Trajković N., Madić D., Sporiš G., Aleksić-Velković A., Živčić-Marković K.: IMPACT OF … Vol. 8 Issue 2: 157 - 166
Science of Gymnastics Journal 157 Science of Gymnastics Journal
IMPACT OF GYMNASTICS PROGRAM ON HEALTH-
RELATED FITNESS IN ADOLESCENT PUPILS
Nebojša Trajković1, Dejan Madić2, Goran Sporiš3, Aleksandra Aleksić-
Veljković1 and Kamenka Živčić-Marković3
1Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Nis, Nis, Serbia
2Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, Serbia
3Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
The aim of this study was to determine the effects of gymnastics program in school on health
related fitness in adolescent pupils. The study involved 58 adolescent pupils (14.82±0.44 years)
attending the first grade at high school involved in a 12 week of gymnastics classes. The
variables were selected within the battery of tests Eurofit, measuring abdominal strength,
flexibility, aerobic fitness and upper and lower body strength, speed and agility. The results
showed average initial level and later dynamic increase in the physical fitness of the
participants. Pre-test to post-test values showed significant improvements in all tested variables
(p<0.05), except for the 4x10m test. Therefore, participation in gymnastics must be
recommended as a positive foundational activity for school-aged children, from early childhood
to adulthood. Additionally, the results can provide useful information in optimizing the training
loads of pupils involved in gymnastic training throughout Physical Education classes.
Keywords: effects, PE classes, training, physical fitness.
Health-related physical fitness includes
the characteristics of functional capacity and
is affected by the physical activity level and
other lifestyle factors. Regular participation
in moderate and vigorous levels of exercise
increases physical fitness, which can lead to
many health benefits (Ruiz et al., 2006).
Fitness, physical activity behavior and
motor skill development are important
components of the Physical Education (PE)
curricula and are potentially indicators of
child health (Lloyd, Colley, & Tremblay,
2010). Physical fitness in children and
adolescents has also been linked to positive
health outcomes in adults (Kvaavik, Klepp,
Tell, Meyer, & Batty, 2009). Moreover,
motor skills can be used for talent
identification to predict sport success in
children (Grice, 2003).
Gymnastics is an excellent mechanism
for the teaching basic motor skills and
promoting health-related fitness in children
of all ages (Coelho, 2010; Donham-Foutch,
2007). Many agree that involvement in
gymnastic training can contribute
significantly to the all-around development
of a child (Sloan, 2007) and that a physical
education program including gymnastics
benefits children in many areas (Werner,
Williams, & Hall, 2012). Gymnastics is
Trajković N., Madić D., Sporiš G., Aleksić-Velković A., Živčić-Marković K.: IMPACT OF … Vol. 8 Issue 2: 157 - 166
Science of Gymnastics Journal 158 Science of Gymnastics Journal
commonly included in PE programs across
the world. It represents an activity with
many benefits, to the point that it has been
described as a fundamental and critical part
of the PE curriculum that should be offered
in preschool through faculty (Donham-
Foutch, 2007). One such benefit is that it
promotes abilities related to health and
fitness (Werner et al., 2012; Baumgartner &
Pagnano-Richardson, 2010). There are
several well-known, health-related fitness
batteries to assess fitness in all its
dimensions in young people. A good
example in Europe is the Eurofit battery
(Committee of Experts on Sports Research
Many authors have reported that
modern artistic gymnastics requires greater
strength and power because of the ever-
increasing technical difficulty required
through revision of the Code of Points
(Jemni, Sands, Friemel, Stone & Cooke,
2006). Previous research has demonstrated
the positive effects of a four-week after
school programme addressing motor skills
and fitness can have in young children
(Matvienko & Iradge, 2009). Madić et al.
(2009) conducted research on a sample of
250 girls involved in the program of
gymnastics development as well as on the
580 girls who were not involved in sports.
The authors applied a battery of eight motor
tests, emphasizing that the research results
clearly confirm that the gymnastic facilities
have a positive impact on motor abilities.
