What Are the Required Elements for Figure Skating

Written By: Riedell | July 8, 2024

Figure skating involves much more than simply gliding gracefully across the ice; it’s a sport that combines athleticism, artistry, and a significant amount of practice. For adults, mastering elements such as jumps, spins, footwork and choreography is essential to a standout performance. Like any sport, figure skating has its own unique terminology and presents a steep learning curve for beginners. In this article, we will dive deeper into the specific elements required for adult figure skaters. It’s important to note that this is a general purpose guide. Your specific Element Requirements will vary depending on a myriad of factors and they change frequently. Be sure to double check!

What Are Figure Skating Moves Called?

Elements, sometimes referred to as moves or tricks, are the bread and butter of figure skating. Jumps, spins, spirals, and lifts comprise the required elements in figure skating, but within those categories are specific moves skaters must master and perform. 

Figure Skating: Required Elements

The required elements in figure skating differ based on which category and level a skater is performing in. For example Silver and Gold both have different requirements. Beginner programs like Snowplow Sam have different requirements than those skating at a juvenile or senior level. Required elements generally include things like jump combinations, camel spins, and single or double Axels. Here are some specifics:

Adult Single Skating Required Elements:

  • Single or double Axel
  • Double or triple jump
  • Jump combinations, such as Single/Double, Double/Double, Single/Triple, Double/Triple, or Triple/Triple
  • Camel spin
  • Spin combinations
  • Leveled step sequence

Within these required elements are often specific rules about the way skaters must perform. For example, skaters performing spin combinations must utilize a minimum of two different basic positions, have all three basic positions to receive a full score, and perform a minimum of five revolutions on each foot. Remember these requirements often change. To learn more details about the specifics of required elements involved in different figure skating programs, check out this handy resource via U.S. Figure Skating.

Pairs Figure Skating Elements

The required elements in pairs figure skating will depend on what category a skater is competing in, such as gold, silver, or bronze pairs. There is plenty of overlap in required elements between these categories, but skaters should refer to this chart by U.S. Figure Skating for specifics.

Regardless of the specifics of each category, all adults involved in pair figure skating must be prepared to perform the following elements:

  • Lifts
  • Throw jump
  • Solo jump
  • Jump sequence/combination
  • Solo spin/combination
  • Pair spin/combination
  • Pivot figure or death spiral
  • Step or choreographic sequence

These elements help assess a skater’s ability to perform in tandem with their partner while maintaining peak athleticism and grace.

Banned Elements in Figure Skating

As with many sports, figure skating can be dangerous, and no one wants skaters to put themselves at risk unnecessarily. Many elements have been banned from figure skating performances due to their high risk for injury. 

Banned elements in singles and pairs skating currently include somersault type jumps and lifts with wrong holds. Somersault-like jumps are classified as jumps where your legs go over your head, such as backflips and tuck jumps. Lifts with “wrong holds” include anything that falls outside the regulated holds in pairs. Skaters are only allowed to do holds that are hand to hand, hand to arm, hand to body, or hand to upper leg.

There are several elements, movements, and poses that are illegal in Rhythm Dance, Free Dance, and Pattern Dances, including:

  • Sitting on the partner’s head.
  • Standing on the partner’s shoulder.
  • Lifted partner in upside down split pose.
  • The “bounce spin”: Lifting partner swinging the lifted partner around by the skates/boots or legs only with fully extended arms.
  • Lifting partner swinging the lifted partner around without the assistance of hands/arms and the lifted partner holding only with feet around the lifting partner’s neck.
  • Lifting partner holding the lifted partner above the head with extended arms (this type of hold is allowed in pairs, but not in ice dance).
  • Jumps of more than one revolution except Jump Entry and/or Jump Exit.
  • Lying on the ice.

Check out the link for a more comprehensive overview of the regulations and illegal moves as defined by the International Skating Union.

Figure Skating Element Codes

As if the extreme athleticism of figure skating doesn’t present an exciting enough challenge for potential skaters, there’s also a studious aspect to it that these athletes will need to learn. ISU judges use element codes to score skaters during their performances. Competitors accumulate points based on the degree of difficulty of each technical element, how well that element is executed, and their overall skating ability and performance through program component scores. 

Understanding the element codes will allow skaters to easily note which elements they executed well and which they need to work on. There are an extensive number of element codes covering everything involved in jumps, spins, steps, lifts, death spirals, and more.

Element codes are often simple abbreviations of the moves, such as 1T (single toe loop) or 1Tw (single twist lift). However, there are also some special codes that aren’t as obvious, such as “<” (under-rotated) and “<<” (downgraded). 

Nail Each Element with Riedell

Understanding the required elements of figure skating is crucial for any skater looking to compete. Whether you’re mastering jumps, spins, or intricate step sequences, each element plays a vital role in showcasing your skills. However, having the right figure skating equipment is equally important. With Riedell’s high-quality skates and boots, you get the support and precision needed to perform these elements properly and confidently.