Research Article: Somatotype, body composition, and physical fitness in artistic gymnasts depending on age and preferred event

Date Published: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Katarzyna Sterkowicz-Przybycień, Stanisław Sterkowicz, Leon Biskup, Ryszard Żarów, Łukasz Kryst, Mariusz Ozimek, Daniel Boullosa.


In men’s artistic gymnastics, results that are particularly appreciated are those obtained in all-around and individual events such as the floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar. However, few studies have explored the dependency of anthropometric characteristics and fitness from age category or the event preferred by gymnasts. Therefore, the aim of this study is to compare the somatic type, body composition and values of some anthropometric and fitness characteristics and indices of gymnasts according to age and preferred event. A total of 53 male gymnasts (19 seniors and 34 juniors) were examined right before the Polish Senior and Junior Championships in Artistic Gymnastics in Warsaw (May 25 to 28, 2017). We examined the characteristics of body length, skeletal system mass, muscle mass, skinfold thickness, and body mass (Tanita S.C.-330S). Body composition (Durnin and Womersley equations), somatotypes (Heath-Carter methodology), handgrip strength (Takei dynamometer), body balance (UPST), the power of the lower limbs (CMJ) were evaluated. Senior gymnasts presented higher than juniors experience, mesomorphy and had higher values in fitness tests of handgrip strength and power of lower limbs (p<0.05). The specialists in floor exercises and vault characterized in higher mesomorphy and lower ectomorphy (p<0.05) and better results of CMJ (p<0.05). We concluded: The seniors demonstrated natural predominance over juniors in several somatic and fitness variables. Detected differences can be useful in the process of identification and development of gymnastic talent. The detected effect of preferred event on certain variables that characterize body build and physical fitness can be useful for choosing a specialization in gymnastic event. A high skill level in all-around events at a national competitive level can be achieved by an athlete characterized by adequate experience, a mesomorphy somatotype component, lower limb index, pelvi-acromial index and relative HGSmax.

Partial Text

The most valued achievements in artistic gymnastics include those obtained in all-around events for six gymnastic events: floor exercises, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar [1]. The qualification system has been modified in the Olympic cycle from 2017–2020. The athletes of individual gymnastic events can also qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo [2]. Anaerobic exercise is typical of these sporting events. The shortest event is the vault (5.16 ± 0.41 s), whereas the longest is floor exercises (60.90 ± 3.44 s). The pommel horse, rings, parallel bars, and horizontal bar performances take approximately 35 s [3]. Overcoming the resistance during hanging exercises and in support requires substantial strength, which impacts the development of the muscular system.

The main aim of this study was to demonstrate probable differences in training, body build, body composition, and level of motor skills according to age category and preferred gymnastic event. The hypotheses raised in introduction are partially fulfilled. The study used two-way ANOVA to reveal the share of age category and the event preferred by gymnasts in the variance of the measurements. The athletes started their gymnastic training at the same age (≈7 years old), regardless of age category and preferred event. Other studies showed that the mean age when Polish junior gymnasts started training was 6 years [6], whereas that for Olympic medal winners was 7.7 years (and 6.2 years for the period of 1991 to 2000). During the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the mean age of medal winners was 23.3 years, and the oldest were specialists in SR (27 years). Medium ages were observed for AA athletes (23.7 years), whereas the youngest won medals in the VT event (19.3 years) (4).

We found the effects of many years of gymnastic training and specific recruitment of athletes on the anthropometric characteristics and indices as well as several motor abilities. These findings allowed for isolation of the independent effects (except for the interaction for FFMI) of age category and preferred gymnastic event on the profile of physical preparation of the athlete. The results revealed the specific characteristics of preparation in the competitive period, and the following conclusions were obtained:




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