit. Tumbling competitions are much less frequent, leaving you some free weekends each month for other pursuits.
Leveling Frustrations: It has been my experience with children’s competitive artistic gymnastics that kids are placed in one level for all disciplines. When my own daughter was participating in competitive artistic gymnastics, she was quite good on vault but fairly weak in the other events. Her coach allowed her to learn and practice higher-level vaults during class time, but unfortunately my daughter could not move up to a higher level of competitive vaulting until she was ready to move up on every apparatus. In power tumbling, however, athletes are leveled on each individual apparatus, and my child now is able to compete at the appropriate level for each. This allows her to take her time and improve on her weakest events without worrying about being held back in her best.
Olympic Dreams Although plenty of kids and adults enjoy the thrilling sensation of flying through the air by way of trampoline, many don’t realize it is an Olympic sport. Trampolining is relatively new to the Olympic scene, having been added to the games first as an exhibition sport in 1996, then as a medal sport for men and women at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Unfortunately, at this time, trampoline is the only power tumbling discipline that is an Olympic sport. Athletes wishing to compete on floor and double-mini trampoline are limited to competitions put on by power tumbling or gymnastics associations. Watch the video to the right and I think you’ll agree that this world-class athlete and other elite tumblers of his skill level are performing feats worthy of Olympic competition.