What Apparatus is Used in Rhythmic Gymnastics?

There are five pieces of equipment used in rhythmic gymnastics. Every two years, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) designates four of the apparatus to be used, and the other to be set aside for that time period. The equipment is also known as "events". 

Each event is performed on a floor mat measuring about 42.5 feet by 42.5 feet. It is not the same as the floor exercise mat used in artistic gymnastics—it doesn’t have the same amount of spring or padding to it. This is at the request of rhythmic gymnasts because it is much easier to perform the skills required on a floor without spring and padding. All rhythmic routines are performed to music and last from 75-90 seconds.

Floor Exercise

Rhythmic gymnast on floor
Amanda Lee See (Australia) performs at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. © Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

This event is unique to the introductory levels of competition in the United States and abroad—you won’t see it at the Olympics and other international competitions. In the US, it is a compulsory routine in which all athletes perform the same skills to the same music, without use of any additional equipment.

Look for: Leaps, turns, jumps and flexibility moves will all be on display. Unlike the floor exercise performed in artistic gymnastics, there are no tumbling (flipping) skills.


Rhythmic gymnast using a rope
Durratun Nashihn Rosli (Malaysia) performs at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. © Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images

The rope is made out of hemp or synthetic material, and is proportional to the size of the gymnast.

Look for: swings, wraps, figure-eight-type movements, throws and catches of the rope, and jumps and leaps through the open or folded rope.


Rhythmic gymnast with a hoop
Xiao Yiming (China) competes hoop at the 2008 Olympic Test Event. © China Photos / Getty Images

The hoop is made of wood or plastic, and is 31-35 inches in its interior diameter.

Look for: Rolls, high tosses and catches of the hoop, spins, and passes through and over the hoop will all be executed by the gymnast.


Rhythmic gymnast with a ball
Aliya Yussupova (Kazakhstan) performs her ball routine at the 2006 Asian Games. © Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

The ball is made from rubber or synthetic material and is 7-7.8 inches in diameter. Very bright-colored balls are not allowed, and the only pattern permitted on the ball is a geometric one.

Look for: The athletes will perform body waves, throws and catches, balances, and bouncing and rolling of the ball.


Rhythmic gymnast with clubs
Xiao Yiming (China) competes her clubs routine at the 2006 Asian Games. © Julian Finney / Getty Images

The two clubs are of equal length, about 16-20 inches long. Clubs are made from wood or synthetic material and weigh about 5.2 ounces each. 

Look for​: Circles (the clubs swing parallel to each other) and mills (the clubs swing opposite each other), throws and catches with the clubs as a unit and with the clubs separately, and rhythmical tapping are all skills in a club routine.


Rhythmic gymnast with a ribbon
Alexandra Orlando (Canada) performs her ribbon routine at the 2008 Olympic Test Event. © China Photos / Getty Images

The ribbon is a single strip, made of satin or a non-starched material, attached to a stick made of wood or synthetic materials. The ribbon is about 6.5 yards long, and 1.5-2.3. inches wide. The stick is 19.5-23.4 inches long and only .4 inches wide.

Look for: Often the crowd's favorite event, the gymnast will create all sorts of patterns with the ribbon, including spirals, circles, snakes and figure-eights. She'll also throw and catch the ribbon. It must always stay in motion throughout the entire routine.