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Gymnastics in Relation to Physics

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Dana Sorensen

on 16 January 2014

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Transcript of Gymnastics in Relation to Physics

Gymnastics in Relation to Physics
Gaining Linear Momentum
Coaches always tell gymnastics that each flip
should be faster than the one before it; this is because
their velocity is increasing, causing a change in
momentum. As a gymnast moves through a line of flips, like a round-off, back-handspring, back-handspring, her velocity is increasing, this causes an increase in momentum because momentum equals mass times velocity (P=MV). Since the mass of a gymnast does not
change, and the velocity is increasing, the momentum is
increasing as well. This is an increase in linear
momentum because linear momentum is the
measure of an objects translational motion. The
gymnast moves farther back with ech back-
handspring causeing her change in
distance, or translational motion, to
be greater.
Dangerous falls occur so often in gymnastics because
once the gymnast leaves the floor, her momentum is
conserved. This means she’ll keep moving through the air
with the same force and direction she left the floor with.
For example, if she leaves the floor with no rotation but lots of power, she won’t rotate and will land on her head. Momentum shows no sympathy for the gymnast, so she has
to use physics to manipulate the force to work in ways that
are beneficial to her. Gymnasts use the conservation of
momentum to continue through a long line of flips. The
last flip will be the most elaborate trick because each
flip before it gained momentum, and it was all
conserved; so the gymnast has the most
momentum in the last trick. This is just one
way gymnasts use physics to their
One way gymnasts can use the force in
beneficial ways is to bend her knees when she
lands a flip. Because time and impulse are
inversely related, as one of them increases, the other
decreases. By bending her knees, the gymnast
increases the time it takes her to slow down, in order to decrease the impulse. Without bending her knees, the time it would take her to slow down would decrease and the impulse, or force pushing back on her would increase. The risk of injury increases as force increases. For example, if a gymnast lands with too much force and
her legs straight, she will almost certainly hyper-extend
her leg because the force has no where else to go. A
twisted ankle also a result of impulse. When a
gymnasts lands on her ankle funny, the force
doesn't stop; it keeps pushing back causing
the tendons and bones to push
together. Causing either a
sprain or a brake.
Kinetic and Potential Energy
When a gymnast is at the highest position in
the air, her kinetic energy is the lowest, but her
potential energy is the highest. This is because
of the law of conservation of energy. The law
states that energy can neither be created nor
destroyed, which means that as the gymnast rises
into her flip, she is building up potential energy.
As she comes down to land her flip, that potential
energy is converted into kinetic energy.
The faster she flips, the more kinetic energy
she gains. Potential energy and kinetic
energy can never be lost or gained,
just converted between the
*Each back-handspring should get faster and faster.*
*Notice I fly up into the air. This is all my conserved momentum.*
*Watch when I land, as I bend my knees.*
*When I'm at my highest point in my flip, my kinetic energy is the lowest, and my potential energy is the highest.*
Angular momentum equals the product of mass, velocity
and distance from the center of rotation. When a gymnast
leaves the floor, she has all the momentum from her push-off that
she can have, none can be lost or gained due to the conservation
of energy. However, the gymnast must change her rate of rotation
through the air in order to land on her feet without an outside force
acting on her. To do this, she must change the distance of her center of mass from the axis of rotation. This changes the length in the radius, which in turn increases or decreases the angular speed. For example, when a gymnast does a basic routine on the uneven bars she
starts by something on the low-bar followed by a jump to the high-bar,
giants and a dismount. When she starts her giants, which are swings
around the bar in a hand-stand position, she is gaining angular
momentum with the radius being from the bar to her toes. When
she lets go to do her back flip dismount, she tucks her legs in to
decrease the radius, which is now her center of her body to her
toes. This increases her angular speed and she starts
spinning much faster in order to land her feet on the
ground safely.

Changing Angular
*Although she doesn't tuck her legs for the dismount she still must change her center of rotation because the bar stopped pushing back on her.*
Newton's Third Law
Newton's third law of motion states that for
every force on an object, there is an equal and
opposite reaction force on the object. In gymnastics this law is applied when the gymnast is on the balance beam. When the gymnast flips and leaps on the beam, she is exerting a force onto the beam. The beam does not collapse or break because when the gymnast exerts a force onto the beam, it pushes back with an equal and opposite force. Another example would be when a
gymnast jumps onto a spring board. She exerts a
certain force to compress the board then as the
board decompresses, it exerts a force up on the
gymnast giving her momentum. This is
the reaction force. The force and
reaction force are equal but
opposite in direction.
*Notice that although she exerts a TON of force onto the beam, it never breaks because it is exerting an equal and opposite force back onto her.*
Newton's First Law
Newton's first law states that an object at rest
will remain at rest, while an object in motion will
remain in motion; unless acted on by another force. The first applies a lot in gymnastics, but particularly on the bars. The gymnast starts at rest and must use a force to get her body moving around the bar. This force is usually a swing of her body or a cast to a
handstand. Once she gains enough force to
continue swinging around the bar, in what is known
as a giant, she will continue to swing around the
bar until she uses some force to slow herself
down or stop herself. The force to slow her
down could be a dismount, a release
move or a change in body
*Notice that as she does her giants, she can continue to go around the bar with ease because once she was in motion, she needed an outside force to act on her to slow herself down and stop.*
Allie doing giants on strap bar. (2010, December 11). Retrieved January 16, 2014, from Youtube:

Gymnastics. (2010, April 28). Retrieved January 16, 2014, from Mathmatical Thought: Math 2033 at the University of Arkansas: http://math2033.uark.edu/wiki/index.php/Gymnastics

The Physics of Gymanstics. (2013). Retrieved January 15, 2014, from Topend Sports Network: http://www.topendsports.com/sport/gymnastics/physics.htm
Henry5family5. (2012, October 16).

My giant giant flyaway :). Retrieved January 16, 2014, from Youtube:

Serway, R. A. (1999). Physics. Holt.
Szembrot, E. R. (2012, January 27).

Emily's 1st Place Level 10 Beam Routine Sand Dollar Invitational. Retrieved January 16, 2014, from Youtube:

Trofi, M. A. (n.d.). Newton's First Laws. Retrieved January 16, 2014, from Civic Ed Rhode Island: http://www.civiced-ri.org/physite/gymaly/Newton's%203%20laws.htm
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