The goal of this research was to provide insight into and systematisation of data relevant for the emergence and development of gymnastics in the Principality, and later Kingdom of Serbia, based on a review of monographic and serially published sources. The basic hypothesis was founded on the expectation that a direct link would be established between gymnastics, as the pivot of the programme, as well as its forms of physical exercise, and the emergence and development of organised physical exercising system in the civilian gymnastic and Sokol associations. In this research the historical method was applied. The results presented in this paper showed that gymnastics was the first and the chief component of the military and school physical exercising programs, as well as the significant role of gymnastics in the development of civilian gymnastic, Army and Sokol associations, and in the popularisation and development of modern sports at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century in Serbia. The development of gymnastics was accompanied by the provision of suitable exercising conditions, the organisation of professional courses for the gymnastics teachers and the publishing of appropriate literature.