The Differences Between Cheerleading & Gymnastics

While cheerleading and gymnastics have tumbling in common, the way they use cartwheels and more complicated moves is vastly different. Both are highly athletic activities that require a great deal of physical fitness and expertise. Cheerleading and gymnastics also combine execution of powerful, awe-inspiring moves with grace and finesse. While these two sports could be considered close relatives, the differences make it clear that they stand alone as their own entities.

Gymnastics Apparatus

Gymnasts compete on four different apparatus. They must learn to do tumbling, jumping and dance moves on the floor and the balance beam. The vault requires gymnasts to do explosive skills off of a spring board and over the vault. The uneven parallel bars require swinging, flipping, and release moves. While a gymnast may excel in one of these areas, they must learn to compete on all four apparatus in order to be successful.

Cheerleading Components

Cheerleaders do not complete on different apparatus. They do all of their skills on the flat surface of a competition mat, athletic court or the track in front of a field, such as a football field. Cheerleaders do incorporate tumbling and jumps that are very similar to those used in gymnastics; however, that is where the similarities end. Cheerleaders use their voices along with choreographed motions in an attempt to get the crowd to cheer along with a game. Cheerleading also involves stunting, where either one cheerleader or a group of cheerleaders lifts or tosses another cheerleader into the air 2.


Cheerleaders and gymnasts hold different roles in their respective sports. Gymnasts play a primary role, with the attention solely on their performance, during competitions. Cheerleaders sometimes play a primary role, such as when they are competing, and sometimes play a secondary role, when they are supporting another sports team by cheering them on to victory. When cheering for a sports team, cheerleaders need to consider timing for cheers and stunts so as to not distract from the game. Gymnasts do not need to do this because their performance is the main event.


While both cheerleaders and gymnasts benefit from the support of a tightly knit team, gymnastics is more of an individual sport. When performing, one gymnast takes her turn alone. While cheerleading does sometimes have some solo events in competitions, it is more of a team sport. A cheerleading squad performs together as a unit at games and competitions. Therefore in cheerleading, synchronization and uniformity are much more important than in gymnastics.

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