This topic comes as answer to an Ask American Gymnast question from one of our readers, Eric.  Here is Eric’s question:


“I’m a parent to a young level 5 boy gymnast and want to be more informed about what the judges are looking for during competitions.  The Gymnastics On Demand looks like a great tool to help his specific skills – do you also have a tool to help understand what the judges are looking for?”


Judging in gymnastics can be difficult to understand even for the most experienced parents and fans of the sport (and even for the most experienced gymnasts and coaches at times too!).  The routines your level 5 gymnast is performing are judged according to the compulsory routines and rules established by the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Program.

To explain in very general terms, your level 5 (male) gymnast is given a score calculated from 3 factors:

  1. Requirements – for each routine he performs on all 6 events, he starts at a base score and is then judged on whether he performs all of the skills in the routine as it is written by the JO Program.  If he leaves out a skill, adds a skill, or otherwise deviates from how the routine is listed, he is deducted from his base score.
  2. Execution – the gymnast is also judged on how well he performs each of the skills in the routine.  For example, are his legs straight, feet together, and toes pointed.  This is known as his execution of the routine.  Execution deductions are assessed based on whether they are small, medium or large deviations from what is expected.
  3. Bonus – the gymnast can also be awarded bonus tenths to his score in the following 3 ways:
    1. Performing one or more of the bonus skills specified in the routine
    2. Performing a skill (or skills) virtuously (i.e. bigger and/or better than the average performance)
    3. Sticking the dismount

You should be able to talk to your son and his coach about each individual routine if you are interested in finding out where your son is receiving his largest deductions at competitions.  If you are really interested in reading and studying the rules for the JO Program, ask your son’s coach if you can look at his copy of them.  Alternatively, you can purchase them in the Men’s Program section of the USA Gymnastics Online Store at:

The rules you are looking for are found in the first listing on this page – item#: 1202, which is the 2009-2012 Men’s Junior Olympic Age Group Competitive Program

You are correct that our Gymnastics on Demand Video Training System is intended more for learning technique for specific gymnastics skills, not necessarily for learning the rules.  As your son advances in the sport and begins learning Optional level skills and routines, a great tool that many judges (as well as coaches and gymnasts) use is the Men’s Gymnastics Gold Software, developed by FIG brevet judge Doug Hills.  I personally used it to study for many judging courses and it was a total life-saver!

Thanks for your question Eric!  Be on the lookout for your $20 off coupon!

Do you have a question about Gymnastics Products, Gymnastics Training, Gymnastics Competitions or anything else about the sport of Gymnastics?  Just “Ask American Gymnast!”  If we answer your question in our blogs or video blogs, we’ll send you a $20 coupon, good for your next purchase in the AG Online Store.

Jay Thornton

American Gymnast

Train Smart. Compete Hard!