THE TWISTING SOMERSAULTS:
AN APPROACH TO A MORE SPECTACULAR DIVING PROGRAM
Twisting multiple somersaults must have a sound base on which to develop. This base embodies three fundamental skills, the barani, the full twisting front somersault, and the full twisting backward somersault. These three skills are interwoven into the fabric of complicated multiple twisting multiple somersaults. During the development of the foundation needed to master a succession of difficult twisting skills, an important underlying potential will come to light. This gift is visualization, the ability to see where you came from and where you are going, and in many cases, all things in-between.
With the inclusion of these three fundamental skills, there will emerge coaching concepts that open new procedures to the performance of twisting somersault dives. There are two twisting techniques presented that relate to the position of the arms during rotation around the longitudinal axis while somersaulting. These techniques involve twisting with the arms flexed and with the arms straight. In the flexed armtechnique, the arms are held close to or on the chest. In the straight-arm technique, the arms are down and along both sides of the body. Divers use the first of these two methods in a limited fashion but have not explored the potential of the straight-arm method. Trampolinist use both methods extensively.
In the sport of diving, the predominant arm position for twisting is with the lead arm flexed at the elbow and the hand placed near or behind the head. The trailing arm is flexed and placed on or near the chest. Arm placement tends to prevent full visual contact with the take-off and landing surface. The barani-in fliffis and the barani-out fliffis (½) twisting front double somersaultwith a twist in the first or last somersault) are skills performed by trampolinists that could enhance a divers performance. The fliffis can be utilized as a lead-up skill to develop multiple somersaulting dives with twists such as the full twisting forward 2½ somersault. The ability to see is strengthened with these skills and they will stimulate the imagination to develop new combinations of twisting and somersaulting with currently listed dives. For example:
1. Forward 1½ somersault with 1½ twist
1.1 Barani followed by a back dive
2. Full twisting forward 1½ somersault
2.1 Full twisting front dive followed by a front somersault
2.2 Front somersault followed by a full twisting front dive
3. Full twisting forward 2½ somersault
3.1 Barani followed by a ½ twisting backward 1½ somersault
3.2 Full twist front dive followed by a double front somersault
3.3 Front double somersault followed by a full twisting front dive
4. Double twisting forward 2½ somersault
4.1 Barani followed by a 1½ twisting backward 1½ somersault
4.2 Full twist in the first somersault followed by a full twisting forward 1½ somersault
4.3 1½ twisting front somersault followed by a ½ twisting backward 1½
This is but a few of the skills that can be performed in a variety of body positions. This would include the tuck, pike, layout and now the puck position or perhaps the free position as prescribed in the sport of diving. The puck twisting position opens the door to a very large number of new dives.
SPOTTING: Spotting is a multi-skilled procedure that is learned through instruction and should not be taken for granted. The best of spotting does not consistently deter accidents. There are a number of satisfactory techniques of spotting that may be utilized on a trampoline. By interpretation, “spotting” is the procedure, and the “spotter” is the individual executing the procedure. The overhead belt systemis used to teach somersaults with or without twists. There are two types of spotting belts that can be used. One type is specifically for twisting and the other is for non-twisting skills. When twisting somersaults are being performed, the twisting belt allows the athlete to rotate around both the lateral and horizontal axis simultaneously. The non-twisting belt is used primarily for skills that rotate around the lateral axis only. It can be used, however, for twisting skills if properly implemented. A single and a double pulley are suspended overhead from the ceiling. They are placed on each side of the trampoline at a wide angle. A support system consisting of two ropes is attached to the belt on each side of the athlete. The end of one rope is inserted through the single pulley and transverses the space above between the two pulleys, and is then inserted through one side of the double pulley and extends down to the floor. The second rope is inserted through the empty side of the double pulley and down to the floor.
The trampoline is centered between the pulleys and the spotter holds both ropes and stands beneath the double pulley. This system allows the spotter to support the athlete during the learning process. The same set-up can be attached to a trampoline with a support up-right on each side of the trampoline. The disadvantage of this arrangement is the narrowangle that the ropes make with the athlete. This may cause the ropes to become entangled with the athlete when twisting skills are being performed.
The spotter pulls down as the athlete springs up and feeds the support mechanism (rope) out as the athlete drops to the bed. It is important that proper timing be kept during this procedure. Contrary to the belief that this method of spotting is without mishap is false. Without adequate training, this procedure can be risky. Another spotting technique is done at bed level and can be accomplished in more than one way. One method requires the spotter to stand on the bed with both feet and holds the athlete in a suitable manner. Hand contact is never lost during this procedure. The spotter’s knees are flexingwith the landing of the athlete and amoderate downward push of the bed by the spotter enables the athlete to lift with less effort. The spotter must keep the rhythmof the bounces without “double bouncing” the athlete too high to maintain control during this procedure.
