Compulsories, by their nature, are repetitive. You might wonder, how can I catch the judges’ attention during the same old-same old Level 4 floor routine?

Once, I was coaching Level 4 at an early-season meet and one of my gymnasts turned the wrong way during her choreography. She couldn’t figure out how to get back where she belonged, so she just kept doing her routine in the direction she was headed. Before I knew it, she was out of bounds. She kept going and going and eventually she was behind the judges’ table! (Don’t worry, they turned around so they could still see her.)

My guess is, that’s NOT the type of attention you’re looking for. But read on, and I’ll show you how to catch the judges’ eye… in a good way!

Level 4 Floor Skills

Before we go into deductions, it’s important to know what skills are in the routine.

The following skills are considered “major elements” in the Level 4 floor routine. Major elements are the “big” skills in the routine, and they are the skills that are worth the most points. General execution deductions apply to all the major elements in the routine.

  • Back walkover
  • Front handspring step-out, cartwheel, straight arm backward roll to handstand
  • Stretch jump ½ turn
  • Split leap
  • Straddle jump
  • Forward split
  • Full turn
  • Roundoff, flic-flac, flic-flac

What the Judges Look For in Level 4 Floor

To maximize the score of a Level 4 floor routine, here are three categories to work on, in order of importance:

  1. Execution on major elements
    Are they performed well, with straight legs, straight arms, tight body positions?
    Do leaps, jumps, and hops have good amplitude?
  1. Are the major elements free from specific element deductions (more details below)?
    Has attention been paid to the smaller details (kicks, arm positions, foot faults)?
  2. Has the gymnast minimized her deductions in the general categories (text, rhythm, artistry, posture, etc.)?

   The goal is to be able to answer YES to each of these questions. Now, let’s look at how these categories break down.

General Execution Deductions

First, let’s look at general execution deductions. These deductions can be taken on any major element in the Level 4 floor routine. Here are some common deductions for this routine:

  • Foot form – 0.05
  • Leg separation – Up to 0.20
  • Body alignment/position/posture in major elements – Up to 0.20
  • Bent arms or legs (max deduction at 90 bend) – Up to 0.30
  • Balance errors – Up to 0.30
  • Fall (on or off the apparatus) – 0.50
  • Failure to mark the passe position in releve at turn completion – 0.05
  • Failure to contract or extend when indicated – Up to 0.10
  • Leg swing/kick not to horizontal or above when required – Up to 0.10
  • Uneven leg separation in leaps/jumps – Up to 0.20
  • Failure to perform turns in high releve – Up to 0.10
  • Failure to keep arms by ears in and out of slow acro elements – 0.05 each
  • Not finishing with the music – 0.10
  • Failure to land with feet together on 2-foot landing of jumps – Up to 0.10
  • Insufficient split – Up to 0.20
  • Stop between elements in an acro series on floor – 0.30
  • Extra kick to handstand – 0.30

Next, we’ll take a look at a few overall changes this cycle, before going into the specifics of the routine.

Technique Changes for the 2021-2029 Compulsory Cycle

There have been some changes made in this cycle of compulsory routines. Here are the changes you’ll see throughout all of the compulsory floor routines:

  • No kicks into acro elements
  • No straight leg entry into acro elements
  • Two choices for acro entries: lunge entrance or mountain climber entrance
  • Two choices for acro exits: lunge exit or step-in exit to straight stand

If you’ve coached prior to 2021, you’ll notice that these are different from past compulsory routines, but there are more options now to allow for flexibility in coaching techniques. Win-win for everyone!

The Level 4 Floor Routine

Now, we will look at the major elements in the Level 4 floor routine, and the specific deductions that accompany each of them.

The routine starts with the beginning pose and dance steps. General deductions (footwork, posture, etc) apply to this choreography sequence.

Back walkover

back walkover in level 4 floor routine

The leg should continuously lift into the back walkover. A deduction of up to 0.10 can be taken if the gymnast’s leg lifts after her body has started to arch backward, or if her leg lifts and then drops. The leg does not need to lift to any particular height before the walkover begins.