Delas Kalinski, Miletic & Bozanic (2011)
found out that gymnastics skills learned at
the age of 6.5 are retained over time after a
period without any practice which makes
them suitable for PE classes. Learning
gymnastics skills in childhood can increase
children’s capacity for skill performance
and improve their motor abilities. One of the
major benefits of children’s participation in
gymnastics compared to that of untrained
participants in other sports is enhanced
strength (Andersson, Sward, &
Thorstensson, 1988; Benke, Damsgaard,
Saekmose, Jorgensen, & Klausen, 2002;
Maffulli, King & Helms, 1994).
Understanding the benefits of
participation in gymnastics training
implemented in schools would provide
relevant information for this area. It is
widely known that PE classes have positive
impact on the children’s physical fitness.
However, a great amount of researches were
conducted on preadolescent children or
younger because of early specialization in
Gymnastics. However, establishing
normative ranges for these physical tests in
adolescent children will be valuable for
practitioners conducting similar physical
fitness testing in the future. Therefore, the
aim of this research is to determine the
effects of gymnastics program in school on
health related fitness in adolescent pupils.
Fifty eight adolescent pupils
(14.82±0.44 age) from a High School in
Leskovac, Serbia, participated in the present
study. They were enrolled in Artistic
gymnastics classes. All participants were
male. They were informed of the nature and
possible inconveniences associated with the
experiment. Ethical approval was granted by
the University Ethics Committee. Prior to
data collection parental consent and child
assent was obtained. No child had any
reported history of learning difficulties or
any behavioral, neurological or orthopedic
problems that would qualify as exclusionary
criteria for this study. Children participated
in 45 minutes per session of sport
gymnastics training that included activities
based on fundamental movement skills.
Data was collected during two sessions,
before and after the eight-week gymnastics
training programme in school.
Baseline physical characteristics.
175.00±6.65 177.45±6.56 p=0.220
68.69±11.82 66.54±10.45 p=0.938
22.05±2.57 21.46±2.34 p=0.970
Trajković N., Madić D., Sporiš G., Aleksić-Velković A., Živčić-Marković K.: IMPACT OF … Vol. 8 Issue 2: 157 - 166
Science of Gymnastics Journal 159 Science of Gymnastics Journal
The variables were selected within the
battery of tests Eurofit so that the research
results could later be compared with the
results of other research studies carried out
in Europe. The measuring instruments were
either the same as or similar to, but of the
same metric characteristics, those prescribed
and described in the instructions for the
realization of Eurofit testing.
Anthropometric variables were
measured according to the guidelines of the
International Biological Program. Body
height was measured to the nearest 0.1 cm
by a metric measuring tape. Body weight
was measured to the nearest 0.01 kg using a
digital scale. BMI stands for Body Mass
Index. It is a measure of body composition.
BMI is calculated by taking a person's
weight and dividing by their height squared.
Health related physical tests
Traditional practice of testing which
assessed the so-called latent dimensions of
motor space (e.g., speed, strength,
coordination, etc.), has been replaced by
tests that assess the health-related physical
fitness of children (Hastad & Lacy, 1998).
First grade pupils were chosen because of
certain past experience with artistic
gymnastics skills and because their motor
development is still in progress. Also, it is
expected that their activity and inactivity
outside of school would be similar.
All tests were performed at similar
times in the morning on different days. At
least 2 hours separated each test from the
preceding meal. Diet was not controlled
during the study. All subjects were
instructed to have a light breakfast, and to
avoid coffee and cigarettes during the
testing day. They were also instructed not to
engage in strenuous activity during the day
before an exercise test.
The day before the test, the motor test
battery was introduced to all the pupils, who
did three test trials. Pupils were measured
indoor, after standard warm up (5 minutes
of running, and 10 minutes of dynamic
stretching). They were encouraged to show
maximum effort in all tests. If a subject
made a procedure error during the tests,
instructions and demonstrations of the task
were repeated, before the child made a new
Sit and reach test (flexibility): sit and
reach test apparatus was used to determine
the trunk flexibility. Children were seated
with the extended knees and the feet totally
leaning in the seat. The subject tried to
reach the largest distance slowly with the
hands, without bending the legs. The
measures were taken three times, with the
best attempt recorded in centimeters.
