Newton's Laws of Motion in Sports

Newton's laws of motion form the basis for principles used in sport movements. Methods of training that depart from these laws would not make sense mechanically. Tips for efficient sport performances are built around these laws and principles.

First, it helps to know that there are two basic types of motion. These come into play in combination when applying mechanical principles to sport skills:

1. Linear motion occurs when an object or person travels in a straight line, as when sledding across a level surface.

2. Angular motion occurs when an object or person turns about a center point, axis, or fulcrum and does not travel from place to place. It is common in diving and gymnastic skills when athletes rotate, twist, or spin.

The Law of Inertia

A body at rest tends to remain at rest. A body in motion tends to continue in motion with consistent speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force.

Basically, if an object is in motion, it keeps going unless something stops it. What are examples of outside forces that affect inertia? Most anything in the real world--gravity, the surface of the playing field, a defensive player, or the braking action of an athlete's body to stop.

The Law of Acceleration

The velocity of a body is changed only when acted upon by an additional force. The produced acceleration or deceleration is proportional to and in the same direction of the force.

If a baseball player hits a ball with double the force, the rate at which the ball will accelerate (speed up) will be doubled. Football players can slow down, stop, or reverse the direction of other players depending upon how much force they can generate and in which direction.

Clean Pull

Newton's Laws of Motion apply to the pull phase of the power clean.

The Law of Counterforce

The production of any force will create another force opposite and equal to the first force.

A swimmer propels herself through the water because the water offers enough counterforce to oppose the action of her hands pushing, allowing her to move. An athlete can jump higher off a solid surface because it opposes his body with as much force as he is able to generate, in contrast to sand or other unstable surface.

Principles used in sports that relate to Newton's Laws of Motion:

Mechanical Principles

Principles of Force

Projectiles in Sports

Stability Principles

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