What Are the Different Types of Figure Skating?

Written By: Riedell | February 6, 2019

Figure skating is mesmerizing to watch, and deceptively complex. Although it might seem like a simple activity that either includes singles or pairs gliding around on the ice, what outsiders or newcomers might not know is that the sport is multifaceted. There are several different categories in which athletes can compete, such as men’s and ladies’ singles, pairs, ice dancing, and synchronized team skating. Each type of skating has similar guidelines, rules, and techniques, but also a number of nuanced differences that makes each form of the sport unique.  


When most people think of the sport, they generally imagine one skater out on the ice performing a routine. They’re right, in part. Single skating is a discipline of figure skating in which men and women perform individually. Each competition is composed of two parts: the short program, skated first, and the free skate. In singles skating, a skater’s form, technique, style, and the ability to perform under immense pressure are crucial to achieving the highest possible score in competition.

Single skating is made up of various jumps, spins, and choreographed sequences. Each skater must perform required elements depending on their level in competition determined by the International Skating Union, the international governing body for figure skating.

2018-2019 requirements for senior men and women in the short program:

  • Double or triple axel
  • Any triple or quadruple jump
  • A jump combination
  • Flying spin
  • Sit or camel spin
  • Spin combination
  • Leveled step sequence

All of these moves must be done within a time frame of 2:40 with 10 seconds leeway, and can be done in any order.  

2018-2019 requirements for senior men and women in the free skate portion:

  • Maximum of seven jumps, with at least one being axel-type
  • One spin combination
  • One spin with a flying entry
  • One spin with only one position
  • One leveled step sequence
  • One choreographed sequence

For the free skate, skaters have up to 4:10 to perform their routine. Skaters are allowed to select their own music and program themes, as well as create choreography in a way that displays their skill levels and artistic abilities.


Pairs skating is similar to singles, but it involves skating in unison with a partner, as well as performing more difficult lifts and throw jumps. Pairs skating requires you to be in sync with your partner and have excellent communication throughout your routine. Just like singles skating, competitions require certain elements to be included in these programs. Short programs are limited to 2:50, while free skates remain set at 4:10.

2018-2019 requirements for senior short program pairs:

  • Any hand-to-hand life take off
  • Double or triple twist life
  • Double or triple throw jump
  • Double or triple solo jump
  • Solo spin combination
  • Backward outside death spiral
  • Leveled step sequence

In the pairs free skate, you’ll see more difficult and unique lifts and spins, as well as elements such as mirroring or shadowing, as skaters display their strength skill level, and teamwork.

2018-2019 requirements for senior free skate pairs:

  • Maximum three overhead lifts
  • Maximum one twist lift
  • Maximum two throw jumps
  • Maximum one solo jump
  • Maximum one jump sequence or jump combination
  • Maximum one pair spin combination
  • Maximum one death spiral
  • Maximum one choreographed sequence

Ice Dancing

Ice dancing, like pairs, is done with a partner–but this form of figure skating is more focused on the dance aspects, rather than jumps. In competition, ice dancers are required to put emphasis on rhythm, interpretation of music, and precise steps. The beauty of this form of skating is that it allows for more creativity and innovation on the ice. Ice dancing is also composed of a short dance, or rhythm dance, and free dance during competitions, each with its own required elements.

2018-2019 requirements for senior rhythm dance:

  • One short lift
  • One step sequence in hold or not touching or combination of both chosen from the following types of pattern: Midline, Diagonal, Circular
  • One combination set of sequential twizzles
  • Two sections of Argentine Tango
  • Music must be Tango or Tango plus one additional rhythm

2018-2019 requirements for senior free dance:

  • Maximum three lifts
  • Maximum one spin or spin combination
  • One step sequence
  • One combination one-foot step sequence
  • Maximum one twizzle
  • Three different choreographed elements, one of which must be a character step sequence

Find Your Dream Skates with Riedell

Whether you’re an ice dancer moving to the rhythm or a pairs skater gliding out on the ice with a partner, you’ll need high-quality equipment in order to perform to your maximum potential. Good figure skates are at the top of every skater’s wishlist, especially those who want a custom fit. At Riedell, our master craftsman can create a boot tailored to your unique specifications and needs–so that you’ll be prepared for any type of skating.