Standing long jump (explosive
strength): the child started with her feet in
parallel behind a starting line, one shoulder
width apart. After a signal the subject was
allowed to swing her arms backwards and
forwards and tried to jump as far as
possible. The jump distance was measured
in centimeters. The measures were taken
two times and the highest value was
recorded at the two attempts.
Vertical jump (explosive strength): the
person stands side on to a wall and reaches
up with the hand closest to the wall.
Keeping the feet flat on the ground, the
point of the fingertips is marked or
recorded. This is called the standing reach.
The person puts chalk on their finger-tips to
mark the wall at the height of their jump.
The person then stands away from the wall,
and jumps vertically as high as possible
using both arms and legs to assist in
projecting the body upwards. Attempt to
touch the wall at the highest point of the
jump. The difference in distance between
the standing reach height and the jump
height is the score. The best of three
attempts is recorded.
Sit-ups (abdominal strength and
muscular endurance): A standard procedure
for the 30 sec bent-knee sit-up test was
applied (Semenick, 1994). The subject lay
supine on a gymnastic mat with his knees
bent and feet fixed on the floor 25–30 cm
apart. The subject’s fingers were interlocked
behind the neck, and the backs of the hands
touched the mat. The sit-up was correctly
completed when the elbows touched the
thighs and the subject returned to the
starting position until the upper portion of
Science of Gymnastics Journal 160 Science of Gymnastics Journal
the back made contact with the mat. The
number of sit-ups correctly completed in 30
sec became the score.
Bent arm hanging (strength and
endurance): The child was hung on the
uneven bar with an overhand grasp with the
assistant’s support. She raised her body off
the floor to a position in which the chin is
above the bar; elbows were flexed and chest
was close to the bar. Upon a signal,
stopwatch was started and the hanging time
4x10m (test of speed and agility).
Marker cones and/or lines are placed five
meters apart. Start with a foot at one marker.
When instructed by the timer, the subject
runs to the opposite marker, turns and
returns to the starting line. This is repeated
four times without stopping (covering 40
meters total). At each marker both feet must
fully cross the line. Result is a record of the
total time taken to complete 40 m.
Push - up (strength and endurance):
The subject did a push - up position on the
mat with hands placed wider than the
shoulders; fingers stretched out and whole
body went straight on the mat. Then the
subject lowered the body using the arms
until the elbows bent at a 90 degree angle,
and upper arms were parallel to the floor.
The subject pushed up and continued in the
movement until the arms were straight on
each repetition. The score was the number
of 90 degree push – ups performed (The
Cooper Institute, 2007).
Aerobic fitness was assessed using the
20 m Shuttle Run Test or the Beep Test; it
was first described by Leger and Lambert
(Leger & Lambert, 1982) and identified in a
recent review as a reliable and valid field
test for use among children and adolescents.
(Freedson, Curetan & Heath 2000). Pupils
are required to run between two lines 20 m
apart (one “lap”), starting at 8.5 km/h and
increasing by 0.5 km/h every two minutes,
in synchrony with a cadence tape. Students
were tested in groups of about 15, and the
test was supervised by at least two of the
field team. The number of laps completed
was determined by the student failing to
keep pace with the cadence tape on two
consecutive laps or voluntarily withdrawing.
The last completed stage or half-stage at
which the participant drops out was scored.
These tests were chosen because they
have been clearly defined and validated in
other studies (Beurden, Barnett, Zask,
Dietrich, Brooks, & Beard, 2003; Espana
Romero, Artero, Jimenez-Pavon, Cuenca-
Garcia, Ortega, & Castro-Piaero, 2010;
Fjortoft, 2000), they are easy to administer,
and time efficient, and they cover a variety
of skill components.
The experimental program was
implemented during the school year 2013-
2014 in a period of twelve weeks in the high
school in Leskovac. The fundamental aim of
the training process was to influence the
improvement of motor abilities, to help
pupils to learn to implement some
gymnastics elements and to prepare them
for the exam of the subject. One week
before the training program players
performed the general conditioning in order
to prevent possible injuries. None of the
players was performing any additional
resistance or aerobic training outside of the
2 PE gymnastics classes.
The sport gymnastics program was
conducted two times a week. Each session
lasted for a 45 minutes. Pupils were divided
in two groups with equal number of
participants. All workouts were supervised
by trained artistic gymnastics instructors
and a PE teacher. Both groups had the same
conditions and the same instructors and
teachers. Each class unit contained three
training phases (Table 2): First phase started
with a warm-up which included slow
running and stretching and ended with a
polygon with different kind of movements.
