It is important in gymnastics for gymnasts to develop a recognizable personal gymnastics style, especially on floor exercise and beam. It is important, because at big meets, where there may be as many as 119 other gymnasts in your age group, level and session, that in order to win, you must first get the judges to notice you. If you do not stand out from the rest of the crowd, you have little to no chance to medal. One of the ways you can stand out is to develop a distinctive personal style of performing.
Gymnastics Style Tip 1 – Develop a Signature Skill or Signature Combination
There is nothing more noticeable or that will make a gymnast stand out more than having a unique skill or combination of skills that no other gymnast does (or very few do). While having an extremely difficult signature skill, that no one else can do would be ideal, lower level gymnasts can put together skills, at their level, in unique combinations or in unique and interesting new ways. When possible, it is even more effective to do your signature skill or combination on both beam and floor.
Gymnastics Style Tip 2 – Have a Routine Theme
Just like in opera, where the singers are telling a story, floor and beam routines can have a theme as well. The story is told with body language and movements incorporated into the dance. Doing this definitely depends on your choice of music, but whenever and wherever possible, don’t just do the dance steps but tell a story with your dance, body posture, mental attitude and body language.
Gymnastics Style Tip 3 – Be Expressive
People are often amazed at how much of communication is not based on the words a person speaks, but on their facial expression and body language. Matching your facial expression to the music in your routine adds a level of performance that can make you stand out. I see so many gymnasts, who are stone-faced during very dramatic, energetic or joyful music, so that their expression does not match the music or choreography. Cheerleaders are often mocked for their cheesy facials, but you can make yourself very expressive without being tacky.
Gymnastics Style Tip 4 – Amplitude is King (or Queen in this Case)
Stretching and extending every skill in your routine to its maximum amplitude is a sure way to get noticed in a positive manner. Even simple jumps, for example, three, four or five feet off the beam are impressive and will get gymnasts noticed in a very positive way. Extend, extend, extend!!! Maximize every single move in your routine. Kathy Johnson (former Olympian and current gymnastics commentator) used to talk about knocking down the walls of the gym with each movement of her floor routine by making them not just big on your body, not just big on the beam or floor exercise mat, but huge in the building. Remember, you normally look like a very little girl on a great big floor mat in a huge building, unless you expand the force of your personality and each dance move to fill the building.
Gymnastics Style Tip 5 – Learn Music
This means, not just learning your music and knowing exactly where you are at all times in the music, but to hear and understand the rhythm, the volume crescendos, the breaks and the mood of the music. The more you are a student and understand music, the more you will be able to perform expressively to it.
Gymnastics Style Tip 6 – Have an Image in your Mind of the Ideal Performance
You want to have visualized exactly what you want to do in your mind, before you go out and try to perform it. Everything, that occurs in the real world, occurred in someone’s mind first. Have your choreography and music combined in your mind into the greatest possible performance, and then do exactly that, out on the gym floor or beam. If you can think it, you can do it. See yourself dancing both gracefully like a ballerina and then tumbling powerfully, matching the movements to the music, expressing the mood of the music perfectly, and performing so dramatically and expressively that you cannot be ignored or passed over when the medals are handed out.
Gymnastics Style Tip 7 – Show What is Inside of You
My friend and martial arts master competitor, Chi, often has told me that gymnasts should look on competitions as an opportunity to show what is inside of them, and what they have been working on for all those hours and hours of practice. Take all of your hours, months and years of practice and put it all into that 1:30 floor and beam routines. Do not fear putting yourself all out there. People love watching others really put on a show and giving their all, and that includes the judges.