The gymnast should achieve a 150 degree split during the walkover (up to 0.20). The hand placement should be even, not staggered (0.10). She should keep the arms by the ears as she moves in and out of the back walkover (0.05 each).

Other common deductions on the back walkover are bent legs, bent arms, and poor head alignment. If the gymnast does not make it over, she will receive the up to 0.40 deduction for an incomplete element, along with execution deductions.

At the end of the back walkover, the gymnast can land in a lunge, or she can use a step-in technique to end with her feet closed.

After the back walkover, there is a choreography sequence including a chasse and turn to face the corner. The emphasis should be on good posture and foot form – pointed feet on the chasse, pointed feet during the choreography steps and poses, and good body posture with shoulders down and ribs in.

Front handspring step-out, cartwheel, back extension roll

This is a tumbling series which emphasizes speed and continuous movement into the consecutive skills. If the gymnast does not move continuously, a rhythm deduction can be applied. Incorrect foot positions between skills will result in a small text deduction, but extra steps or foot movements can incur deductions of up to 0.10 each.

Front handspring step-out

The gymnast can perform either a step hurdle or a power hurdle with no deduction. If she takes any additional steps, the maximum deduction is 0.05.

There are a number of specific deductions for this skill. The hands should be placed next to one another (not one in front of the other), or the gymnast can receive an up to 0.10 deduction for alternate hand placement. A “dive” onto the hands can receive a deduction of up to 0.20. If the gymnast joins her legs before the stepout, she would receive a flat 0.10 deduction. If she does not step out (performs a front handspring to two feet), she will receive a deduction of 0.20.

There is NO deduction for lack of repulsion during the front handspring. If the front handspring looks like a “fast front walkover”, this is acceptable.

Other common deductions in the front handspring are bent arms (up to 0.30), bent legs (up to 0.30), and incorrect body position (up to 0.20) if the gymnast has a piked body or an excessive arch. The text calls for a tight stretched position, but if the gymnast’s body is loose, this deduction could be applied.

Cartwheel

The gymnast can use either a lunge or a mountain climber entrance into the cartwheel. The arms must stay by the ears on the way in and out (0.05 each). The hands should land one after another (0.10 deduction for simultaneous hand placement). There is an up to 0.30 deduction if the gymnast does not pass through vertical. The head should stay in line with the body (up to 0.10 deduction).

The gymnast should make sure to keep the arms and legs straight on the cartwheel, keep the feet pointed, and maintain a straight body position in her torso. General execution deductions apply if errors are made in these areas.

The cartwheel should end with a step-in finish, in preparation for the back extension roll. The gymnast can finish in a straight stand, or she can maintain a rounded body shape and move immediately into the back extension roll.

Straight arm backward roll to handstand

Another name for a backward roll to handstand is a back extension roll.

The back extension roll must be performed with straight arms, or an up to 0.30 deduction can be applied. If the gymnast places the hands on the floor as she rolls back, she would get a flat 0.30 deduction. A 0.10 deduction would apply if the hands are wider than shoulder-width apart, and another 0.10 applies if the fingers are interlocked.

The roll must go through a handstand position, with an up to 0.30 deduction if the roll does not hit vertical. If the gymnast performs a backward roll stepout, she would receive a flat 0.40 deduction for changing the element. The handstand does not need to be held. The gymnast is expected to keep the arms by the ears as she moves out of the roll (0.05 deduction).

It’s common to see body position errors (pike or arch – up to 0.20) or leg separations (up to 0.20) during the back extension roll.

The back extension roll can finish in a lunge, or use a step-in technique, where the gymnast steps in to finish with straight legs and feet together.

Stretch jump ½ turn

The stretch jump ½ turn can also be called a straight jump ½ turn, or simply a jump ½ turn.

