Here is an overview of the different women’s gymnastics levels in the USA Gymnastics Program.
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The main gymnastics levels, or program, is the Junior Olympic (abbreviated JO) Program levels. There is another program run by USA gymnastics, the Xcel Program, with its own set of levels. These are two separate programs with two sets of levels. If you complete all JO levels, you move on to the Elite program. The Elite level is basically gymnastics’ version of going pro.
AAU gymnasts compete these same levels with modified rules. You can learn more about the difference between the USA gymnastics program and AAU here.
Gymnastics Levels 1-3:
USA Gymnastics states that they created levels 1-3 to prepare gymnasts for competition. Most gymnasts don’t compete gymnastics levels 1-3, but there are routines that you could compete at this level. Many clubs have gymnasts in recreational classes while they learn these skills. Level 3 is not a required competitive level so there are no score requirements to move to level 4. Learn more about the Level 1 Gymnastics Requirements, the Level 2 Gymnastics Requirements, and the Level 3 Gymnastics Requirements.
Gymnastics Level 4:
Level 4 is the first required competitive level. So, to advance to level 5 from level 4 the gymnast must meet minimum standards and earn a minimum “mobility score.” Level 4 is a compulsory level. This means that to compete this level, the gymnast must learn a specific routine for each event. At level 4 meets, a gymnast is judged based on how well she does the skill, in addition to how well she performs the routine exactly how it is supposed to be done. Learn more about the Level 4 Gymnastics Requirements.
Gymnastics Level 5:
Level 5 is also a compulsory level. Some gymnastics clubs choose not to stress compulsory gymnastics, and in general don’t compete in compulsory meets. Instead some clubs might choose to compete using the Xcel program. These are optional rules that can be used while the gymnast is learning levels 4-6 skills. However, before gymnasts compete in level 6, they must compete in at least one meet to pass levels 4 and 5. Learn more about the Level 5 Gymnastics Requirements.
Gymnastics Level 6:
Level 6 is the entry level for optional competition. Optional levels are levels where each gymnast has a different routine, so they aren’t judged on the specifics of the routine. They are instead judged based on the skills they perform and the overall level and performance of the routine. Optional levels have routine requirements for each event, so when the coach or choreographer is choreographing the routine, they will need to include these requirements or the gymnast will earn deductions. The emphasis in level 6 is on execution of basic optional skills. See the Level 6 Gymnastics Requirements. Level 6 is the only gymnastics level that may be skipped with a qualifying level 5 score.
Gymnastics Level 7:
Level 7 is a mix of both compulsory and optional. In level 7, it is a mix of compulsory and optional because the requirements are more specific but each gymnast still has a unique routine. The requirements are more specific in that, for example, instead of on floor saying that one of the tumbling passes needs a salto element, in level 7 the rules state that the gymnast must perform a back layout in one of her passes. Here are the Level 7 Gymnastics Requirements.
Gymnastics Levels 8-10:
Gymnastics levels 8-10 are optional levels. Each gymnast has a unique routine on each event, and she chooses which skills to use to fulfill the requirements. Here are the Level 8 Gymnastics Requirements. The requirements for Level 9 get more complex. Here are the Level 9 Gymnastics Requirements. Level 10 is the last level in the JO program. Here are the Level 10 Gymnastics Requirements. Once a gymnast can perform all the skills required at level 10 she may choose to try out for the Elite program. I hope the gymnastics levels make more sense now! If you’re interested in how the gymnastics levels are scored, check out Gymnastics Scoring: 10 Minute Guide to How it Works.
Elite Level Gymnastics
The Elite program is similar to going “Pro” in other sports, because once in the Elite level a gymnast can compete in Olympic Trials or other professional events. Gymnasts can get to the elite program by going through the Junior Olympic levels 1-10 or by competing in the TOPS program. The TOPS program is how most Olympic gymnasts get to the Elite level, and how they get there at such a young age!