Tumbling vs Gymnastics

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Tumbling vs gymnastics – these two disciplines are visually similar but quite different in other aspects. Still, they cause a lot of confusion among people, especially those who are looking to have their kids engage in sports.

If you also don’t quite know what the difference between tumbling and gymnastics is, then you will find answers in this post. Apart from that, we’ll give you some guidance as to what to expect with them and which one would be best for your kid.

What Is The Difference Between Tumbling And Gymnastics?

What is Gymnastics?

Let’s start with gymnastics since it is the broader discipline of the two.

There are many definitions of gymnastics, with one of them being is that it is a sport that involves exercises that require flexibility, strength, coordination, and endurance.

Gymnastics is a very general term that includes several more specific disciplines. The most common form of gymnastics is artistic gymnastics, a discipline that you are probably familiar with.

Artistic gymnastics consists of 6 events for men and 4 events for women. Those events are:

  • Floor (men and women).
  • Vault (men and women).
  • Uneven bars (women).
  • Balance beam (women).
  • Pommel horse (men).
  • Still rings (men).
  • Parallel bars (men).
  • Horizontal bar (men).

Apart from artistic gymnastics, gymnastics has several other disciplines like:

  • Rhythmic gymnastics.
  • Trampolining.
  • Acrobatic gymnastics.
  • Aerobic gymnastics.
  • Tumbling.
difference between tumbling and gymnastics

As you can see, tumbling is actually a discipline of gymnastics.

Therefore, gymnastics is a much broader term that encompasses a variety of movements and events.

And as you might’ve guessed, all tumbling is gymnastics, but not all gymnastics is tumbling.

What are the benefits of gymnastics for children?

Since gymnastics are broader than tumbling, they require a somewhat wider set of skills. With that said, what gymnastics develops exactly depends on the discipline.

In artistic gymnastics, for example, endurance is perhaps more important than in other forms of gymnastics. At the same time, trampolining and tumbling require more explosive strength.

But generally, when it comes to children, gymnastic training may help them develop the following skills:

  • Coordination & flexibility. Involving complex movement patterns, gymnastics is very demanding on one’s flexibility, agility, and coordination. Due to this, gymnastics does a great job of teaching children to understand movement and orient themselves in space.
  • Strength and power. Though the core of gymnastics is flexibility and coordination, strength and power will inevitably develop as well through gymnastic training. This especially applies to boys who will get the chance to perform such demanding exercises as still rings or pummel horse.
  • Confidence. Confidence also is a big part of gymnastic training for children. Not only does it take confidence to perform complex and rather risky movements, but day-to-day progress will also likely boost your kid’s self-esteem and help them tackle challenges beyond gymnastics.
  • Social skills. Although not must-have, social skills are also likely to develop as your child communicates with their peers and coaches. Social skills obtained early on will then transfer to adult life and will hopefully help your child become established in their career path.
  • Sportsmanship. Cheering for each other and fighting for success, children will learn to appreciate their opponents along with the challenges that this sports discipline brings.
  • Hard work ethic. Gymnastics is a tough sport. Not only does it require physical skills, but it is mentally taxing with its complex movements and the constant need to improve.

With this in mind, gymnastics helps children overcome everyday hardships and teaches them that success takes effort.

What is Tumbling?

As mentioned above, tumbling is a discipline of gymnastics. It is also sometimes called power tumbling.

In tumbling, the gymnast performs a series of acrobatic movements on a 25 meters long sprung track. Tumbling incorporates 8 basic elements where the gymnast performs flips, jumps, whips, and other movements.

One distinctive feature that some people attribute to tumbling is that it uses no gymnastic equipment. In other gymnastics disciplines, equipment like rings, bars, pommel, and others are heavily used. In tumbling, the only equipment is the sprung track and some mats for safety.

Due to this, tumbling is actually pretty easy to practice at home, even via online courses, which will be a big benefit for many parents.

tumbling gymnastics champion

Compared to other disciplines of gymnastics, tumbling involves much more explosive strength as well.

If you’ve ever seen tumbling meets, then you’ve probably noticed how short and quick tumbling rounds are.

Gymnastic rounds generally last longer and are more demanding on endurance, among other things.

On photo Jordan Ramos British Gymnastics Tumbling Championships
Image by Wikimosnter, CC BY-SA 3.0

What are the benefits of tumbling for children?

