Types of Dives in Swimming for Ultimate Performance

types of dives in swimming

Types of Dives in Swimming: Competitive diving has been featured at every modern Summer Olympics. It is a beloved spectator sport showcasing tremendous athleticism and artistry. Divers perform acrobatic leaps and spins from platforms and springboards, entering the water with grace and minimal splash. Judges evaluate each dive based on its execution and difficulty. This article will discuss types of dives in swimming and their details for your reference.

There are six main categories of dives performed at meets and competitions:

  • Forward dives
  • Backward dives
  • Reverse dives
  • Inward dives
  • Twisting dives
  • Armstand dives
Dive-types of dives in swimming

Dives are scored on a 0-10 scale by a panel of judges. Each dive is assigned a degree of difficulty based on its complexity, height, and number of spins and twists. The diver’s execution score is multiplied by the difficulty rating. This determines their total score for that dive. The aim is to perform the most challenging dives with technical perfection.

Forward Dive:

Forward Dives
Forward Dives

The forward dive is one of the most common dives in swimming competitions. As the name suggests, it involves diving head-first into the water in a forward direction.

This dive begins with the swimmer standing on the pool’s edge, arms stretched overhead, body straight, and one leg slightly bent. The diver then swings the arms forward and lifts the hips while bending at the knees and waist. This generates momentum as the body rotates forward. The diver leaves the platform with extended arms, entering the water head first.

There are three variations of the forward dive:

Tuck: Pull the knees toward the chest and fold the body into a tight tuck position. This is the most compact variation.

Pike: The legs remain straight, but the hips are bent, so the body forms a “V” shape. The pike position allows for a more vertical entry.

Straight: The most stretched-out variation is where the whole body enters the water vertically in a straight line. Requires significant strength and flexibility.

The forward dive dates back to diving as a sport in Sweden during the late 19th century. It developed from gymnastics maneuvers on the pommel horse. It involved swinging forward into front flips. Early diving competitions consisted exclusively of forward dives. Later, other more complex dives developed. Even today, the forward dive remains an essential skill for all competitive divers to master. Executed properly, it provides an excellent foundation for learning more advanced dives.

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Backward Dive:

Backward dives
Backward dives

The backward dive is also known as a reverse dive. A specialized dive involves the swimmer launching backward off the diving board or platform. The defining characteristic of a backward dive is that the diver’s back faces the water at takeoff.

Backward dives can performed in three positions:

Tuck: The knees are pulled up to the chest, creating a compact shape. This is the most common backward diving position.

Pike: Bend the body at the hips with straight legs pointed towards the body. This creates an angular shape.

Straight: The body enters the water in a straight vertical line with no bend at the knees or hips. This is the most difficult backward dive position.

Backward dives originated for divers to enter the water smoothly without creating much splash. It was popular in the early 20th century. It became a standard competition dive. Successfully executing a backward dive demonstrates a diver’s athleticism, coordination, spatial awareness, and mastery of diving form.

Variations of backward dives include adding multiple flips or twists. However, the fundamental backward dive remains a staple of the sport. It is a crucial skill for all diving enthusiasts to learn. Today, diving instruction, practices, and judged events continue to include it.

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Reverse Dive:

Reverse dives
Reverse dives

The reverse dive is a swimming dive that faces away from the water. The diver bends backward over the edge before entering the water. This dive starts on the pool deck with the diver’s back facing the water.


The reverse dive begins with the diver standing upright with their heels at the pool’s edge, arms stretched overhead, and back facing the water. The diver bends backward from the waist into an arch while lifting the hips and swinging the arms down and back. As the diver’s hands contact the water, the hips lift higher so that the diver’s body enters the water upside down in a tucked, pike, or layout position. This is an inverted entry as opposed to a headfirst entry.

Proper form requires keeping the body straight and chin tucked, arms extended overhead, and pointed toes throughout the backward rotation. The diver should maintain tight abdominal muscles and keep the legs together when entering the water. Entering vertically in the water helps produce a minimal splash.


There are a few common variations of the reverse dive:

Pike reverse: The diver bends at the waist so that the body forms a 90-degree angle before entering the water upside down in a pike position. The legs remain straight and together.

Tuck reverse: The diver pulls the knees up to perform a tight tuck before rotating backward and entering the water inverted in a tucked position.  

Layout reverse: The most challenging variation is the layout reverse. The diver enters the water completely straight, invertedly, without bending at the waist or hips.

Degree of Difficulty:

The reverse dive has a moderate to high degree of difficulty. It requires backward spatial awareness, flexibility, body control, and correct technique to perform correctly.

