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The Science Behind Gymnastics
Transcript of The Science Behind Gymnastics
What is Gymnastics?
The Science Behind Gymnastics
Here is a picture of a female gymnast on the balance beam.
Here is a picture of a male gymnast using the rings. This takes immense strength and focus, because he is working against gravity.
The vault is one of the most exciting events in collegiate gymnastics, but can also be the most dangerous. It requires an athlete to be in the best possible shape. Gymnasts must possess power in their arms, legs, and core, as well as be flexible and agile. They must also have a large mental capacity, to focus on executing the right moves at the right time.
The Physics of Gymnastics
A top gymnast can reach a speed of up to 17 miles per hour when approaching the vault. A gymnast will need this high speed if they hope to complete the complex aerial stunts required in competitive gymnastics. When the gymnast hits the vault, she will compress her hands and arms to spring herself into the air. Some gymnasts can even reach as high as 13 feet. While flipping and spinning in the air, a gymnast must use torque in order to get the proper angular velocity to pull off the combination (torque is the amount of force placed on an object to get it to rotate and angular velocity is the speed at which something is rotating). The more torque a gymnast has, the more rotation she will be able to achieve. Angular velocity is also determined by torque. More torque means more angular velocity.
A senior gymnast named Kyndal Robarts has one of the most difficult vaults in the country. After she hits the vault, she does two front flips in less than a second! This means that she must have enough torque to increase her angular velocity to more than 720 degrees per second. To accomplish this, Kyndal tucks her legs in and keeps her arms close to her body. Similar to an Olympic figure skater, this shrinks the area about which her body rotates and makes her capable of spinning faster. While she is in the air, Kyndal must come out of her spin at just the right time and have complete focus. This is so she can stick her landing and achieve a perfect score!
This is a picture of a gymnast attempting the vault.
Sports n’ Science, “Physics behind Gymnastics”, http://sportsnscience.utah.edu/physicsgymnastics/. 17 March 2014.
Wikipedia, “Gymnastics”, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymnastics. 18 March 2014.
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