Competitive gymnastics originated with the Turners. They had two types of competition at their period Turnerfests: Events in which the result was based on a qualitative measure, such as the number of times a competitor could chin himself on the horizontal bar in a given period; and those in which subjective judging was required. The most important contest was the Zwolfkampf, in which athletes competed in twelve events from gymnastics and track and field.
The first international meet was held in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1880, for teams from Belgium, England, France, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Switzerland and the United States. Represented by the Milwaukee team that had won the 1879 national Turnfest competition in Philadelphia, the U. S. won the team competition. Four of its athletes placed among the top six in the Zwolfkamp.
One of the stated purposes of the European Gymnastics Federation was to standardize competition, but it wasn't easy. Some countries, chiefly Germany and Poland, favored the Turner approach: exercises on apparatus that emphasized strength. Others favored the Swedish exercise system pioneered by Ling, with its emphasis on free, limber movement and grace.
Because of its link with physical training, gymnastics often included exercises with dumbbells, Indian clubs, and other implements, as well as track and field events such as pole vaulting, the high jump, and the long jump. And, because of its link with military training, the sport also included various kinds of mass team calisthenics, in which precise coordination of all team members was the ideal.
Ultimately, a compromise was worked out. Modern gymnastics uses much of the Turners' apparatus but allows individual freedom of movement within a framework of constraints. Men's events put somewhat more emphasis on strength, while the women's events tend to emphasize flexibility and grace. But gymnasts of both sexes need strength, flexibility, and grace to be top-level competitors.