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Understanding the biomechanics of twisting somersaults enhances coaching and performance
Understanding the biomechanics of twisting somersaults enhances coaching and performance

Biomechanics of twisting somersaults

  • Understanding the biomechanics of twisting somersaults enhances coaching and performance

Loughborough research investigating twisting somersaults has improved the coaching and performance of trampolining, gymnastics, diving and the aerials event in freestyle skiing.

The comprehensive and unique research – based on three-dimensional image analysis of performance together with theoretical computer simulations – has provided key insights into the mechanics of aerial movement and implications for coaching.

The mechanics of rigid body aerial motion shows that there are two modes of motion – the twisting and the wobbling somersault.

Further investigation led to the development of a method for partitioning twisting techniques into different components and a better understanding of twist and tilt actions.

Prior to this research, coaches generated their own ideas on the basis of practical experience. Such ideas have wide variation, conflict with each other, and often have little practical or theoretical basis.

The theoretical mechanics base for the understanding of aerial movement provides a framework for designing coaching programmes. With an understanding of the mechanics, coaches have common approaches and are better able to communicate with each other to make sense of their practical experience.

The findings have been adopted as the basis of coaching twisting somersaults by practitioners from many countries including the UK, Netherlands, Canada, USA, Australia and China.



    In gymnastics and trampolining, the tilt-twist concept has become universal for advanced aerial skills and the International Gymnastics Federation teach it in gymnastics, trampolining and acrobatic gymnastics Academy programmes, referencing Loughborough research.


    Many top coaches in aerial sports are former competitors who were able to perform the skills without understanding the mechanics. Now with a mechanics base they are able to coach to a higher standard, giving detailed technical instruction to their athletes.


    Improvements in coaching have enhanced athlete performance and safety, whilst boosting the spectator experience at competitive events.


    The research is incorporated into the Canadian coach education programmes as a basis for teaching twisting somersaults in gymnastics and trampolining. It is also being incorporated into the gymnastics coach education materials of a number of other countries including Japan, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.


    USA Diving developed coaching progressions based on the results of the research that have led to international first performances of twisting dives.