A second method of bed level spotting requires the spotter’s feet to leave and return to the bed with the athlete. With this technique, the spotter bounces with the athlete and becomes stationary on the bed when the skill is performed. Hand contact is maintained as in the previous method.
An additional technique of bed level spotting requires that one foot of the spotter be placed on the bed and the other on the side frame pad. As the athlete lands, the foot on the bed is removed and replaced when the athlete is airborne. The spotter then steps on the bed when assistance is needed. This strategy is used with the final learning phase of bed level spottingwhen the athlete has reached the stage that hand contact need not be maintained during the execution of the skill.
Belt spotting can be done at bed level. This requires two spotters, one standing on each side frame pad holding a rope attached to each side of the beltworn by the athlete. As the skill is performed, both spotters step onto the trampoline bed and support the athlete. This takes a great deal of strength by the spotters and should not be considered when working with a large or heavy athlete. It is not recommended for multiple somersaults.
A prearranged number of bounces must be agreed upon so that the spotter and athlete are aware of when the skill is to be performed. An audible count is made on each bounce by the spotter in order to prepare for the expected action. The number of preliminary bounces should not be prolonged as this induces a state of confusion and fatigue. Three or four preliminary bounces are adequate.
A new overhead system is now being used to teach skills on a trampoline that does not need the support of a person holding the ropes. This system employs bungee cords that support the athlete so that there is little to no impact on landing.
Effective twisting begins when the upper body is rotating through the first ¼ or 90° of somersault around the lateral axis. This axiom holds true in single and multiple somersaults with twists. Twist all skills in the same direction. Front somersaults with twists have undergone a dramatic change in recent years. Previously, it was assumed necessary to flex significantly at the waist to begin somersaulting and then extend the body while twisting. On completion of the twist, the hips were flexed again to complete the skill. A more efficient system has been developed in trampoline and is referred to as the “straight body ascent.” This system allows the twisting action to develop early or late in a somersault.
Somersaulting action, to be efficient, must originate from the take-off surface. This is not required with the twisting phase of the skill. When twisting is introduced in a single and/or the first somersault of a multiple somersaulting skill, it is more efficient to execute the twisting action from the take-off surface. As the number of twists increase, the greater the surface initiation. It is not necessarily undesirable to twist after the body is airborne in any twisting skill with one or more somersaults. The initiation of rotation around the lateral axis (somersaulting) makes it possible to twist effectively while in flight. Twisting is frequently introduced in the latter somersaults of the multiple somersaulting skills.
Front or back twisting somersaults must be executed as close to the longitudinal axis as possible to prevent the body from tilting to one side. There is normally a slight tilt to one side as rotating bodies will find the axis of least resistance. This occurrence is more prevalent with certain individuals than with others. Usually, the greater the number of twists the greater the tilt. This condition is not as obvious with most twisting multiple somersaults.
THE BARANI SOMERSAULT
The barani somersault is similar to the round-off used in tumbling. Like the round-off, the head is held erect and the eyes are fixed on the take-off surface. The barani twisting action of ½ twist occurs early during the rotation around the lateral axis. The early twist and erect head allows the athlete to view the take-off and landing surface throughout the execution of this skill. Eye contact with the surface area below must be emphasized constantly. The front somersault with ½ twist is NOT the same as the barani. In this skill, the twisting action is late and sighting is not possible duringmost of the somersaulting action. Sighting is not a skill that most individuals do naturally, it is a learned skill.
The barani is an excellent skill on which to develop a variety of front single and multiple twisting somersaults. During the learning phase of twisting somersaults, it is crucial that all airborne twisting action around the longitudinal axis be performed in the same direction for all twisting skillswith front or backward rotation. This rule-of-thumb will become more apparent as new and more complicated twisting skills are learned.
During the learning phase, the twisting action of the barani can be confusing to the athlete as well as the coach. Often the direction of the twist is deceptive. The direction of the twist can be determined by viewing the athlete from the side. When viewed from the right side and the twist is right to left, the back of the athlete will be seen. If viewed from the same side and the twist is left to right, the stomach will be seen. The same results can be confirmed if the athlete simply turns left or right while standing upright. No somersault is necessary.