Tumbling builds upon the skills acquired in general gymnastic training. With that said, as mentioned earlier, tumbling places more focus on explosive strength. It’s also maybe much more demanding on coordination than other gymnastic events.

Tumbling is typically preceded by some form of gymnastic training. In fact, previous gymnastic training is a prerequisite for tumbling in many gyms. Due to this, tumbling is usually started at an older age than gymnastics.

Even though tumbling is more specific than general gymnastics, it promotes the development of the same skills. It likewise requires excellent flexibility, coordination, and strength.

And needless to say, it builds social skills, sportsmanship, daring, and self-esteem.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at this video:

Gymnastics Tumbling using Trampoline, Tumbl Trak and Floor

Which discipline is right for your child?

So now that we know the difference between gymnastics and tumbling, which discipline would be right for your child?

We think that there are three main things that will determine this:

  • The age of your kid. Gymnastics can be started as early as at the age of 2, whereas tumbling should probably be started at ages 5 or 6. This may depend on the gym as well since there may be minimum age requirements.
  • Your child’s experience. As mentioned earlier, tumbling generally requires prior gymnastic training. Gymnastics, on the other hand, can be started by anyone.
  • Your child’s wishes and goals. If your kid wants to do specifically artistic gymnastics, then you probably shouldn’t push them to do other things.

Apart from that, it’s important to understand that gymnastics can serve as a great starting point for other sports. Thanks to its demands on strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination, gymnastics allows children to develop core skills that can be very useful in pretty much any sport.

In contrast, tumbling is more specific and should be perceived as a step that comes after basic gymnastic training. Apart from that, tumbling can be a career path because it is more specific than just gymnastics. The same applies to other disciplines of gymnastics.

With this in mind, if your child is very young, we suggest that they start with gymnastics training. After some time, see what they want.

They may want to do tumbling, which is great because it is very easy to switch from gymnastics to tumbling. Or, they may want to do soccer or tennis, which is also great because gymnastic skills will greatly help them.

And even if your child doesn’t see themselves in sports, the social skills and confidence obtained during gymnastic training will be of great help to them in their life.

Tips For The Parents Of Future (Hopefully) Gymnasts

Tips For Parents Gymnasts

No matter what you do, be sure to ask your child what they think.


Listen to your child’s opinion

When it comes to basic gymnastics training at an early age, your child may not mind because they likely won’t know what they want quite yet.

But once children reach an age and skill level appropriate for tumbling, they probably will have a word to say in regards to what they want and how they feel about gymnastics as their future path.

Though you will likely have a better idea of what is a good future for your kid, don’t ignore their opinion and support and motivate them in their desires.

Do in-depth research on gymnastics

Gymnastics can be full of surprises, especially not so pleasant ones.

Before your kid engages in gymnastics, you should do good research on how to prepare for it, what to expect, and how to ensure a rewarding and fruitful experience for your child.

Consider getting gymnastic equipment for home

If you or your child are positive about their future in gymnastics, consider purchasing or making equipment for home training. These may include trampolines, gymnastic mats, pommel horses, air tracks, and many others.

Gymnastic equipment can be quite expensive, but you can expect it to deliver great long-term results since those additional hours put into training at home will surely be fruitful.

Tumbling And Gymnastics FAQ

At what age can kids start gymnastics or tumbling?

Gymnastics can be started as early as 2-2.5 years. Tumbling, however, is more suitable for older kids because many gyms require prior gymnastics training for it.

Even if a gym doesn’t require experience for tumbling, you may want to start with gymnastics anyway because it will give more options to your kid as to what they can do in the future.

Is tumbling good for boys?

Tumbling incorporates explosive strength and coordination, which may be desirable traits for boys. Apart from that, tumbling, like gymnastics, develops flexibility, agility, and confidence.

With that in mind, tumbling can be great for boys, but please do listen to your child’s opinion on what they want.

Is tumbling a sport and is it in the Olympics?

Tumbling currently is not an Olympic event. However, it is a sport with competitions on an international level, so there certainly is some room for growth in it.

Tumbling vs Gymnastics – Final Words

Hopefully, the tumbling vs gymnastics question is now clear to you.

They are actually very distinct, so you or your child shouldn’t have much trouble when choosing between one or the other.

Either discipline can be great in terms of career development, but for many people, gymnastics will be an optimal choice because it opens up a lot of options for children.

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