This was followed by a set of gymnastic
exercises. The third phase of class was focus
on restoring the normal level of emotional,
mental and physiological bodily functions
and re-establishing the same state that the
pupils were in before the beginning of the
practice period. The experimental treatment
included basic gymnastics skills, according
to apparatus available at the moment:
Science of Gymnastics Journal 161 Science of Gymnastics Journal
Acrobatic, vault, mini trampoline, parallel
bars (Table 2).
The basic learning and teaching method
was the synthetic method, with the analytic
method used if there was an acquisition of
new motor skills. Information was presented
to the pupils participating in the practice or
PE lessons by means of oral presentation,
motor demonstration or performance of
simple motor tasks. The most commonly
used methodological organizational forms
of work was work in groups of 6 to 8, and
frontal work. Class was divided into four
groups. Pupils change their place/apparatus
according to number of repetitions or when
the planned time for that apparatus ends.
Training impact (loads) were primarily
administered on four gymnastics
apparatuses (7-8 min on each): (1)
acrobatics: 10-15 repetitions for roles and
cartwheel ; 7-10 repetitions other skills ; (2)
parallel bars : 15-20 repetitions in 3 sets for
swings; 5-10 repetitions in 3 sets for dips; 8-
10 repetitions for dismounts (3) Mini
trampoline: 15-20 jumps; and (4) Vault: 15-
20 jumps. Training load was determined
according to the level of skills. In the first
six weeks pupils performed easier
gymnastic skills, which referred to a greater
amount of repetitions. Other six weeks
included more complex skills, as well as
connected elements into exercise, which
influenced the lower number of repetitions.
All data analyses were performed in
IBM SPSS Statistics 19.0 statistical
program. The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test
was used to assess normal distribution of the
variables. Basic descriptive statistics were
calculated (mean value and standard
deviation). Comparisons between baseline
and the 12 week post-study testing for all
performance variables were performed
using a paired-samples t-test. Effect sizes
(ES) were also calculated to determine the
magnitude of the group differences. ES
(Cohen's d) were classified as follows: <0.2
was defined as trivial, 0.2–0.6 was defined
as small, 0.6–1.2 was defined as moderate,
1.2–2.0 was defined as large, and >2.0 was
defined as very large (Hopkins, Marshall,
Batterham, & Hanin, 2009). In additional,
percent changes were determined for all
variables after 12-weeks training program.
In all cases, the level of significance was
accepted at p<0.05.
Table 1 shows the results of the basic
anthropometric characteristics of tested
pupils in both trials (pre and post-) and the
significance of differences between the
Training program used between weeks 1 and 12.
Goal: improvement of motor abilities and health related fitness
Sessions 1–24 (Tuesday -Friday)
Warm up (8-10
General warm up followed by polygon with different kind of movements. Five
circles were performed with 20 sec break between.
Rolls, dive roll, rolls combined with other elements , cartwheel, handstand,
handstand and roll forward; roll backward to handstand, forward handspring
Split and squat jump on soft mats with assistant support, straddle through
Straight jump, split jump, tucked jump, piked jump, piked split jump
Swing in hang and support, -dip, dip swing, - back swing dismount, back swing
dismount tucked half turn with support, front swing dismount
Stretching (3-5) 5 minutes of stretching for the muscle groups mainly involved in sessions
Science of Gymnastics Journal 162 Science of Gymnastics Journal
Results of the health related physical tests in adolescent pupils (N=58).
