What is Power Tumbling and How is it Different From Gymnastics?

My own daughter competing at the USAG Junior Olympic Trampoline &Tumbling National Championships. She is completing a half twist (barani) in the air during her double mini trampoline dismount.
My own daughter competing at the USAG Junior Olympic Trampoline &Tumbling National Championships. She is completing a half twist (barani) in the air during her double mini trampoline dismount. | Source

Power Tumbling, also called 'Trampoline and Tumbling,' is a form of 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.

An example of a level 3 (beginner) tumbling pass

Examples of level 10 (advanced) tumbling passes

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.

My own daughter's level 7 trampoline routine.

Synchronized Trampoline

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.

An example of a level 8 double mini pass.

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.

Athletes of all ages and levels can compete, growing and improving from this: level 4...

To this: FIG World Championships.

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.

Governing Bodies

In the United States, there are two major governing associations in competitive power tumbling: the USAG and the USTA. The two organizations are similar but each runs their own set of competitions, requires their own tumbling passes and trampoline routines, and each summer holds their own national championships.

U.S.A. Gymnastics (USAG)

In addition to trampoline and tumbling, this organization governs artistic, acrobatic and rhythmic gymnastics across the country. The USAG is associated with the FIG and feeds its best and most dedicated gymnasts into programs which can take them all the way to the World Age Group Championships and the Olympics. According to their website, "USA Gymnastics is the National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of gymnastics in the United States, consistent with the Ted Stevens Olympic & Amateur Sports Act, the Bylaws of the United States Olympic Committee and the International Gymnastics Federation. The mission of USA Gymnastics is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of gymnastics."

In other words, if you dream of some day competing in the Junior Olympics, Olympics, World Age Group Championships or FIG World Championships, train with a gym that belongs to and competes through the USAG.

USAG power tumblers are placed in numbered levels one through ten, and after level ten move to the "elite" division.

United States Trampoline and Tumbling Association (USTA)

Although the USTA does not have the direct association with FIG and the Olympics that the USAG does, it is nevertheless a well-respected organization and has been around for decades. In fact, the USTA was founded in 1971 by George Nissen, the inventor of the trampoline. The USTA is affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union and holds a national championship every summer.

USTA power tumblers are placed in named levels, such as "beginner," "advanced beginner," "sub advanced " and "elite." USTA levels, passes and routines are comparable to those of the USAG.

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.

2004 Olympics Men's Trampoline Gold Medalist

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.

Excerpt from the FIG 2011 Trampolining and Tumbling World Championships in Birmingham, England

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.

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Comments 34 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, this is amazing! Your daughter has such talent. I often wondered how they managed to do the jumps on the floor, I never realised that it was a specially made surface, but still, to be able to do that! Wow! It's a fantastic sport, I don't usually follow sports but always watch the gymnasts doing the floor exercise, and the trampolines, you must be so proud of her, amazing, rated up and everything!

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA

This is an amazingly thorough, entertaining, and informative hub on a very interesting subject. I learned a ton, so thanks for posting this.

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and beautiful.

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks to both of you for stopping by! My daughter works hard but is very much in the middle, skill-wise. Yes I am certainly proud of her, though! Thanks again for your kind words!

cebutouristspot profile image

cebutouristspot 4 years ago from Cebu

It require dedication and a lot of sacrifice to achieve this. Kudos to your daughter. Thanks for sharing.

BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

Wow, what a great photo. I bet you if you pin the photo on, you would get a lot of traffic back to this article.

CreateSquidoo profile image

CreateSquidoo 4 years ago

One of my favorite sports to watch in the Olympics is Gymnastics.

Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco

Like most of America it sounds, I have never heard of power tumbling! The thought of synchronized trampolining is very intriguing. Your daughter is absolutely amazing!

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone. Hopefully now you'll all be looking out for the trampoline competition at this year's summer Olympics! Like gymnastics, it is lots of fun to watch. I hope the network televises it!

Blissful, I've not yet joined Pinterest, but I'm interested in learning more about it. I'm assuming you have to join to pin things?

BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

Yes, you have to join pinterest in order to pin things.

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks Bliss, that's what I thought. I haven't decided whether or not to pursue pinterest. Are you pleased with your pinterest results?

vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

I'd never heard of power tumbling until reading your great hub. Congratulations on Hub of the Day! I was glancing at your comment above...I just joined pinterest this week on the recommmendation of my father and love it! It's an awesome site to browse and it could eventually drive more traffic to HP.

kthix10 profile image

kthix10 4 years ago from IL

Great Hub, I was coaching gymnastics at a local gym when I was in college when this trend really started taking off. I helped install the first rod floor that they gym purchased and watched along the sidelines as kids of all sizes started joining the classes and team. Some of the taller girls from various levels of gymnastics crossed over to T&T and found a huge level of success.

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Kthix10 and vespawoolf! What I like about power tumbling is that my daughter is not married to the gym. She trains about 4-6 hours a week, which leaves her time for homework, Girl Scouts and playing in her school band. It was a nice surprise to log in this morning and find I have my first hub of the day! It is exciting for little ol' me!

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 4 years ago from Tucson, Az

Congratulations on the Hub of the Day SmartAndFun !! How exciting and so well deserved! What a joy to read about tumbling and trampoline Now Im all fired up and want to go jump! :)

course the heart is willing but my poor ole joints are weak :(

shared,voted up and all the way across!!

