Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Movement prototypes and their relationship in the performance of a gymnastics floor routine

Melanie Mack, Sarah Federbusch, Melanie Ferber, Thomas Heinen



For a better understanding of complex gymnastics performances, on the one hand, it is relevant to analyse isolated time discrete parameters, but on the other hand, it is also relevant to analyse the time-course of gymnastics skills and sequences holistically. Thus, the purpose of this study was to realize a holistic examination of a gymnastics floor routine (round off, back handspring, backward layout somersault) with an innovative approach of analysing time continuous data using a cluster analysis. Fifty-eight floor routine trials from ten female near-expert gymnasts were analysed on their movement kinematics. Time courses of six joint angles, together with the trunk orientation angle, were analysed by means of a hierarchical cluster analysis. In addition, the coefficients of variation were calculated. The results of this study revealed that for near-expert gymnasts, three to four prototypical movement patterns could be identified for each of the three skills (round off, back handspring, backward layout somersault). The different prototypical movement patterns can be differentiated by certain variant and invariant characteristics, such as the time courses of the different joint angles and their coefficients of variation. Statistically significant relationships were found between prototypes of the different gymnastics skills. In light of the training process in gymnastics, the study provides further evidence for strongly considering gymnasts’ movement pattern as well as for focusing on particular movement characteristics rather than on particular gymnastics skills in regard to motor skill acquisition and optimization.


Kinematic analysis; Cluster analysis; Prototypical movement patterns; Complex system; Movement relationship


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