Throughout the barani take-off, the body is as straight as possible when somersaulting forward around the lateral axis. In addition, there should be a slight lean in the direction of the somersault. Leaning in the direction of rotation places the center of gravity in front of the application of force causing forward travel while rotating. As the barani begins, the legs are lifted forcefully up behind the body in the samemanner as the back uprise in gymnastics. Lifting the hips is incorporated into the somersault motion around the lateral axis. There is minimal flexion during the initial stage of rotation. The body is kept straight throughout the twisting phase of this skill.
On lifting from the take-off surface, the chest, head, and upper body are propelled upward with maximum force with arms leading the way overhead. Fromthe overhead position, the arms swing forcefully down simultaneously as the body lifts and somersaults. The arms are shoulder width apart as they swing downward in front of the body. The head is held erect so eye contact with a point on the surface below and in front of the body is maintained throughout the complete somersault.
The barani is used as the foundation on which to develop front single and multiple twisting somersaults. Lead arm – arm that leads the direction of the twist. Swing arm – opposite arm that follows the twist. As the forward rotation develops, the legs swing upward and overhead and the upper body swings downward. The arms continue to swing downward and come to rest in an extended position along both sides of the body. The head is held erect and rotates with the shoulders and chest forcefully around the longitudinal axis in the direction of the desired twist. As somersaulting and twisting occurs, the body rotates around a seemingly fixed point – the head. In the front somersault with ½ twist, the body does not rotate around the head as in the barani and visual contact with the surface below is lost.
Twisting is early and initiated from the take-off surface and completed when the body is inverted. At this point, ½ somersault and ½ twist have taken place. The body is straight with arms aligned and by the sides. The athlete is perpendicular to the surface below and is viewing the location of impact. As the body descends to the landing surface, the hips are flexed when necessary to insure a stable landing on the feet. On landing, the athlete will be facing the opposite direction from take-off. The eyes are focused on the landing surface in front of the point of impact with arms down and hands below or near the level of the waist. In the case of a diver, the arms remain by the sides for entry into the water.
During the learning phase of this skill, if the performer feels awkward with the arms straight and by the sides, flexion of the arms may assist in a successful completion of the skill. However, in the final analysis, the arms should be kept straight and by the sides. There is little perception of twisting when a barani is performed properly, it is more of a turning sensation. The term “wrap-up” is not used with this skill. Individuals learning a barani often land with one or both arms to one side opposite the direction of twist. This armposition conveys the sensation that more than ½ twist has been accomplished. Actually, less than ½ twist is the correct diagnosis. Because the arms are trailing behind and have not completed the necessary ½ twisting action, there is a sensation of twisting in the direction of the pull of the arms. This sensation causes the athlete to attempt to turn in the direction of the trailing arms. If this feeling persists the athlete will, in effect, twist back to the starting position and in the opposite direction intended. When this occurs, one might think that a full twist has been accomplished. If the problem is not identified and corrected, there is a possibility the athlete and coach will encounter difficulties in future endeavors involving twisting skills.
THE FORWARD SOMERSAULT WITH ONE TWIST
With the barani properly learned and eye contact with the landing surface well established, the front somersault with one twist is the next front twisting skill to learn. At this juncture in the learning process, the barani is used as the foundation onwhich to develop front single and multiple twisting somersaults. The implementation of the part method of learning will allow the athlete to master the intended twisting skill as well as develop visual contact with selected objects and the landing surface below. To develop visual contact with selected objects while learning front twisting somersaults, an object or person is placed at the ¾ twisting position standing on the floor and to the side of the athlete.
On completion of the barani, the head and shoulders are turned in the direction of the object at the ¾ twist location. If a person is used to designate this position, a voice command can be used to help the athlete pinpoint the correct location. This procedure is repeated as often as necessary until the object is visually located and the twist is completed to that point. As the twist progresses, the object or person is moved closer to the full twist position. The same process continues until a full twist is mastered with visual contact of the surface below.
The arms as well as the head and chest must move in the direction of the twist. If the eyes remain fixed on one location, as in the barani, the body will twist in the desired direction up to a point. If the eyes remain fixed on this one location, the head will not continue turning in the direction of the twist. This causes the head to remain fixed while the body attempts to continue the twisting direction. Because of this, the twist will terminate prior to completion with the head now turned in the opposite direction. Look in the direction of the twist. As the front somersault with one twist is accomplished, with the method described, visualization is strengthened.
TWISTING WITH ARMS FLEXED:
On take-off, the well executed forward somersault with one or more twists should have minimal flexion at the hips. A slight forward lean is coupled with a downward push of the legs and feet. The legs swing up resulting in forward rotation around the lateral axis. As the “straight-body ascent” develops, the action-reactiont twisting around the longitudinal axis results when the twisting action is initiated with the hips. This causes the upper body to twist in the opposite direction than the hips. Hence, action-reaction twisting. Stand on a piano stool that revolves and analyze the consequences of this technique. Straight-arm twisting,with both arms by the sides, could revolutionize diving as we know it today! Somersault first, twist second.
