Too Old to Learn Gymnastics?

Subject: Too Old?

Dear Coach,

I have just turned 20 years old and have started gymnastics in the last few months. I practice stretches by walking backwards down walls and handstands, and stretch into the splits every morning. I was wondering if you have any advice to getting more used to back flexibility, and I was wondering if I am too old to begin gymnastics. I have been in dance and am in reasonably good physical shape- (I also roller-skate/dance frequently along with dance) but is it impossible to get good at floor gymnastics at the very least? I would like to get good at everything, but I am unsure how to be stretching and where to go from here.


This is a common question that we see often from gymnasts most often ranging in age from 12 and up. Can I still get good at such and such an age? We would never be the ones to ever say no to that question. We are firm believers in the ability of humans to do whatever they set their mind to. So yes, you can still get good at floor exercise, at the other gymnastics events and increase your flexibility at age 20. There are female gymnasts your age and older who have or are competing at the international level. There are collegiate gymnasts your age who are making some of the best gymnastics progress of their lives at your age.

This is not to say that it will not be difficult and more difficult than if you had started at a much younger age. There is scientific evidence that very difficult gymnastics skills are more easily learned and much better learned at a younger age, say 8 – 11 years of age. Younger gymnasts also do not usually have any fear of doing gymnastics skills and they adapt to hard training regimens more easily. This does not mean that you cannot learn gymnastics skills at your age.

To improve your back (and also your shoulder) flexibility, see our article about back walkovers and the use of partner stretching. You will most likely improve your flexibility quickest by getting a partner to help you. Shoulder flexibility is as important as (and maybe more important than) back flexibility. You don’t want your back to do all of the work.

Many older people who have not done gymnastics at a young age do not understand the amount of work and effort and the large amount of time that it takes to get good at gymnastics. Even a highly talented young athlete is going to take 3 – 5 years to get really great.

One of the biggest problems dancers have with switching over to gymnastics is that they lack the upper body strength to tumble, vault and do bars. A dancer’s leg strength may be sufficient, but they have not done the amount of upper body that is required to be a successful gymnast. At any age, strength and flexibility are the two most important prerequisites for gymnastics success.

Older gymnasts can take advantage and gain more benefit from weight training than younger gymnasts can. Weight training is a good all-around progressive method of increasing strength. Train all strength building activities to the point of momentary muscular failure to gain maximum strength most efficiently.

Gymnastics is not a sport that can really be learned without a coach. You can perhaps do some of the preliminary strength and flexibility training on your own, but when it comes to really learning gymnastics skills, you will (as all gymnasts do) require quality coaching.

The primary impediments to someone your age training successfully for gymnastics are likely to be time, money and commitment. To become really good in gymnastics, you need to train every day. When you are playing catch-up like you will be, this is even more true. Daily strength and flexibility training can take an hour or more. Daily gymnastic skills training will take from 45 minutes to 1&½ hours per day per event.

Gymnastics coaching is not inexpensive. Your initial training will likely be in an adult or teen plus gymnastics class and they do not usually meet daily. Team level training often costs hundreds of dollars per month.

If you are working, going to school or socializing a lot, you may find it difficult to find the time and energy to train.

None of what we are saying in any way means that we don’t think a 20-year-old could not get really good in gymnastics. We believe that they could. We do believe that, like a gymnast of any age, they will have to be willing to pay the price, physically, mentally and financially. That price, especially physically and mentally, goes up as you get older.

We really love this sport, and if you do also, then we believe that you could reach your gymnastics goals through hard work, regular practice and with good coaching. We wish you luck and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

I just had to add this video to this article. The video is a little long and in Japanese, but it should forever answer the question of “Am I Too Old To Do Gymnastics?” The subject in the video is 63 years old and I would bet that he was not a gymnast when he was younger or had not done any gymnastics in years, before deciding to come back. While his level of gymnastics is not particularly high, he is working all-around.

I am adding a link to a article about a 42 year old Level 9 gymnast, who is married and has two sons. Her career path has not been easy, by any means, and she has endured many injuries as well, but everyone who reads the article should be convinced that, if you really want to be a gymnast, you can be and that age may make it more difficult, but gymnastics is really for those who love it enough to do it.

For those of you who do not remember, George Nissen was the founder of the Nissen Gymnastics equipment company, developer and distributer of Universal weight machines and perhaps singlehandedly responsible for the spread of trampoline around the world. His gymnastics equipment was state of the art in both function and beauty. He,of course, was legendary in the gymnastics world and late into his 80s would still do handstands, press handstands and levers on the head table of gymnastics banquets around the country.

Here is another link about an 82-Year-Old Gymnast Ron Rodger says “You’re a Gymnast All Your Life”

The short answer is always – you are never too old to do gymnastics.

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