How to Do an Armstand in Diving

The armstand (or handstand) is used exclusively in platform diving. It is executed on all three levels of the tower (5-meter, 7.5-meter, and 10-meter). For most divers, the armstand will be attempted only after they have a sound base of diving springboard and some experience diving platform.

Before attempting this move, you must know how to do a handstand that you can consistently hold for at least two seconds. This degree of control is necessary to dive safely off the platform and have sufficient command of the dive in the air. There are two methods used in diving to get into an armstand: The kick-up handstand and the press handstand.

Kick-up Handstand

The kick-up method is easiest to learn. For this reason it is very common. Most divers choose this method when they first start diving platform. To perform the kick-up handstand, first practice on the floor while following these steps:

  1. Start by standing vertical, with your arms above your head, your feet together, and your legs straight.
  2. Point your stronger leg out in front of your body, and step down on it.
  3. Place your hands onto the floor in front of you, and kick your weaker (or back) leg into the air. Your front leg will follow and lift off the floor.
  4. After this initial kick, your legs should be in a split-leg formation. One leg should be behind your body, the other should be in front of it.
  5. Keep your body balanced on your hands. With control, bring your legs together and align your body vertically. Tighten your abs, bottom, and legs. Hold the position for at least two seconds.

To practice this type of handstand, try using a wall to help your balance. As you get more comfortable, ease away from the wall and hold the handstand on your own. Once you can balance on your hands consistently, you are ready to attempt this on platform.

Fun Fact

A balk occurs when a diver initiates a handstand, but then comes back down from the position before executing the dive. Balks result in the announcer deducting two points from each judge’s original score. If a diver balks a second time, the result is a failed dive.

Press Handstand

The second way to get into a handstand is by pressing into the position. The press provides more control of your handstand than the kick-up approach, but it is much more difficult to learn. For this reason, it often takes divers a long time before they can successfully perform a press handstand.

There are different positions you can use to press into a handstand. Straddle, tuck, and pike are the most common. The easiest to learn is the straddle press. Here are some tips for learning it:

Try a Headstand First

A headstand helps you learn the control you need to perform the press. Before trying a headstand, make sure your neck is strong and not prone to injury. Placing the weight of your body onto your head can cause serious spinal damage.

To press into a headstand:

  1. Stand on your feet with your legs in a straddle position.
  2. While keeping your feet on the ground, lean over and place your hands on the floor (shoulder width apart).
  3. Place your head on the floor in between your hands. Your hands should be on either side of your head, slightly in front of your ears.
  4. Lean the upper half of your body over your hands, creating a vertical line with your upper torso.
  5. Lift your legs off the ground and straddle them around until they are in a vertical position.

Hot Tip: Lift Your Legs

One common mistake is to jump your legs off the ground, rather than letting your stomach muscles lift them up. Jumping your legs defeats the purpose: It takes away any control the press provides.


Similar to a headstand, a frogstand is a move that helps you balance on your hands without having to get your legs into the air. By practicing the frogstand, you will learn how to balance with the proper distribution of weight over your hands.

Start by bending your legs and squatting down toward the floor. Place your hands on the ground in front of your body, and follow these steps:

  1. Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor, and lean your body weight over your hands.
  2. Keep your arms slightly bent, with your elbows pointing towards your body.
  3. Slowly lift your legs up, place your knees onto your elbows for balance.

Once you can perform the frogstand with ease, you are ready to try the press.

Use a Wall

A wall will help you learn to get your shoulders over your hands. This is a key component in performing the press handstand.

  1. Stand about a foot away from a wall.
  2. Straddle your legs about shoulder width apart from each other. Lean forward towards the wall, while making sure to keep your legs straight.
  3. Place your hands on the floor, about an inch from the wall.
  4. Keep your feet planted on the ground, and lean your body weight over your shoulders so they are in contact with the wall.
  5. Keep your legs straight, and slowly lift them off the floor predominantly using your abdominal muscles.
  6. Once your legs are in the air, straddle them around until they are in a vertical position.
  7. Keep your legs tight and squeeze them together.

At first you may only slightly lift your legs off the ground. That is okay. It takes time to learn a press handstand. Continue to practice, and eventually you will just get it.

Hot Tip: Strength Exercises

Practicing stomach and shoulder strengthening exercises will benefit your press handstand.

Armstand Control

Once you get into an armstand position (no matter what method you use), it is important to have the necessary control to execute the dive. Judges will look for control of the armstand from the moment you kick-up into the dive until you exit the platform. Most judges would like to see you hold position for at least two seconds before you perform your dive.

Once you learn to control your armstand, you will simultaneously have more command of your dive and reap the benefits of higher scores.

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