Test Initial Final ES Δ changes P value
Standing long jump 173.62±28.08 186.45±26.56 0.46 7.4% 0.009
Vertical jump 41.937±8.132 47.564±7.65 0.71 13.4% 0.001
Sit-ups 20.84±3.98 26.35±4.24 1.34 26.4% 0.001
Bent arm hanging 39.23±19.31 43.56±17.23 0.24 11.0% 0.019
Push - up 20.12±10.57 24.5±9.36 0.44 21.8% 0.001
Sit and reach 7.85±8.7 10.15±7.4 0.28 29.3% 0.005
Shuttle-run 6.4±2.3 6.9±2.1 0.23 7.8% 0.025
4x10m 11.79±1.56 11.24±1.36 -0.38 -4.7% 0.998
Table 3 shows the participants’ results
in eight Eurofit tests. Results for the pre-test
post-test values of the experimental
programme showed significant
improvements in all tested variables
(p<0.05), except for the 4x10m test. There
was no statistically significant difference
between the two measurements with regard
to speed and agility testing.
We have tested the hypothesis that 12
weeks of gymnastic PE class program
would lead to significant improvements in
fitness performance in healthy boys. It was
observed that pupils who added gymnastic
training to their PE program were able to
achieve great improvements in Eurofit
testing battery. The average height and mass
of boys was 175.00±6.65 cm and
68.69±11.82 kg. The results were similar or
better compared to the norms for body
height and mass in comparison with the
general population of boys in this age group
founded in several researches (Lovecchio,
Casolo, Invernizzi, & Eid, 2012; Vaid,
Kaur, & Lehri, 2009; Lissau et al., 2004).
Body mass index (BMI) in both trials was
little higher than the general population
norms of boys in other researches (Lissau et
al., 2004). Lovecchio et al. (2012) found
BMI values for 15-year-old students of
20.20±2.70 which is lower than values
obtained by our research.
Table 3 shows the participants’ results
in the eight Eurofit tests. The results of the
test measuring flexibility (sit-and-reach test)
were at a very low level at baseline. Katic
(1995) showed that 6-month athletic
training did not significantly improve
flexibility in contrast to Violan et al. (1997),
6-month karate training. In our study
adolescents were exclusively submitted to
lower body stretching at each session.
However, as with other components of
physical fitness, flexibility is a parameter
that has to be emphasized specifically.
Limited flexibility of hamstring in
adolescents might cause low-back pain in
any age groups (Rodriguez, Santonja,
López-Minorro, Sáinz de Baranda, & Yuste,
2008). Our results show significant
improvement in the sit and reach test after
the 12 week of gymnastics PE program.
Therefore, similar programs for increasing
flexibility should be implemented in the
classes. The test results of lower limb
explosive power (standing long jump and
vertical jump) showed great improvement
with statistical significance p<0.05. The
increase in explosive power noted in the
present study is in accordance with previous
research that also found increased lower
body power in young girls with a similar
protocol involving gymnastic training
(Boraczyński, Boraczyński, Boraczyńska,
& Michels, 2013). Gymnasts generally use
their own body weight to carry out specific
conditioning exercises using gymnastics
apparatus. Moreover, it is considered that
skill-learning itself represent specific
strength conditioning, because gymnasts
have to repeat the exercise while carrying
their body weight in different positions,
switching from one to another position,
sometimes with added weights (Jemni,
Sands, Friemel, Stone, & Cooke, 2006).
Science of Gymnastics Journal 163 Science of Gymnastics Journal
This gymnastic training implemented in PE
classes certainly results in lower body
power enhancement in adolescent pupils.
Similar level of performance at
baseline (20.84±3.98) was found in the sit-
ups test compared to Hungarian and Finnish
adolescents as well as among Americans in
the study Kaj, Németh, Tékus, & Wilhelm
(2013). However, above mentioned study
included younger adolescents compared to
those in our study. Significant improvement
was noted at post-test (p<0.01) following 12
weeks of PE gymnastic program. Very high
performance was observed in the test of arm
and shoulder muscular endurance (bent-arm
hang test), showing very high progress at
post-test (p=0.01). One of the major benefits
of children’s participation in gymnastics
compared to that of untrained participants in
other sports is enhanced strength (Halin,
Germain, Buttelli, & Kapitaniak, 2002).
However, general strength results for
children tend to plateau and in some cases
decline in late adolescence and adulthood
(Hunsicker & Reiff, 1976). Therefore, it is
important to provide an indispensable
approach for this strength training in early
childhood, late childhood and adolescence.
