Learn these formations first

Monday, March 1, 2021

When you first start skydiving, the different formations groups do seem oddly named, infinite and confusing. By learning the common shapes and names you will be able to pick up new dives like a pro! Check out the 2 way grips, star, open, zipper, donut, sidebody, and bow below. Download the cheat sheet at the end!

A word of warning: there are no official names. Even some of the common formations can have different names (stairstep and phalanx for example). Many formations you can create do not even have names!

2-way Grips

All formations are comprised of these 8 basic shapes. Study these first, and you will be well on your way! These formations can be mirrored, angled, or cheated. Learn more about what makes a formation a formation here.

pin leftopen halfstar copy LeftSidebody copy
Pin/Star Open Accordion Half Star Sidebody
leftcompressed Cat leftphalanx leftbipole
Compressed Accordion Cat Phalanx/Stairstep Bipole



The most obvious shape is common. It can be any size from two people to infinity. Sometimes called a round. Sometimes called a BFR (Big @#$% Round). At modest numbers of flyers, it is a fantastic beginner formation. And it is easy to remember!




Open Accordion

Open Accordion is also the name of a single grip but it can be expanded to infinity. Usually just called an “open”. Related to its sibling the compressed accordion. A beginner-friendly formation.

Open4way open8way



Can be expanded to infinity. Looks like a giant zipper when there are enough people. A beginner-friendly formation.

zipper4way zipper8way


Super popular and friendly 4-way exit. Besides the exit, it has a medium difficulty to build in freefall. Make sure the two center people are almost parallel so the person in the back can reach. Learn how to launch a bow here.





Can be 3-way to infinity. If you are grabbing left legs with left hands it is called a “left-handed donut”. If you are grabbing right legs with right hands it is called a “right-handed donut”. Easy to understand this formation, but it is a medium challenge to build. It requires a lot of cross-referencing.

donutRight4way donutleft8way



Another basic grip that skydivers can expand to infinity. Medium difficulty to build because it requires solid grip taking skills to pick up a sidebody.

sidebody3way sidebody4way


Download the quick reference right here, right now! Go to the resources page for other formation cheat sheets and continuities.
Want to try some of them out with Christy? Book some tunnel and learn more.

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Christy's coaching offers so much more than simply learning the dive pool--to fly well, one needs to engineer appropriately, walk purposefully, clearly understand the formations, recognize the role each flyer plays, and think. But even more to the point, each person coached receives personal attention to develop their skill, celebrating successes and examining weaknesses.

» Maria Sheets – Snap, Crackle, Pop

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