5 Common Gymnastics Deductions and How Your Gymnast Can Avoid Them

One thing I often communicate to my gymnasts is that their scores are not under their control. 

While it seems counterintuitive to most gymnasts, the truth is that while gymnasts can try really hard and even put up their best routine, they don't always receive the scores they think they should get and/or deserve.

As a former compulsory judge, I know how subjective scores can be even though they are contained within an objective framework. Judges are indeed humans and thus have their own perspective and biases. While gymnastics scoring was created to eliminate any such subjectivity, the truth is it will always remain subjective to some extent or another. 

This can be very frustrating to those gymnasts who focus on their scores and even track them from meet to meet, and perhaps become disappointed when their scores aren't as high as they want them to be.

And so my general advice to most gymnasts is to focus on the things they DO have control over.

One of those things is their form.

In this article, I want to talk generally about some of the things judges look for in routines so that your gymnast can focus on these things to help her potentially score higher. 

Now, again, the goal is not to focus on the score but on the things she can do to help improve her score since that's what she has control over. 

Here are five important types of deductions that judges can take on every routine:

1. Body Position and Angles

Whether it's hitting a certain position on a cast handstand on bars or a certain angle on a leap on floor, body position and angles are incredibly important. 

It's important that your gymnast knows the angles she needs to hit and works hard in practice to achieve these angles.

Here are some of the basic body positions and angles that judges look for:

Level 1-5 Vault

-Failure to maintain a stretched body position during the jump in the Stretch Jump in Level 1 can result in up to a .30 to .50 deduction.

-Failure to maintain a stretched body position in handstand in the Handstand (or Jump to Handstand), Fall To Straight Lying Position for Level 1 and Level 2, for the Handspring over a raised mat surface for Level 3, and Handspring over vault table in Levels 4 and 5 can also lead to deductions...

Piking (up to .50 deduction) can give up to a bigger deduction than arching (up to .30 deduction) because judges are looking for gymnasts to drive their heels as much as possible in their vault.

In addition, the handspring vault in Level 3 and beyond consists of three different phases and body position deductions can be taken for each of the phases!

In higher level vaults, body position is also important. If your gymnast has insufficient tuck (up to .30), insufficient pike (up to .30), or insufficient stretch (up to .30) she can lose up to a .30 deduction.

In bars if your gymnast isn't hitting her handstand positions she will also lose points. Deductions depend on the value of the element and the degree of angle she hits. But they can be anywhere from .05-.40 of a deduction depending on how much of the handstand phase is achieved.


2. Amplitude

Amplitude is another big thing judges look for. 

On beam and floor your gymnast's hip rise is important, especially on leaps, jumps, and hops (up to .20).

If your gymnast doesn't have sufficient height in her aerials or in her backwards acro flight with hand support (ex: back handspring) she can also lose points (up to .20).

If her hips don't rise high enough on her salt elements she can lose up to .30.

On bars especially your gymnast must meet certain amplitude requirements on casts and circling elements. 

In the level 4 cast to horizontal on both low and high bar, your gymnast must hit horizontal (line from shoulders to mid-point of lowest body part) or else she'll receive the following deductions:

  • 1-44 degrees below horizontal - .05-.15 deduction
  • At 45 degrees below horizontal - .20 deduction
  • 46 degrees or more below horizontal - .25-.30 deduction

Similarly in the level 5 cast to above horizontal and clear hip to above horizontal, your gymnast must be above horizontal or she'll receive the following deductions:

  • At horizontal - .05 deduction
  • 1-44 degrees below horizontal - .10-.15 deduction
  • At 45 degrees below horizontal - .20 deduction
  • 46 degrees or more below horizontal - .25-.30 deduction

In higher level vaults, your gymnast can lose up to .50 deduction for insufficient height.

During release elements in upper level bar routines, your gymnast can also lose points for insufficient amplitude. If your gymnast's hips are at the high bar level she can receive a .05 deduction. If her hips are below high bar level she can lose from .10-.20 deduction.

There are many more amplitude deductions in higher level routines. But the point is that amplitude matters. And your gymnast can get a lower score than you think because of these sorts of deductions.


3. Rhythm/Dynamics

The goal of every routine is for it to have a good rhythm. It shouldn't be too slow with your gymnast taking too many pauses nor should it be rushed through with little differentiation between elements and skills. 

There are specific places that judges look out for in gymnasts' routines. Some of them are:

-Concentration pauses on beam or floor. Generally if your gymnast pauses for two seconds or more she will get penalized (.1-.2 deduction depending on how long and which event).

-Breaks in dance series on beam. If your gymnast stops between elements, loses her balances between elements, repositions her feet, or takes an extra step or hop between elements she will get some minor deductions (.05 deduction).

-Stops between major elements on floor in her tumbling pass (.30 deduction).

-Is off beat with the music on floor (.05 for each time up to .30 and .10 if at the end).

-If her energy isn't maintained through the exercise or she looks like she is really using effort through her routine she can lose up to .20 deduction.

 Stick It Girl Gymnastics Meet Journal

4. Acceleration/Power

 In vault especially, it's important that your gymnast have good acceleration and power. If you haven't seen Simone Biles do a vault, definitely go check out her speed and power! 

If your gymnast has insufficient dynamics in her speed and power on her vault she can lose up to .30 deduction.

During tumbling passes, your gymnast can lose up to .20 for a lack of acceleration in her series (if your gymnast stops between elements that is a .30 deduction that overrides the lack of acceleration deduction).


5. Leg/Foot Positions in Turns and Leg Position in Leaps

Turns and leaps can carry some big deductions for being such "simple" dance elements. 

For example, in a passe turn, if your gymnast's leg is not in forward passe or is in the wrong position she will get a .10 deduction. Further, if she doesn't mark the passe position in releve at the end of her turns she can get a .05 deduction or if she does not perform her turns on one foot in high releve she can get up to .10 deduction.

If she has uneven leg separation during her straight leg leap she can get up to .20 deduction. And if she bends her lead leg on take off she can get up to a .10 deduction.

These deductions count for every single turn and leap that your gymnast does on floor and/or beam.


If your gymnast starts to focus on correcting these common minor form errors, she can help her score while also focusing on what she can control.

It's important that your gymnast is aware of these deductions because they can really add up in a routine. They can also explain why a routine that looks great gets a sub par score. Judges are looking for way more than what spectators are looking for. And this can prove frustrating if you're not aware of the intricacies involved in gymnastics scoring.

Hopefully these five common gymnastics deductions can help you and your gymnast focus on the things she can improve this season. In turn, your gymnast might see her score increase! But again, that's not the point. The point is for your gymnast to work hard to control her form and practice the right things so she can shine during competition.


Please note: This article is meant to be for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an accurate guide to gymnastics deductions. Please ask your coach or a judge for more specifics regarding each of these deductions. Deductions can also change and may not be accurately reflected in this article. The goal is to understand that deductions can be taken in each of these categories.


If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.


Free Mental Block Guidebook for gymnasts and their parents - Stick It Girl


Helpful Links:



Gymnastics Mental Coach Anna Kojac, M.Ed.


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