The trampoline is a gymnastics device, constructed from a very strong, tightly stretched material, attached with springs to a frame. The trampoline was invented by American George Nissen in the period after 1930, when as a 16-year-old he observed circus performers rebounding from their nets after performing an acrobatic stunt. Prior to any athletic applications, trampolines were used by World War II pilots, and later astronauts, to simulate the movement of their bodies in a weightless environment. In recent years, trampolines built for recreational and home use have increased in popularity, both as a recreational device and for fitness training.

Trampoline became a popular part of gymnastics training, and later established itself as a distinct competitive sport. The first world championship in Trampoline was held in 1964. Trampoline competition made its debut as an Olympic sport in the 2004 Summer Games; the sport is governed under the international umbrella of FIG, the Federation Internationale de Gymnastiques, where trampoline is a separate division of the gymnastics competition, along with artistic and rhythmic gymnastics.

Trampoline is organized as an individual competition. The trampolinists are required to execute a number of pre-determined movements in each routine, with no set time limit prescribed within which to perform. Competitors generate sufficient height from the surface of the trampoline within which they perform somersaults, flips, and other movements where they are subjectively judged on their technical execution of each movement and their presentation.

Trampoline has acquired a reputation as one of the more dangerous sports available, especially among young people. Most trampoline accidents arise where there is either a lack of supervision over young people using the device, or where a trampolinist lands on the supporting framework to the trampoline and not the landing area within the trampoline. The trampoline poses special risks of young persons under the age of 15, given the stresses of landing on a musculoskeletal structure that is not fully mature.

In addition to the aesthetic qualities of Olympic styled trampoline competition, the trampoline has a number of positive physical training benefits. The actions associated with bounding from the trampoline surface are a form of resistance exercise, meaning that the musculoskeletal structures associated with the bounding motion are subjected to weight bearing stress that tends to strengthen the human frame. Various studies have determined that a persons exercising upon a trampoline uses approximately 15% more energy per minute than does a runner.

The trampoline and its associated exercises are also useful tools to develop better balance and proprioception (muscle memory). As the athlete is both rising and falling in a bounding movement, they are weightless. In this state the athlete can practice different body positions and thus condition the body to move instinctively through the course of a rehearsed routine. Athletes who participate in gymnastics vaulting, aerial skiing, ski jumping, and snow boarding all use the trampoline as a part of their training programs for this reason.

SEE ALSO Balance training and proprioception; Gymnastics; Gymnastics landing forces.