The head, chest and arms are driven upward for maximum lift with arms extended overhead. As the body lifts and rotates, both arms swing forcefully down. The lead arm swings vigorously down and back in the direction of the twist. The arm is then flexed and the hand is raised coming to rest on or near the chest. The opposite arm, referred to as the swing arm, swings down and across in front of the body and in the direction of the twist. The elbow is flexed with the hand coming to rest on or near the chest. Both arms are kept in close to the chest and the body is kept straight throughout the entire twisting phase of the somersault.
During the arms winging motion, the arms, head, shoulders, and chest are rotated in the direction of the twist. The head is in line with the body with the chin tucked near the lead shoulder. This allows visual contact over the shoulder. The position of the lead arm does not obstruct visual contact with the take-off and landing surface. This allows for the necessary spatial awareness to ensure proper execution and landing. Twisting is initiated fromthe take-off surfacewith the upper body leading the way. If properly executed, the upper body, then the hips and legs follow in that order. The hips are not used to initiate the twisting action. When the emphasis is placed on the hips, the end result is an action reaction type twisting movement that is inept.
Just prior to the completion of the twist, the arms are extended to the sides from the shoulders. The head is aligned forward with eyes down and fixed on the point of impact. Ideally, the twisting action should be completed at approximately a somersault allowing the hips to be flexed prior to landing when necessary. Divers should swing the arms down and place them by the sides for a foot first entry. When the diver is performing a 1½ somersault with one twist, the arms are extended to the sides from the shoulders forming a “T” on completion of the twist. Which arm is extended first may vary with each athlete. The timing is so close that it may be difficult to determine which arm is extended first.
The eyes focus on the water as the legs swing down and back to complete the 1½ somersault. The arms come together overhead and the body is aligned for a perpendicular head first entry into the water.
TWISTING WITH ARMS STRAIGHT:
Single somersaults with one or more twists can and are performed with the arms straight down and placed by the sides of the body. As the body lifts and rotates around the lateral axis, both arms swing forcefully down together. The head, shoulders, and chest turn in the direction of the twist during this armswinging action. Both arms are kept apart and at about shoulder width. The lead armswings down and back in the direction of the twist as in the flexed arm technique but is kept straight. This arm remains down and comes to rest on the leading side of the twist. The opposite arm(swing arm) swings down and in the direction of the twist.
As the body turns, the swing arm also remains down and comes to rest at the trailing side of the twist. The arms should be kept as straight as possible during the twisting action. Twisting is initiated the same as in the flexed arm technique except that the arms remain down and to the sides. This twisting technique with the arms down and at the sides is very popular in the sport of trampoline. Some diving coaches have concerns with using the straight-armtwisting technique. Additionally, there is some anxiety over the manner in which the twisting action can be completed with the arms down. This is not a problem that will disrupt the execution of a dive. Divers performing twisting 1½ somersaults swing the arms up and extend them to the sides fromthe shoulders forming a “T” on completion of the twist. This movement of the arms can be accomplished by flexing the arms as they are raised and then extended from the shoulders in the “T” position. The hips are flexed and the eyes focus on the water as the legs swing down and back and the body becomes inverted. The arms come together overhead and the body is aligned for a perpendicular head first entry into the water.
THE BACKWARD SOMERSAULT WITH ONE TWIST
The part method of teaching is utilized to teach twisting in backward somersaults as well as front somersaults. The eyes must be open during all twisting and non-twisting skills. In the learning process, the athlete is encouraged to perform a backward somersault with a late ½ twist. This late twisting concept is continued until the skill becomes stable. Once the somersault becomes stable, the twisting action begins earlier so that more than ½ twist can be realized. It is essential to start the learning process with the late twist so that the athlete becomes aware of the importance of somersault first, twist second. Failure to execute in that order will lead, in many cases, to no somersault and all twist. The end result could be cataclysmic, particularly if the performance is not over water.
To develop visual contact with selected objects while twisting, an object or person is placed at the ¾ twisting position and to the side of the athlete while a ½ twisting backward somersault is being performed. Just prior to the point of impact on completion of the backward ½ twister, the head and shoulders are turned in the direction of the object placed at the ¾ twist target. As in the front twister, sound can also be utilized to help determine the precise location. This procedure is repeated until the object is visually located and the twist is completed to that point. The object or person is moved closer to a full twist position as the twist progresses. The process continues until a full twist is mastered.