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

Great hub with lots of useful information for those who, like myself, weren't aware of what power tumbling gymnastics are and for kids who may want to try it.

The photo of your daughter is awesome and I also enjoyed watching some of the videos.

Congratulations on earning the Hub of the Day accolade.

Voted up across the board except for funny.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Hi there, I am very interested in learning more about power tumbling! My daughter (age 9) is a Level 6 artistic gymnast, and enjoys the sport very much. She's a strong tumbler, and I wonder whether it might make sense to consider this sport in the future. One question is whether colleges have power tumbling programs and whether students may be awarded scholarships in the sport?

Excellent overview! Congratulations to your talented daughter. Best, Steph

Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

What an awesome, well-written, and thorough hub. My kids do gymnastics, although they are still beginners. I have seen some advanced tumblers practicing at the gym we used to go to, though, and it is very impressive. More fun to watch than some artistic gymnastics routines, I think.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Such and interesting look at power tumbling. The videos are amazing. It was neat to read about what your daughter gained by making the switch to this type of gymnastics. Their work is incredible to me--thanks for sharing!

Ari Lamstein profile image

Ari Lamstein 4 years ago from San Francisco, CA

This is a truly incredible Hub! The videos were really amazing to watch.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America

This sport has become one of my favorites to watch during the Summer Olympics! Occasionally I am fortunate to see a local or regional competition at our local university. Great stuff!

Hawk Fitness profile image

Hawk Fitness 4 years ago from Franklin,Tennessee

This Hub makes me excited for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. I need to write my Hubs on Fitness as thorough as this one. Insanely awesome hub right here.

urmilashukla23 profile image

urmilashukla23 4 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

Amazing hub. Pictures and videos are remarkable and explains everything. Thanks for sharing this. Congrats on Hub Of The Day award!

silverempiress profile image

silverempiress 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

I was in Gymnastics for eight years and had no idea this existed. My favorite part was always tumbling, the trampoline and the mini tramp and hated hated the bars and beam.

Thanks for the hub.

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks everyone for your positive comments! It's exciting having so many people stop by my hub!

@ Patty and Hawk, I'm ready for the Olympics, too! I just wish they would add all three power tumbling events. The athletes in World Championships are so incredible and fun to watch.

@Steph, Congrats on your daughter's success! Level 6 at age 9 is terrific! I don't believe there are opportunities for college scholarships in power tumbling. I could be wrong, though. A few schools (Baylor here in Texas is one) have changed the name of their competitive cheer programs to "acrobatics and tumbling" but it is still cheer.

@Silverempiress, I'm sorry you didn't know about power tumbling back when you were a gymnast. It sounds like it would have been a great fit for you!

Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 4 years ago from Oakland, CA

What an extraordinarily thorough and informative Hub! I'd heard of power yoga and power lifting, but never power tumbling!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Thanks for the reply! I was telling some of the gymnastics moms about your hub today - we all thought it was fascinating. Best, Steph

p.s. who knows what they will offer in 9-10 years when my daughter goes to college - competitive cheer looks like fun too! :)

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

I was so taken with the topic that I forgot to say congrats on your Hub of the Day! :)

moneycop profile image

moneycop 4 years ago from JABALPUR

very informatic hub..haven't been interested in olympics...but yes thistumbling i have seen many times on television, thanks for sharing so much insightfullness into it.

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Congratulations on Hub of the Day! Superbly done article and very interesting videos.

This was fascinating. Somehow, I've missed that this was in the Olympics. I usually watch the "regular" gymnastics, the diving and swimming in summer events. I've never seen this. I wonder if they don't consider it popular enough to televise?

It looks like fun, and if I was younger, I'd 'hop' right in. But, at 64 years old and with the accompanying aches, pains, arthritis, and its limitations on mobility, I guess I'll have to wait for my next lifetime.

Voted up across the board and shared.

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone. I appreciate it!

@DizzyMsLizzy, (love your screen name, btw!) the only power tumbling event in the Olympics currently is trampoline. Since it's just one event, it's easy to miss. I know I saw it during the last Olympics, but for all I know they may in fact choose not to televise it this year. Of course I hope not!

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA

Domineque Mocenu turns out to have had a sister who was secretly given up for adoption at birth because she had no legs, but then it turns out this little girl Jennifer had a talent for power tumbling, which is how I first learned about the sport. The double trampoline thing looks more beautiful and interesting than the vault in artistic gymnastics.

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 years ago from Texas Author

I saw that on the news about Dominique Moceanu's biological sister. What an interesting story and such a coincidence that she grew up idolozing Dominique but never realizing they were sisters. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sweetie Pie!

M M G 5 weeks ago

I do recreational tumbling, but I do wish that my gym would make it competitive tumbling. I used to do acro gymnastics, but I quit for a few years and when I went to real gymnastics I was horrible at beam especially and not very good an vault and bars but really good at floor, however I was placed in level 2. I did that for a while then i moved on to tumbling. I miss my acro days when i would compete :/

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 5 days ago from Texas Author

Thanks for stopping by and commenting MMG! Keep practicing and you will go far! If you can get a few friends to commit to acro, maybe your coach would consider adding an acro class if you proposed the idea to your coach. Best wishes!

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