Factors that increase the difficulty include:

Height of the Diving Platform: Diving from a higher platform makes rotation more challenging.

Maintaining a Layout Position: Straight body entry is more complex than pike or tuck.

Twisting Variations: Adding twists requires advanced skill.

Approach Steps: Using an approach adds momentum and complexity.

The reverse dive is considered more complicated than a standard forward dive. Proper training and practice are necessary to develop the balance, coordination, and confidence needed to perform this unique back-entry diving skill.

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Inward Dive:

Inward dive-types of dives in swimming
Inward dive

The inward dive is a diving technique where the diver jumps forward while facing the board or pool edge, tucks their body into a tight ball, rotates inward, and enters the water head first.


In an inward dive, the diver faces forward towards the end of the diving board or pool edge. They start by bending their knees and swinging their arms back to gain momentum as they jump up and out. At the peak of the jump, the diver tucks their body into a tight ball by bringing their knees to their chest and grabbing the shins with their hands. While tucking, they rotate their body inward a quarter or half turn. The inward rotation causes their back to arch as they enter the water head first in a compact, streamlined position. A key aspect is keeping the body tensed and tight throughout the maneuver. This helps the diver spin quickly while maintaining control in the air. Well-executed inward dives make a small splash and exhibit grace in motion.


There are several common variations of the inward dive:

Inward pike: The diver keeps their body straight as they rotate inward, entering the water in a pike position. This is considered an easier, more fundamental inward dive.

Inward tuck: The diver pulls their knees to their chest and rotates in a tight tuck position. This more advanced maneuver requires strength and flexibility to hold the tuck.

Inward free: The diver rotates inward with their arms extended straight overhead. This is an elegant, open variation requiring precise technique to control the rotation.

Twisted inward: The diver adds a half or full twisting rotation and the inward somersault. This advanced dive has a dramatic, spinning entrance into the water.

Reverse inward: The diver faces backward on the board, rotates inward, and spins forward onto their back. This reverse maneuver showcases backward jumping and spinning skills.


Inward dives originated in swimming and diving competitions as far back as the early 20th century. It likely developed as more intricate versions of simple forward dives. In early competitions, inward dives were considered quite difficult. The divers were still mastering primary diving forms and rotation techniques. Diving progressed as a sport throughout the 1900s. Inward dives became standard diving repertoires, especially at beginner and intermediate levels. They remain essential for training young divers and developing air awareness, body control, and orientation skills. More complex variations help divers progress to elite groups in the sport.

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Twisting Dives:

Twisting dives
Twisting dives

Twisting dives add excitement and complexity to a diving routine. The diver spins in the air while diving into the water in these dives. There are three main types of twisting dives:

Forward Twisting Dives:

In a forward twisting dive, the diver springs up and forward off the diving board while adding twisting rotations. For example, in a forward 2.5 somersault pike, the diver does 2.5 frontward somersaults while twisting the body. The pike refers to the body position tucked with straight legs.

Forward twisting dives range in difficulty from 1.5 twists (reasonably easy) to 3 or more twists (extremely difficult). The more twists and rotations in the air, the harder it is to control the dive and enter the water vertically.

Backward Twisting Dives:

Backward twisting dives start with the diver facing the rear of the board. The diver jumps up and backwards while initiating twist rotations. An example is a backward double somersault with one and a half twists.

The difficulty increases with more somersaults and twists. Top divers can perform three or more twists in a backward layout straight body position. The entrance into the water is critical for high scores.

Reverse Twisting Dives:

In reverse twisting dives, the diver begins facing forward but rotates early in the dive to enter the water head first and face the diving board.

Reverse dives allow more time for twists versus back or front twists. Elite divers can perform challenging reverse dives like 4.5 twists in a reverse pike position. The difficulty is insane for these reverse twisting dives.

As you can see, twisting dives requires immense skill, coordination, aerial awareness, and practice. They are performing multiple twists, while somersaulting takes tremendous athleticism and courage. Twisting dives captivate audiences with their complexity and grace.

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Armstand Dive:

Armstand dives
Armstand dive

The armstand dive is an impressive diving technique that involves the diver launching into the air from an armstand position. This dive originates from gymnastics. It requires tremendous strength, balance, and body control.

To perform an armstand dive, the diver begins in a straight armstand position, with their hands planted on the ground and body held straight in a vertical line. The diver then shifts their weight forward onto their hands while simultaneously tucking their knees in towards their chest and swinging their legs overhead. As the legs swing overhead, the diver pushes off forcefully with their arms to launch up and forward, rotating to enter the water head or feet first.

