Understanding the Body Positions of Diving

January 22, 2024

Understanding the Body Positions of Diving
Table of Contents

In springboard and platform diving, there are four different body positions: Tuck, pike, layout, and free. For every dive, a diver will choose what body position the dive will be performed in. All positions are used frequently, but there are some guidelines that all divers should understand when choosing the body position they want to use. This guide contains an explanation of each position, as well as when a diver should choose one over another.

1. Tuck

Tuck is the first position most divers will learn. Here is a general description of the position:

  • The legs are bent at the knees and pulled into the diver’s chest.
  • The knees are together and the toes are pointed.
  • For dives, the arms are in close to the diver’s body with the hands touching the mid-shins.
  • For somersaults, the arms are tight to the diver’s body and the hands wrap around the shins.

The tuck position is the easiest to get into. It is also the easiest position in regards to the degree of difficulty (DD). However, just because the tuck position has a lower DD, does not necessarily mean it is easier to perform. This is especially true on fundamental dives such as back dive tuck or reverse dive tuck. Although the DD for these dives is lower than the layout counterpart, the control that is necessary to do the dive successfully is much harder in tuck than in layout.


Hot Tip: Learn Tuck First

It is a good idea to learn the tuck position first. Tuck helps you gain body control in the air, and will help you advance in the sport of diving.


2. Pike

Pike is the next position that most divers will learn. Here is a general description of this position:

  • The body bends at the waist, the legs stay straight, and the toes are pointed.
  • Ideally, the chest should lay flat against the diver’s thighs.
  • For elementary dives (forward dive, back dive, etc.), the hands either touch the diver’s toes or are in the open pike position: Stretched out to the sides of the body forming a hollow T-position.
  • For optional dives, the diver’s arms wrap around the lower part of their calves.

When performed properly, pike is a beautiful position in the air. It is more difficult than tuck, and it makes spinning in optional dives harder. As a result the DD for a dive in pike position is higher than it is in the tuck position.


Both the tuck and pike position are easier to hide flaws in than their layout counterpart. In the layout position, the entire body is exposed. Any error will be immediately noticed.


3. Layout

The layout position is a beautiful position when executed correctly. However, in order to perform it properly, the diver’s body needs to be completely straight. This means no bend to the torso or legs. That sounds relatively easy, but it is often tough to pull off.

As such, the layout position is rarely used in optional dives. It is generally restricted to the required or voluntary dives (forward dive, back dive, etc.). There are only a handful of optional layout dives seen in competition:

  • 203A: Back one and a half layout on 3-meter or platform. This is generally the first back optional that many divers will use in competition on the 3-meter springboard.
  • 303A: Reverse one and a half on 3-meter. This dive is generally reserved for intermediate divers that have a solid reverse layout.
  • 205A: Back two and a half layout off the 10-meter platform. This dive is rarely used as it requires tremendous control in the air. However, divers may choose to use it if they have a fast rotation, solid arm check, and a tight body position.

Layout is generally the hardest of the four positions. It doesn’t spin as quickly as tuck or pike, and it reveals all flaws that the body makes.

4. Free

The final position in diving is the free position. This position is used exclusively on twisting optionals. Free position indicates that the diver will be in multiple positions in the air. For a twisting optional, the diver will generally be in a pike and layout position. Here is a general breakdown of the positioning of a diver in a 5132D (forward one and a half somersaults, one twist free):

  • Open pike: The somersault is initiated in the open pike position.
  • Layout: The diver will snap out of the open pike into a layout position to initiate the twist.
  • Open pike: The diver will square out of the dive in an open pike position.
  • Layout: The diver will get into a layout position to enter the water vertically headfirst.

Free position is only used on twisting dives that have one to one and a half somersaults. When the number of somersaults increases or decreases, the position must change. For dives such as front dives or back dives, the position can change to tuck, pike, or layout. For a dive with more than two somersaults, the position will change to either tuck or pike.

The Value of Each Position

Each position holds value. Tuck and pike are great positions for learning body control in simple dives, whereas layout is a beautiful choice for someone who has aesthetically pleasing lines. The free position gives a diver the versatility of moving through various positions during a twisting optional. When performed correctly, all four positions hold tremendous potential in receiving high scores.

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