THE BALL AND THE FALL - A BASIC ILLUSTRATION OF SOME SPORTS PERFORMANCE PHYSICS

Imagine we drop a 1kg ball from a set height of 1m onto a set of bathroom scales. The needle on the scales will flicker past 1kg before settling on that value.

Taking the same ball and throw it forcefully downwards from the same height. The needle on the scales will flicker further past the 1kg mark than it did when the ball fell.

Take the same ball and aim to break the scales. How do you imagine you would do this with a drop or a throw? Drop the ball from high enough or throw the ball down hard enough and eventually the scales will break.

Now imagine that the scales are special. What makes them special is that the they can hold a tonne and flatten like a pancake if only the tonne is loaded onto them extremely slowly. Load them too quickly and they will break or protectively rigidify to stop deformation. To best do this, the tonne wouldn't be “dropped” but in a way it would still be falling while in contact with the scales very, very slowly.

If you're interested in understanding how to improve the physical capacities of athletes, be it yourself or ones you work with, you need to understand some of the physics of force and some of the physiology of how people respond to force.

I think the falling ball illustrates some of the physics of force nicely.

The scales that can deform under load very slowly are similar to they way we develop mobility. Exerting force very slowly in new positions is possible. Do it too quickly and break or get no movement at all.

We know this stuff intuitively from our experience in the world.

Don't be blinded by the language of physics and physiology.

There's a lot that can be explained just by a ball and how it falls.

Arton “The Force” Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

P.S. those of you who strength train slowly, think about that needle flickering. The scales have to produce more force to stop the fast-falling ball than the slower falling ball. Faster eccentrics require you to develop more strength at the bottom to reverse a movement than slower ones. Slower eccentrics generally require more controlled muscular tension through movement but a lower peak force output. Slow eccentrics are better for hypertrophy than strength and speed so stop training like a bodybuilder unless that's what you're after!

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