How Diving & Gymnastics Are Related

Many people link the sports of diving and swimming. But in reality, diving and swimming are nothing alike. In fact the only thing the two sports have in common is the pool they share. Divers need not be excellent swimmers, or even know how to swim every stroke. Essentially, all a diver needs to know how to do is to get from the middle of the pool to the side — it makes no difference how they do it.

However, a sport that is similar to diving is gymnastics. In many ways, diving is gymnastics over water. Below are some of the similarities and differences that link the two.


The most obvious connection between the two sports is their shared tumbling component. In gymnastics, tumbling is done on the floor, balance beam, or in the air off the vault/bars. In diving, the tumbling occurs either off the diving board or the platform.

Regardless if the tumbling is executed off the floor or the springboard, the motion of flipping and twisting is very similar. Divers and gymnasts both rotate their bodies forwards and backwards, and they both know how to twist. These skills are central to both sports.

Flexibility & Balance

Another area where gymnastics and diving intertwine is flexibility. Both sports require their athletes to progress quickly from position-to-position. In order to perform tuck and pike positions, flexibility and agility are essential. Divers and gymnasts alike stretch daily to increase their flexibility.

Both sports also require balance. Balance is crucial while in the air, and also while on the apparatus. Gymnasts require balance on just about every skill: Balancing on the beam, on their hands, and when they land their dismounts. Divers require balance in a similar manner: Balancing on the balls of their feet, balancing on their hands, and balancing when exiting a dive.

Amazingly True Story

Alexandra Croak, a member of the 2000 Olympic Australian gymnastics team, took up diving in 2003. Within a period of two years, her talent and ability took her to the Commonwealth Games. There, she earned a second place finish in the synchronized platform event. In 2008, Croak again competed in the Olympics… but this time she went as a diver instead of a gymnast!

Visual Spotting

Both sports also require a strong sense of body awareness while in the air. To acquire this sense of awareness, divers and gymnasts learn a technique known as visual spotting. In order to determine how many flips or twists they have completed, the athletes locate objects in the gym or the pool to use as visual cues. By visually spotting these particular objects, they are able to perform multiple flips and twists without getting lost.

This skill is easy to transfer from one sport to the other. It is useful in maintaining consistency while performing various maneuvers. In order to practice visual spotting, both divers and gymnasts use trampolines and spotting equipment.

Key Differences

Despite all the similarities, diving and gymnastics do have their differences. The in-air mechanics are very similar between the two sports. However, the takeoffs, landings, and executions of the moves are often quite different. Here are three distinct differences that exist:

1. Takeoff

The takeoff from the springboard is completely different than it is off the floor. In springboard diving, the rhythm and timing of the board is critical. This is something that takes time to learn and is completely different from gymnastics.

2. Twist

The position of the twist in the air is different in diving and gymnastics. Gymnasts normally twist with both arms close to their bodies. Divers often twist with a split-arm position: One arm above the head and the other arm wrapped around their upper torso. In addition, the number of twists in diving and gymnastics is quite different. Gymnasts normally complete twists on the full, whereas divers complete twists on the half.

Fun Fact:

A flexible back is often considered an asset in gymnastics. This is not the case in diving, where an extremely limber back can actually pose a problem. Over-arching or hyper-extending in a dive or upon entry can lead to serious injury.

3. Landing

Divers obviously enter the water, whereas gymnasts land on the floor. Divers need to have straight bodies when they enter the water (and are often entering head-first). Diving also requires entering the water without a splash: A skill that takes time to develop. Gymnasts, on the other hand, need to make sure their legs are ready to withstand the landing impact, and almost never land head-first (except during a dive roll exit).


Another significant difference between diving and gymnastics is the likelihood of injury. Gymnastics is much tougher on the body than diving. The reason behind this is fairly obvious: Divers land in water, while gymnasts land on solid ground. Years of continually landing on the ground takes a toll on the body: The back, knees, ankles, and feet are subjugated to massive amounts of abuse.

Diving is far less hard on the body. Although divers can incur strains from continual impact against the water, their injuries are not nearly as severe as their gymnast counterparts. This is one of the main reasons why many gymnasts become divers.

One & the Same

Although the two sports are unique, they do share an amazing amount of similarities. Tumbling, flexibility, and body awareness in the air are all skills that both sports require. In addition, these skills are easy to transfer from one sport to the other. For these reasons, diving and gymnastics have a distinct connection. In many ways, diving is merely gymnastics over water.

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