Emphasis is placed on seeing the take-off and landing surface during the learning phase so that visualization becomes established and the individual maintains visual contact with the surface below at all times. If the eyes become fixed on a single location below, twisting will terminate between ½ and ¾ twist. The path of vision must move in the direction of the twist. If this is not done, the head will become fixed at approximately ½ twist causing the twisting action to terminate.
TWISTING WITH ARMS FLEXED:
Backward twisting somersaults are performed with body straight. The lift-off is forceful with a slight backward lean. The head and chest are propelled upward as the arms swing vigorously overhead fully extended for maximum lift. When backward rotation around the lateral axis begins, the legs are extended and lifted upward. As this occurs, the lead twisting arm swings downward and back in the direction of the twist. The elbow is then flexed and the hand and forearm are raised and come to rest on or near the chest. When the lead arm swings down and the head and shoulders have turned approximately ¼ twist, the landing surface will come into view. To insure the athlete has his/her eyes open and is able to view the surface below, place an individual just beyond the first ¼ twist. At this location on the floor and standing next to the trampoline, the eyes of the athlete can be seen and a determination of visual contact can be verified.
The swing arm follows and swings down and across the chest with the elbow bent coming to rest on or near the chest. When the lead arm begins its action, the head turns with the shoulders and chest in the direction of the twist. The head is kept slightly back and in line with the lead shoulder. This allows for a clear view of the surface below. The raised and flexed arm position with the hand behind head, predominant in diving, tends to obscure the view below. The rate of speed that a single twist is performed, in both front and backward somersaults, is not rapid. The term”WRAPUP” should not be used with single twisting somersaults. Wrap-up should be reserved for more than one twist in a somersault to prevent the diver from becoming confused when multiple twisting skills are being learned. Frequently, after the multiple twist is learned, a single twist is difficult to perform because there is no differentiation in the wrap-up of the two skills. As the number of twists increase so does the speed of the twist.
The first ¼ twist in the multiple twisting somersault is deliberate and noticeably slower than the remaining twists. Twisting begins on take-off as the head is turned in the direction of the twist. This allows the eyes to make contact with the surface below. At approximately ¼ somersault of backward rotation, essentially ½ of the twisting action has been completed. When properly executed, eye contact with the surface below is never lost during the execution of this skill. The twisting arm position is now the same as the front somersault with twists. The twist is completed between ½ and ¾ somersault. The hips are flexed when necessary on descent to the landing surface for a landing on the feet. If the somersault is under rotated there will be greater flexion at the hips. If the somersault is rotated properly, flexion at the hips is minimal. The degree of flexion can be determined by the athlete if the landing surface is in view during and on completion of the skill.
TWISTING WITH ARMS STRAIGHT:
Twisting with arms straight during the backward somersault is a very spectacular skill. Action starts in the same manner as in the flexed arm technique. The lead twisting arm swings down and back in the direction of the twist. There should be little to no flexion of the arm during this swinging action. As in the flexed arm technique, the arm is down by the side of the body but need not be raised and flexed. The head, shoulders, and chest turn in the direction of the twist. The head is kept in line with the lead shoulder but slightly back so that the surface below is viewed over the lead shoulder. As the body turns in the desired twisting direction, the lead arm comes to rest fully extended and down to the side of the body. At this point in the twisting action, the body has turned about ¼ twist. The opposite arm swings down in the direction of the twist and comes to rest extended at the side of the body. Completion is the same as that of twisting with the arms flexed.
With the inclusion of this straight-arm concept in the sport of diving, the possibility of new and exciting dives becomes a reality. The number of creations is limitless as in trampoline. The only difference is that in trampolining an athletemay do whatever comes to mind, while in diving the athlete is restricted to those dives prescribed by the rules. To stay within the rules of diving, the manner in which a dive is put together can be rearranged to create a new dive. Or, the rules can be changed to allow the athlete to create new dives.
Some possibilities for new dives are:
1. Double twisting backward 2½ somersault
2. Full twisting inward 2½ somersault
3. Triple twisting reverse 1½ somersault
4. Full twisting backward 1½ somersault
5. Double twisting forward 2½ somersault
The potential for our creativeAmerican diving coaches and athletes to demonstrate to the rest of the world new and exciting twisting techniques is enormous with the use of the straight-arm technique. This could help assure U.S. divers of their continued leadership and dominance in the sport for years to come!
© 1993 by Jeff T. Hennessy
If you do not see where you came from, you may not arrive where you think you are going!