Men's Olympic Gymnastics: Rules, Scoring, and Judging

Men's gymnastics has a very complex scoring system—but knowing the basics can help you enjoy watching the sport. Here’s what you’ll want to know.


Both men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics used to be well-known for the top score: the 10.0. First achieved in the Olympics by female gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci, the 10.0 marked a perfect routine. Since 1992, however, no artistic gymnasts have earned a 10.0 in the World Championships or Olympics.

In 2005, gymnastics officials did a complete overhaul of the Code of Points. Today, the difficulty of the routine and the execution (how well the skills are performed) are combined to create the final score:

  • The difficulty (“D”) score starts at 0.0 and increases with every difficult skill performed.
  • The execution (“E”) score begins at a 10.0, and the judges deduct for errors in performance such as a fall off the apparatus or a step on the landing of a dismount.

In this new system, there is theoretically no limit to the score a gymnast can achieve. The top performances in men’s gymnastics right now are receiving scores in the 15s and, occasionally, the low 16s.

This new scoring system has been criticized by fans, gymnasts, coaches, and other gymnastics insiders. Many believed the perfect 10.0 was essential to the identity of the sport. Some members of the gymnastics community feel that this Code of Points has resulted in an increase in injuries because the difficulty score is weighed too heavily, convincing gymnasts to attempt very risky skills. 

Judge for Yourself

Though the Code of Points is complicated, you can still identify great routines without knowing every nuance of the scoring system. When watching a routine, be sure to look for:

  • Good Form and Execution: A gymnast should always look as though he is in complete control, even when performing the most difficult of skills. Good form in gymnastics includes pointed toes, straight arms and legs, and tightness throughout the body. Every movement should look planned.
  • Strength Moves Held Long Enough: On the still rings and on floor, the gymnast must stay in position for 2 seconds on each strength move (e.g. an iron cross).
  • Height and Distance: In tumbling passes, vaults, and release moves, the gymnast should look as if he is exploding off the apparatus. On vault, the distance a gymnast travels from the horse is also a factor in his final score.
  • A Stuck Landing: On vaulting, dismounts, and tumbling passes on floor, the gymnast should end with a “stuck landing”—he should not move his feet once they hit the ground. The gymnast is not allowed to lunge backward out of tumbling passes (women used to be able to do this without deduction, but it is now considered an error in women's artistic as well).
  • Uniqueness of the Routine: A great gymnast will perform a routine that looks different from the rest. It will have something special about it—risky tricks, an artistic flair, or skills that are simply unique from others performed in the competition.