2021 Women's Xcel Region 4 Championships

What Is Xcel Gymnastics? What You Should Know

What Is Xcel Gymnastics? What You Should Know

What's the difference between Xcel Gymnastics and Junior Olympic route? Kelly Feng breaks down the history and nuances.

Apr 22, 2021 by Kelly Feng
What Is Xcel Gymnastics? What You Should Know

Several years ago, USAG introduced an alternative to the traditional Junior Olympic (JO) now renamed USA Gymnastics Development National Program path, a route most competitive gymnasts take. In 2013, USAG created the Xcel Gymnastics program describing it as "a broad-based, affordable, competitive experience outside the traditional Junior Olympic program.” 

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Fast forward several years and Xcel gymnastics have grown in popularity. As gymnasts and families are becoming more aware of the alternative program, many wonder how it differs from JO and the advantages and disadvantages of participating in Xcel.

The goal of Xcel is to offer gymnasts of different capabilities and commitment levels the opportunity for a positive and rewarding gymnastics experience.

The JO program provides an excellent conditioning system and progressions, teaching specific skills in a particular order. It has developed great gymnasts, some of whom eventually reach Level 10 and become college gymnasts. 

However, one-size-fits-all gymnastic training is not for every athlete. But for many years, JO was the only option for gymnasts that wanted competitive experience and mobility between levels. Sometimes because of age, financial situation, physical ability, or time constraints, there is no other option to compete in traditional gymnastics. 

That's where Xcel comes in. 

Like the JO levels, the Xcel programs have different tiers. Xcel offers the Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond levels, with a gymnast mobilizing through as she learns more skills. Gymnasts who participate in Xcel receive the same team atmosphere experience and compete in front of a judge.

Xcel's requirements are more relaxed, allowing the gymnast a broader range of skills, with more leeway to train and move at their own pace. An ideal candidate for Xcel Gymnasts may be an athlete too old to go the traditional JO path but flourishes in Xcel, training skills, competing, thriving, and progressing. Xcel has allowed gymnasts to compete in gymnastics that wouldn't have otherwise been encouraged. 

Because Xcel gymnasts participate in fewer meets than their JO counterparts, there is less time commitment, becoming more suited to multi-sport athletes. 

With Xcel offering a new avenue of participation, more gymnasts are inspired to participate. Best of all, gymnasts who maybe would have quit are now staying with gymnastics and competing in Xcel. 

Skill Comparison chart

Approximate Comparison of Skill Level:

Xcel Bronze = JO 3 and under

Xcel Silver = JO 3/4

Xcel Gold = JO 4/5

Xcel Platinum = JO 6/7

Xcel Diamond = JO 7/8+

In both programs, gymnasts must establish high physical ability standards (including skill acquisition, strength, and flexibility) on all four events, strong work ethic, and coachability. 


  • Gymnasts compete as soon as they join an Xcel, keeping them motivated. 
  • Typically a gymnast has to wait to be invited to a J.O. team. 
  • Athletes compete routines that cater to their age, athletic strengths, and personality. 
  • Less of a time commitment, with athletes still learning skills, allowing them to compete.  
  • The JO compulsory program can be rigid, with routines that require gymnasts to learn an exact set of skills regardless of their strengths.
  • Gymnasts can concentrate on one or two events and are not required to complete all-around. 
  • More affordable than JO— fewer training hours, travel meets and required uniforms.


  • Doesn’t focus on the progressions like the JO program's compulsory routines do. 
  • Lack of mobility. While you move through Xcel’s tiers, if a gymnast chooses to return to JO, they must start at Level 4. (If advanced skills are demonstrated, one can progress through the skill levels in a typical meet season). 
  • The difficulties plateau at the Platinum level (equivalent to Level 8 in the JO program). 

USAG created the JO.compulsory program in a specific progression and skills way because it’s a system that has been proven to develop great gymnasts. 

One final note, if your gymnast's goal is to reach the highest tier, Level 10, with the possibility of receiving a college scholarship, the JO compulsory program that leads to the optional program is the best route.