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The Physics of Gymnastics
Gymnastics is all about bodies in motion or in other words mass in motion. Gymnasts use their bodies to move in straight lines and to change directions while twisting and turning. The focal point of this sport is the gymnasts body and the extraordinary maneuvers that they perform.
Gymnasts use Angular Momentum when performing a twist. Twists need momentum to be performed, when spinning continuously to increase the speed of the body they tuck in thier arms. The circle needs to get smaller for the speed to increase. For a gymnast more speed equals more twists in the air.
There are many moves that a gymnast can perform and most of the moves can be done starting from a run. Several factors play a role in the amount of energy that is exerted while tumbling. For example; the surface type that is being performed on, whether it is a gym floor, wrestling mats or gymnastic mats. Another factor is whether the gymnast is wearing shoes or not. This will effect the amount of inertia against the surface. Also the distance that is run and the impact with the surface all play a role in how much energy is exerted or how much energy is needed to perform a certain maneuver.
When performing certain maneuvers on the hand bars; for example; the Giant Circle, air resistance is negligible, offering very little resistance to the circling body. The gymanst is faced with two opposing forces, gravity and friction. To perform this the friction between the hands and the bar, and the force of gravity must be overcome. Gymnasts REDUCE friction by applying white chalk to thier hands or wearing grips for bar routines. Friction and gravity are important factors in gymnastics.
Today gymnasts can use Newton's Laws to determine things such as acceleration needed to accomplish a certain force exerted on the floor to achieve a certain height. They can measure gravity; the force that pulls them down when trying to achieve a certain height for a rotation. For example; Newton's 1st law of motion states that an object maintains its state of rest until acted on by an external force. When applying this to gymnastics it means an object at rest; such as a gymnast, will stay at rest until another force (such as a swing on the high bar) gives it the force it needs to move. When you see a gymnast rotating on the bars, their own momentum is the force that propels thier body.
When NO outside forces act upon a gymnast, his or her momentum remains unchanged. Meaning momentum is conserved!
Applying Newton's 2nd & 3rd Law of Motion to Gymnastics!
Newton's 2nd law is
Force = Mass x Acceleration.
As the force acting upon the object increases, the speed of the object also increases. Consider a gymnasts mass or weight. The heavier the gymnast is, the more force he/she needs to exert in order to accomplish the move.
Newton's 3rd law is applied in gymanstics in the way the balance beam supports the weight of a gymnast as he/she performs a routine. The beam is exerting an equal force against the gymnast. For example; when a gymnast lands on the floor after doing a maneuver, the mat is exerting equal force on the gymnast. Newtons Laws can be applied in more ways than one to gymanstics, but simply this is how the laws are applied to basic gymnastics.
Circular Motion & Centripetal Force - In Gymnastics
you can see centripetal force or in other words "center seeking" when a gymnast performs on the bars. As the gymanst rotates on the bars her body will constantly be searching for the center.
Applying Potential and Kinetic energy using the Spring Board.
For example; after an accelerated run, the gymnast takes a hurdle step onto the spring board. An arm circle is used to further maximize the force it takes to turnover onto the horse. The run is usually about 25 meters, and the run represents translational motion. We can thus calculate the kinetic energy the gymnast possesses during the run with KE = (1/2) mv2, The kinetic energy is transferred to potential energy upon compression of the springboard where PE=1/2 kx2, where 'k' represents specific spring constant and 'x' is the deplacement of the spring from its equilibrium position. Gymnasts are taught to have a good punch off the spring board, thus INCREASING the displacement and INCREASING the potential energy.