Before the jump ½ turn, there is a series of dance poses. These are not major elements, but the gymnast can get deductions for footwork, posture, text errors, or failure to kick to horizontal. The step, kick, and forced arch pose should all be performed in high releve.

During the jump ½ turn, the emphasis is on height (up to 0.20) and posture (up to 0.20). Other common deductions are for bent legs (up to 0.30), foot form (0.05), and body position during the jump (up to 0.20).

In addition, there are specific element deductions for failure to land with the feet together (up to 0.10), failure to land on both feet at the same time (0.10), and for failure to keep legs together in the air during the jump ½ turn (up to 0.10).

The gymnast should bring the arms into crown during the jump. The jump ½ turn finishes with a small rebound to one knee. The arms remain in crown during the rebound.

Passe hop, Side chasse, Passe hop turn, Forward chasse, Leap

gymnast doing leap in Level 4 floor routine

The book actually splits this series into two parts, but it is all connected, so I left it as one sequence here.

The leap is the only skill in this series that is considered a major element, so the other skills would be subject to general deductions. Also, if one of these elements is inadvertently omitted, it would only be a small deduction.  

During the hops and chasse’s, the gymnast should focus on leg and foot position, posture, and arms in the correct positions. All of these areas are subject to general deductions if they are performed incorrectly.

Just like the jumps, the emphasis during the leap is on height (up to 0.20) and posture (up to 0.20). The leap is required to hit a 120 split (up to 0.20 for insufficient split). Deductions can also be applied for bent legs and foot form.

Specific deductions apply for uneven split (up to 0.20) and performing a stag leap (up to 0.10).

The gymnast can place her arms in one of three positions: opposition, side-middle, or forward middle opening to side-middle. The arms should stay in position during the leap and at the finish of the leap (text error if they do not).

Straddle jump

During the straddle jump, the arms should be sideward diagonally upward, and move to crown on landing. Side-split and straddle-pike positions are both acceptable with no deduction.

The straddle jump should achieve a minimum of a 120 leg separation (up to 0.20 deduction). Just like the other leaps and jumps, the emphasis is on height (up to 0.20) and posture (up to 0.20). Deductions apply for leg and foot form.

In addition, there are specific element deductions for uneven split (up to 0.20), failure to land with the feet together (up to 0.10) and failure to land on both feet at the same time (0.10).

Split, prone spin, turn to stand

Next, the gymnast performs a series of poses in kneeling and sitting, including a sitting turn. The final kneeling pose brings the arms to crown, then they lower to side-middle during the split.

General deductions apply for posture, feet, and bent knees during the split. If the split is not at 180 degrees, a deduction of up to 0.20 can be applied.

After the split, the gymnast moves into a prone position and performs a prone spin/log roll turn to stand.

Full turn

Prior to the turn, the gymnast performs a lock position with windmill arms.

Next, the gymnast points the foot in front. She can choose between the acceptable turn preparations listed in the Compulsory Handbook. If she uses a heel-snap turn technique, the deduction is 0.30. The free leg should be in forward passe (0.10 deduction).

Deductions can also be applied for failure to perform the turn in high releve (up to 0.10) and incomplete turn (up to the value of the element – up to 0.40), as well as posture (up to 0.20) and foot form (0.05).

The full turn is completed by stepping into another lock position. There is another choreography sequence before the final tumbling pass.

Roundoff, flic-flac, flic-flac

During tumbling passes, the gymnast must accelerate her speed as she moves into each successive skill. If the gymnast does not show acceleration throughout the series, she could receive a deduction of up to 0.20. If there is a stop between elements in an acro series/tumbling pass, a 0.30 deduction is applied each time.

Roundoff

The gymnast may run any number of steps into the tumbling pass with no deduction. The roundoff should land on both feet at the same time, or a flat 0.10 deduction can be taken. If she does not pass through vertical, up to 0.30 can be deducted.

Additional deductions could be applied for bent arms (up to 0.30), bent legs (up to 0.30), and incorrect body position (piked or loose arch position – up to 0.20 each).