Armstand dives became popular in platform diving competitions in the 1950s and 1960s. The divers sought to perform increasingly difficult dives. The inverted entry into the dive makes it more challenging than standard headfirst entries. It requires precise technique and timing. Even the approach to the armstand takes practice, as the diver must fluidly transition from a run or hurdle into the armstand position. 

Mastering the armstand dive requires tremendous upper-body strength. Engage the core to hold the body in a straight line against gravity. The shoulders provide the power on takeoff. The arms must remain straight while supporting the entire body weight. The inverted entry is disorienting and requires awareness of body positioning. Armstand dives are among the most challenging dives to perform.

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Somersaults are advanced dives that require gymnastic ability and body awareness. There are several main types of somersaults performed in diving:

Forward Somersaults:

In a forward somersault, the diver performs a front flip in the air, rotating their body 360 degrees before entering the water head first. This advanced dive requires the diver to lift their hips over their head and maintain tight form throughout the rotation. Proper technique is crucial to avoid over-rotating or entering the water off-balance.

Backward Somersaults:

Backward somersaults are similar to forward somersaults. The diver rotates backwards, moving their hips over their shoulders and extending their body to initiate the backflip. Backward somersaults require the diver to spot the entry point to avoid dangerously overrotating and hitting the board or water. It’s considered more complex than a forward somersault.

Double Somersaults:

In a double somersault, the diver completes two full rotations in the air before entering the water. This highly advanced dive requires tremendous power, height, and control. The diver must achieve sufficient height from the diving board to complete the two somersaults while maintaining a tight form before piercing the water. Double somersaults carry increased risk and should only attempted by experienced divers.

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Executing somersaults in diving requires gymnastic ability, coordination, balance, and courage. Mastering forward, backwards, and double somersaults marks an advanced diver. Performing them consistently and with good form takes tremendous skill and practice.

Inward dives
Inward dives

Best Divers in Various Types of Dives in Swimming:

Throughout the history of diving, many exceptional athletes have pushed the boundaries of the sport. Here are some of the standout divers who have shown their outstanding performance in various types of dives in swimming over the years:

Most Successful Divers Historically:

Greg Louganis: Greg Louganis is considered by many to be the greatest diver in history. He won gold medals in both the 3m and 10m events at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. He was known for his grace, precision, and consistency.

Pat McCormick: The first diver to win gold in springboard and platform diving at the same Olympic Games (1952). She repeated the feat in 1956. She dominated women’s diving in the 1950s.

Klaus Dibiasi: Klaus Dibiasi was the only diver to win medals in the same individual diving event (the 3m springboard) at three consecutive Olympics – 1968, 1972, and 1976. He retired undefeated in major international competitions.

Fu Mingxia: Fu Mingxia was China’s most decorated Olympic diver, with four golds and one silver between 1992 and 2000. She popularized more challenging dives and pushed the boundaries for women’s diving.


Current Top Divers:

Tom Daley: Tom Daley is a British diver specializing in the 10m platform. He has won 4 Commonwealth golds, 3 World Championship golds, and bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Cao Yuan: Cao Yuan, China’s current platform diving superstar, won 2 Olympic golds and one silver. He won gold in the individual and team 10m events at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Andrea Spendolini Sirieix: A British rising star who won gold in the women’s 10m platform at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and has World Championships coming up.

Jordan Windle: A young American diver who specializes in 10m platforms. He won silver at the 2022 World Championships and gold at the 2022 World Cup.

Forward Dive-types of dives in swimming
Forward Dive

Final Words on Types of Dives in Swimming:

Diving is a fundamental and exciting part of competitive swimming. This article covered the major types of dives in swimming competitions and practices.

The forward dive remains the most basic dive that all swimmers learn. Backward dives, reverse dives, inward dives, and twisting dives progressively increase in difficulty and scoring potential. We also discussed fancier dives like the armstand dive and somersaults.

Over time, trends in diving have shifted towards emphasizing more complex dives with multiple rotations and twists. Performing challenging dives with grace, control, and consistency is highly valued in significant swimming competitions. Diving skills and routines are primary in swim team competitions and individual events like platform diving. Mastering a range of dives takes dedication, practice, coaching, and courage. While diving can look effortless, it requires immense core strength, body awareness, and technique. For many competitive swimmers, the thrill of perfecting a complex dive makes all that hard work worthwhile. Whether diving for fun, fitness, or competition, there are dives suitable for all skill levels.

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