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The Mechanics of
Rotation and Twisting   
November 1, 2011
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         The Mechanics of Rotation and Twisting
by Gerald S. George, Ph.D.
Dr. Gerald George

                     Big wheels keep on a-turnin'...

In most airborne gymnastic skills, one or a combination of rotary motions can be observed. As depicted in Figure 6.1, the body's rotary movements occur about one or more of the three traditional axes:


1) rotation about the body's lateral axis as in forward- and backward-somersault skills;   


2) rotation about the body's anterior-posterior axis as in sideward-somersault skills; and   


3) rotation about the body's longitudinal axis as in twisting skills.  


Figure 6.1
Figure 6.1

Notice these three axial lines are always at right angles to one another and intersect at a conceptual point--the body's center of mass. It is this point (center of mass) about which all rotation of the airborne body occurs.


Certain airborne skills are characterized solely by a somersault component, whereas others are characterized solely by a twist component, as shown in Figure 6.2.

Figure 6.2
Figure 6.2

Because these examples involve rotation about a single axis (uniaxial rotation), they may appear relatively easy to understand and control.  

When somersaulting and twisting are combined within the context of a single skill, the situation becomes a bit more complex. Of critical importance in this regard is to realize that a sufficient quantity of somersault rotation must be initiated first prior to  any anticipated twist rotation.

Or to put it another way, the wise performer knows she can borrow a portion of the somersault rotation for twisting, but she cannot effectively borrow from the twist rotation for somersaulting. Just as in life:
The bee goes from flower to flower to flower,
But the flower cannot go from bee to bee to bee...

Excerpted from Championship Gymnastics: Biomechanical Techniques for Shaping Winners. For additional information, see Chapter 6, "The Mechanics of Rotation and Twisting," pages 113-138.

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