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Mechanical Principles of Sports

Basic principles for understanding sport mechanics
      There are basic mechanical principles that are fundamental to sport biomechanics. The following terms are essential of the understanding how physis is applied to an athlete's body:
  • Mass - The term "mass" is frequently interchanged with "weight". However, to the but scientist these terms mean two different things. An object that has a physical substance and occupies space has a quantity of matter (mass) that the object takes up.
  • Weight - A quantity of matter as measured by the influence of gravity/gravitational force has on the object.
  • Inertia - A resistance to change. An object “wants” to remain in whatever state of action currently exists motionless. For example, an object will remain at rest, moving slowly, or moving fast. The greater the mass an object has, the more inertia it has. Once moving, the objects wants to move in a straight line. It’s necessary to apply an external force to pull or push produce a curved pathway. Air resistance causes a ball to slow down and gravity to cause its flight path to fall toward the earth’s surface.
  • Linear and angular motion - The movement of an object can be defined in three different ways:
    • Linear (in a straight line),
    • Angular (in a circular or rotary fashion),
    • A mixture of linear and angular, called general motion is common in sports as a combination of linear and angular movement.
  • Speed, velocity, and acceleration -  The terms speed and velocity refer to how fast an object is traveling, with subtle differences in respect to time.. Speed is a scalar measure indicating how fast an object is traveling as measured by dividing the distance traveled by the time required. Speed does not reflect on the direction of travel. Velocity is the change in position divided by the time.
It is possible to reduce the rate of acceleration and still increase velocity. Even with minimal acceleration, velocity will increase. Deceleration reduces velocity. How much an athlete’s velocity increases or decreases depends on the rate of acceleration and deceleration.  Uniform acceleration and deceleration do not often happen in sports.

The best examples of uniform acceleration and deceleration occurs in flights of short duration such as in high jump, long jump, diving, trampoline, and gymnastics. Air resistance, in these situations, is so minimal as to be considered negligible. As athletes rise in flight, gravity uniformly slows, or decelerates, their bodies by a speed of 32 ft/s for every one second of flight (i.e., 32 ft/s2) and then on the way down causes their bodies to accelerate at the uniform rate of 32 ft/s2.

The Rules of Sport Skill Technique  
       Mechanical principles of physics can be applied to sports. Using these rules as guides, athletes can achieve excellent technique to gain the greatest mechanical advantage. Newton's Laws of Motion are the foundation for these mechanical principles, which must be applied in concert with other training principles to achieve higher performance levels.

       These mechanical principles of physics form a valuable guide for developing the optimum skating technique. However, there are many interpretations on how to apply the physics principles to a training program and effective teaching methods.

Principles from the Law of Inertia -
       Newton's First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.
  • Achieving skilled movements requires the effectively combination of linear and angular motion. For example, the hooking action of the edge/turn to convert the linear motion into an angular motion that establishes the spin's center.
  • Two or more motions must be executed continuously in sequence. For example, in a jump the skater must spring into the air, complete the require number of revolutions, and check the rotation to achieve a controlled landing on the correct edge.
  • There must be a balance of mass and/or velocity between partners and members of a synchro team. For example, each individual must alter their direction and force to stabilize their combined movements or centrifugal force will become uncontrollable.
  • Control momentum efficiently for each body part to coordinate the entire body as a single unit. For example, changing positions from upright/layback to camel and/or sit spin positions.
Principles from the Law of Acceleration
       Acceleration is a very important ability for a figure skater to possess.
  • Acceleration/velocity is proportional to the force applied against the ice.  A skater who can increase his/her force applied to the ice increases their acceleration by an equal amount.
  • The maximum acceleration is achieved when all body forces are coordinated to achieve thrust in either the forward or backward direction.  Body actions that do not contribute to the forward or backward motion should be minimized to prevent wasted energy and/or detract from productive creation of power.
  • Lengthening the radius of our arms and/or free leg slows the body rotation; shortening the radius increases rotation. For example, a skater will achieve their maximum spinning rotation when they pull in their arms and free leg tight to the body. A came; spin can never approach the speed achieved in a scratch spin because the radius is longer in a camel spin.
  • A skater establishes the path in the air at take off.  The axis of the core body may wobble or tilt on its axis. which can adversely affects the skater's ability to complete the rotation in a vertical position, and land the jump on one foot in a controlled position.
The Principles of Counterforce
       A stable surface maximizes the potential counterforce that can be generated when force is applied against it. The less stable the surface, the less counterforce is generated. For example, a skidded edge does not produce the same spring force into the air for the skater as if a clean takeoff had been achieved.  The friction of the skid absorbs energy that is not transferred into the force that propels the skater into the air.
  • To achieve maximum jumping height, it is necessary to push directly down upon take off. The direction of counterforce is directly opposite that of the applied force, and the applied force is most effective when it is perpendicular to the supporting surface because skidding the edge is minimized.
  • Maximization of total force. The combination of thrusting from the jump foot and the free leg kick in the axel produce the total force into the air.
Recommended Reading:

Basic Concepts in Sports Biomechanics
Role of Physics in Skating

Principles of Training Athletes

Developing Course Materials


How to use Universal Laws & Principles To Your Advantage  A Universal Law or Principle is a general truth or rule that applies to all things anywhere they might be that is binding on anything that exist and are factors and parameters governing all creation.

Physics and Problem Solving  This lesson begins with a discussion of the law of inertia (a body at rest remains at rest and a body in uniform motion continues moving uniformly unless acted on by a net force). Next, the law of inertia is applied to a specific context, the use of seat belts and airbags in automobiles.

The Laws of Acceleration  Presented is a theory in fundamental theoretical physics that establishes the relationships between time, velocity, and the rate of acceleration for all material objects.  When properly formulated as given in this work, these relationships establish what appear to be two new natural laws of physics.  These laws, to be referred to as the Law of constant acceleration, and the Law of relative acceleration are in complete conformance with the principles of both, the time and energy theory, and the millennium theory of relativity.

Newton's Laws for Kids - 2nd Law   A Simple Explanation of Principles of Motion, Force, & Acceleration  Newton's first law tells us that a force is required to accelerate an object. Newton's second law answers the question about how much force is required.

Skill Development Environment:

Mental Training:


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Role of Physics in Skating

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