Flic-flacs

Another common name for flic-flac is back handspring. You might sometimes see them abbreviated as flic-flac (FF) or back handspring (BHS). Some people also call a flic-flac a flip-flop.

The gymnast should punch into each back handspring without squatting, or an up to 0.20 deduction can be applied each time. Again, a flat 0.10 deduction can be taken if she does not land on two feet at the same time in the back handsprings. The second back handspring should have an immediate rebound, or it could receive a flat 0.10 deduction. After the rebound, the gymnast should pause in a “stick” position with control (0.05 deduction).

Just like the roundoff, deductions apply for bent arms, bent legs, and incorrect body position (piked or loose arch position). These deductions apply to each of the back handsprings, so if the gymnast bends her knees on both back handsprings, she would receive a deduction each time.

If the gymnast takes extra steps or has balance errors after her tumbling pass, she will receive deductions for each step (0.10 each) or balance error (up to 0.30).

Final pose

General deductions can be taken for the final poses. The final poses should match the beats of the music. In the final pose, the gymnast must have her knees together, but she can choose either an upright kneeling pose or a kneeling pose with buttocks resting on the heels. The arms, torso, and focus can be performed as desired to demonstrate the gymnast/coach’s creativity.

If the gymnast does not finish in time with the music, a flat 0.10 deduction can be applied.

General Deductions in the Level 4 Floor Routine

During the choreography components of the Level 4 floor routine, also called non-value parts (or non-VP’s), general deductions are used. Judges make notes of small errors during the routine in each of the general categories, and determine a total deduction after looking at the routine as a whole.

General deductions on floor consist of the following:

  • Text errors – up to 0.30
    In the compulsory handbook, this is described as “incorrect position of head, arms, legs, or feet”.
  • Artistry – up to 0.30
    This deduction is broken down into two parts: up to 0.15 for quality of the gymnast’s movement to reflect the choreography, and up to 0.15 for quality of expression, including projection, emotion, and focus.
  • Rhythm – up to 0.20
    Rhythm deductions are taken for not performing the routine in time with the music, or performing a section with incorrect rhythm compared to what is listed in the text.. An additional 0.10 can be taken if the gymnast does not end the routine in time with the music.
  • Posture: up to 0.30
    This can be applied for any postural errors during choreography, such as ribs out, bottom out, head forward, shoulders slumped, etc.
  • Footwork – up to 0.30
    Feet should be pointed anytime they leave the ground, and the gymnast should stand and step in releve when indicated. She should also show turn-out in her foot positions.
  • High releve: up to 0.20
    Gymnast should perform steps and pivot turns in high releve throughout the routine, when indicated.

For more information on general deductions, see this post.

Closing Thoughts

Now that we’ve gone over ALL the specifics, here’s the take-home message about Level 4 floor. First, make sure the gymnast has all the skills in the routine, and perfect the technique: straight legs, straight arms, tight straight-hollow body position (unless indicated otherwise). Body position errors add up quickly, and improving body position is the quickest way to raise a score. If the skills all look good but the score is still lower than expected, look at the specific element deductions and smaller details. Are handstands held? Arms by ears when required? Does the gymnast work in high releve? Finally, look at general deductions. Judges use them to separate the very good from the great routines, and putting in some extra work on artistry, rhythm, and text can bump a good score up a tenth or two.

Judges, anything else you look for during a Level 4 routine? Coaches, do you have favorite drills for these skills or body positions? I look forward to hearing your ideas!

References

USA Gymnastics Compulsory Handbook, 2021-2029.

Further Reading

The Best Gymnastics Mats for Home

Breaking Down Level 3 Floor

Breaking Down Level 5 Floor

General Categories for Exemplary Compulsories

How to Perfect Your Level 4 Beam Routine

5 Tips for a Stellar Handspring Vault

How to Perfect Your Level 4 Bar Routine

Preview of 2021-2029 Compulsory Skills

The Best Gifts for Gymnasts (and Coaches!)