Gymnastics in Greece and Rome

The history of gymnastics began in ancient Greece. Gymnastics was a fitness training program encompassing many forms of athletic activity, including running, wrestling and physical fitness routines. Some forms of gymnastics were included in the Olympics.

The Romans continued the practice. The routines became more oriented toward preparation for training as a soldier. In 393 AD the Emperor Theodosius banned the Olympic Games, which by then had become corrupt, and gymnastics, along with other sports, dwindled.



Who Invented Gymnastics?

Johann Gutsmuth and Friedrich Jahn started making devices that young people could use for gymnastics. Among the devices were the ring, pommel horse, and the vault. The balance beam, the parallel bars and the horizontal bar were also developed.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, gymnastics was still seen as a training exercise. But later, it became more of a sport than a military training regime.


By 1896, gymnastics was already a part of the Olympics. However, the early gymnastics had events such as running and jumping, but events were narrowed down with time.

  • Combination exercises appeared in 1928.
  • By the 1954 Olympics, the gymnastics routines as we know them became the norm.
  • In the 1950s, the 1 to 10 scoring system started to be used. 
  • Earlier gymnastics for men focused on power, while women focused on elegance. Over time men and women both started to display elegance and power.


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