The floor exercise developed out of the free exercise with our without hand apparatus which was a fixture at competitions for a long time. A 1923 'Memorandum' which made suggestions for (world championships) tournaments regulations called for the acceptance of the free exercises as being equal to the exercises on the apparatus for the first time in history. Yet an individual artistic floor exercise -both compulsory and optional- would not be included in competitions until the 1930 World Championships in Luxembourg, where it replaced the mass demonstrations.


Pic. from Tuccaro book
about "Arial Jumps"

Archange Tuccaro (1536 - 1616)
The Italian acrobat at the French royal court wrote a 400 page book about "Arial Jumps" which was published in Paris in 1599. The book is richly illustrated and describes acrobatic routines on the floor and the apparatus. Tuccaro also instructed king Henry III in floor exercise and was awarded the title of "Court Jumper" (Saltarin) .
In a way Tuccaro is the father of the methodology of gymnastics with this book. Today, acrobatic elements are a major part of a floor routine.
But exercises on the  floor are as old as the circus and jesters. Traces can even be found in the cave paintings of  Beni Hasan that date back to pre-Christian times..


Modern gymnastics as an individual discipline goes back to the free exercises developed in Germany by Adolf Spiess (1810 - 1858) and Justus Carl Lion (1829 - 1901) although these didn't include Tuccaro's acrobatic elements. (F.L.Jahn who was completely opposed to the use of foreign words in German referred to them as 'Kopfuebern' (=head over heals')

The mass or group routines with rigid collective patterns of movement were used for a long time. At the German Gym Festival in Munich in 1923 Martin Gebhardt (who represented Frankfurt despite originally being from Leipzig) was the first gymnast who dared to perform a flip flop. Even 10 years later, there still was no apparatus floor. Gymnasts performed their free exercises on the lawn.


Luxembourg 1930 saw the first official apparatus rankings. Yugoslav Josip Primozic (right) went down in history as the first world champion on floor exercise. Floor exercises continued to be done on grass even at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Switzerland dominated the world scene in the thirties, not only on floor. 1934 world champion Georg Miez, who placed second in 1930, took the gold on floor in 1936 ahead of his compatriots Josef Walther and Eugen Mack.

Floor exercise went through some substantial changes in the thirties and the floor at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin was already lightly sprung. Descriptions of dynamic floor routines had existed since the late twenties

Joze Primozic (YUG)

Hungarian Ferenc Pataki's dynamic acrobatics mark the beginning of a new era of floor routines in 1937- the Hungarian also took the Olympic title on floor.

Strong Swiss men:: Georg Miez (1932)

and Eugen Mack (1936)

Ernst Fivian, ECh 1959
The English and Germans pioneered special floor exercise mats ('sprung floors') as early as the twenties as well as the Danes in the thirties where the great Niels Bukh had some astonishing results.      (E.Herholz)

(Translation: N.Schuler)  

Sources/Quellen: "Der Vorturner", 1927/28; "Das Turnjahrhundert der Deutschen", Götze/Herholz: Beckmanns Sportlexikon A-Z, Leipzig, Wien 1933; "Deutsche Turnzeitung", 1901; "Neue deutsche Turnzeitung", 1961, J. Leirich; "Geschichte der Turngeräte", J. Göhler/R. Spieth; "Mondsalto", gymbooks Verlag 1994, A. Götze/J. Uhr; "FlickFlack...", Sportverlag Berlin, A .Götze/H.-J. Zeume; "The History of British Gymnastics", 1988 by BAGA.