Gymnastics participation, as well other
active sport activities, plays an important
The results of 20m shuttle run test were
significantly higher in final measurement
compared to initial (p<0.05). This finding is
an indicator that participating in this kind of
sports activities could regularly improve
VO2 consumption. Similar results were
found in other studies conducted on
European adolescents (Ortega et al., 2008;
Ortega et al., 2011). Conceptually,
gymnastics is very different from running.
Current understanding would suggest that
energetic requirements during gymnastics
are mainly anaerobic in nature because
of the high intensity and short duration of
competitive routines (Jemni, Sands,
Friemel, Stone, & Cooke, 2006).
Nonetheless, a considerable improvement in
shuttle run test was recorded in our pupils
following eight weeks of gymnastic
program. Possible reason could be found in
the fact that training sessions were shorter
and intense compared to training of
professional gymnasts. Moreover, the
results have been supported by Hoff et al.
(1999) and Millet et al. (2002), who
demonstrated that even though typical
strength training has minimal effects on
maximal oxygen uptake, it may be
possible that stronger athletes are more
efficient and economical, leading to
enhanced endurance capabilities as a result
of performing less work for a given task.
There were no statistically significant
improvements after 12 weeks of gymnastic
training only in the speed agility test (4 × 10
m). Agility is very important in gymnastics
because with floor routines you need to be
able to change direction under control.
Possible reason could be found in the fact
that PE and the most gymnastics floor
apparatus consists of several mats in line
which is different from official floor
apparatus. This fact points to the need for
more in-depth analysis of the training
process used by trainers with focus on the
In studies on young elite gymnasts in
three age groups, increasing age and
competitive level was correlated with
improved motor abilities both in regards to
fitness level and coordination ability
(Sawczyn, 2000; Kioumourtzoglou, Derri,
Mertzanidou, & Tzetzis, 1997). Overall, the
level of physical fitness of the participants
improved significantly in seven of the
Eurofit motor fitness tests. Our results are
similar with ten weeks study conducted in
children following gymnastics training
which improved flexibility, explosive/static
strength, muscular endurance, speed and
balance parameters (Alpkaya, 2013).
Although it is considered that the best
period for learning gymnastic skills is at the
early age because of early specialization
model (Jayanthi et al, 2012), this study has
shown that motor abilities can also be
improved in later years using an appropriate
training programme. In addition to our
results is statement from Ismail, (1976) who
claimed that the development of physical
abilities of pupils aged 8 and over improves
Science of Gymnastics Journal 164 Science of Gymnastics Journal
steadily and gradually over the years the
ages 18 to 19. Sawczyn (1985) underlined
the importance of physical fitness in
gymnastics, showing systematically
increasing differences over time between
gymnasts and non-trained subjects aged 10–
15 years in flexibility, speed, strength,
agility and endurance tests. However, it is
very hard to try to isolate the effects of
gymnastics training on physical fitness. This
is in line with some researchers (Beunen,
Malina, & Thomis, 1999; Caine et al., 2001)
who have stated that it is not currently
possible to establish a cause-effect
relationship between training and
performance in gymnastics due to
limitations in the available data, inadequate
descriptions of the training processes, thus
taking into account covariates such as age,
body size, and physical maturity.
A limitation of this short-term study is
that a control group which was involved in a
regular physical exercise program in school
was not included. However, having in mind
that regularly classes include basketball,
volleyball, handball, educational-athletic
games, running and jumping, it was very
difficult to explain the structure and
intensity of that program. Thus, the focus of
the present study was on discovering the
effects of twelve weeks of gymnastic
training in adolescent pupils. Also, we did
not assess biological maturation before the
start of the study considering the possible
baseline differences in physical
Twelve weeks of gymnastics training
implemented in PE classes had a beneficial
effect on abdominal strength, flexibility,
aerobic fitness and upper and lower body
strength in adolescent pupils. Therefore,
participation in gymnastics must be
recommended as a positive foundational
activity for school-aged children, from early
childhood to adulthood. Data provided from
this study represent useful information
because of the physical tests norms in
adolescent pupils, which should be helpful
for practitioners conducting similar physical
function testing in the future.
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Nebojša Trajković, PhD
Faculty of Sport and Physical Education
Tel: + 381 69 680 314