How to Perform Twisters in Diving

Twisting somersaults is one of the most exciting skills in diving. These dives, with their multiple somersaults combined with multiple twists, are a favorite of both spectators and athletes. They look extremely complicated and have a high degree of difficulty (DD), which adds to the thrill of any diving competition.

Learning a twisting somersault is a challenging, multi-step process. It involves not only the somersault and the twist, but also multiple body positions throughout the dive as well as a firm square out at the end.

However, once the skill is learned, it is easy to perform and reliable in competition. Below is a breakdown of the dive along with some helpful tips to get you flipping and twisting in no time.

Dryland is Helpful

To perform twisting somersaults, the diver must rotate on two separate axis points: vertical and horizontal; learning it can be an odd process, since the body is not accustomed to rotating in several directions at once.

The best way to learn the new maneuver is on the trampoline. By using a twisting spotting belt, divers can practice the skill without being scared of smacking the water incorrectly at the end.

If you don’t have access to a trampoline, twisting somersaults can still be easily learned on the diving board.

The Forward Twisting Somersault

Generally, the first twisting somersault divers learn is the forward somersault with one twist on the 1-meter springboard. To perform this dive, follow the three steps listed below.

Step 1. The Open Pike

Most divers use the open pike somersault to prepare for the forward twisting somersault. In the open pike position, the body opens up to a layout position after the somersault is initiated—making it easier to control the rotation of the somersault and the twist itself.

How to perform an open pike somersault:

  • Begin with the forward approach: Take three to four steps down the board and jump into the hurdle, landing at the end of the board with two feet. (See our guide, “The Fundamentals of Diving,” for more details on how to do a forward approach.)
  • Once the hurdle is completed and your arms are up by your ears, throw them down through the middle of your body. This will initiate the somersault.
  • Pike your body, reaching the arms out to a “T” shaped position at the sides of the body.
  • As you reach the peak of the dive, flatten your body into a layout position.
  • Complete the rest of the somersault in the layout position. This will allow you to twist on a vertical axis.

Hot Tip: Control is Key

To successfully perform a twister, you must control the somersault. If the rotation of the somersault is off, or if your trajectory off the board isn’t straight, the twist will be affected and the dive will become wobbly or out of control.

Step 2. Wrap the Twist

Once you open up from the pike position, you should immediately start the twist.

To start twisting, rotate your upper body in the direction you want to twist and wrap your arms into the correct position.

There are different ways to position the arms, but the most common include:

  • Arms together: Arms tightly squeezed into the body.
  • Split arms: One arm wrapped behind the head and the opposite arm wrapped high on the upper half of the torso.

Generally, divers who were former gymnasts perform twists with their arms together; for others, twisting is usually done in the split arm position.

Fun Fact:

For high school meets, a failed dive occurs if the diver’s twist is off by more than 90 degrees when their body first enters the water. But for FINA sanctioned competitions, the dive fails if the twist is off by more than 90 degrees when the last part of the body enters the water.

Step 3. Square Out

Once the twist is complete, the diver must square out of the dive, thereby stopping the rotation of the twist.

To square out of a twisting somersault, you must quickly raise your arms above your head and place them firmly to the side of your body, forming a “T.” This will stop the twist and allow you to spot your landing.

Back and Reverse Twisters

Back and reverse twisters are essentially the same thing, only one is performed with a hurdle and one is not.

The back twister does not involve a hurdle and is therefore easier to learn, since there is less fear of hitting the board. Again, the best way to learn this dive is on the trampoline with a spotting belt. If one is not available, begin on the board with a back somersault 1/2 twist and work up to additional twists.

Backward Somersault Half Twist

  • The dive must begin with a good back somersault layout. Once the somersault is perfected, the twisting process can begin.
  • At the peak of the somersault, your arms must be up over the ears. Once your legs leave the diving board, begin the twisting action.
  • Rotate your upper body in the direction of the twist and take one arm and pull it down to the side of the body. Keep the other arm up in the air.
  • This arm action will rotate your body enough to complete a half twist.

Once you are comfortable with the half twist, move on to the one-and-one half twisting somersault.

Backward Somersault 1 ½ Twist

  • Follow Steps 1 and 2 above.
  • When the body starts to rotate into the twist, circle the arms around the body and wrap into a twist.
  • The tighter the arms are to the body, the faster the twist.
  • Square out of the dive to stop the rotation.

Reverse Twister

After you have learned a back twister, you can move onto the reverse twister. There are two differences between this dive and the back twister: the hurdle and the takeoff. And because the forward momentum generated by walking down the board can slow the reverse momentum of the somersault, it is critical that your reverse somersault layout is perfected.

Make sure your coach gives you the ok before you attempt this new dive.

  • Begin the dive with a good hurdle.
  • Follow Steps 1-6 above for  Backward Somersault Half Twist and Steps 1-4 above for Backward Somersault 1 ½ Twist.

The Physics of Twisting

For most divers, the thought of learning a twisting somersault is daunting. It can be hard to wrap your mind around the concept of twisting and somersaulting at the same time. But if your fundamental somersault and body positioning are correct, physics will take over and the dive will become much easier than you once thought.

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