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Leveraging force principles to boost sport performance


            Peyton Manning (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Athletes generate force whenever they throw, run, strike, or perform other skills involving pushing or pulling.  Former UT star Peyton Manning demonstrates how to leverage force principles to perfect his passing technique. 

How much force an athlete can produce depends upon his or her body weight and ability to accelerate.  These are examples of ways athletes can capitalize on the principles of force to improve sport performance:

1.  To achieve maximum force, use larger muscles in the lower body before executing actions of the trunk and upper body.  The force of a punch or throw is greater when initiated from the lower body and hips, rather than from the shoulders.

2.  Maintain a firm base of support to develop maximum force for throwing, striking, and running.   A tennis player can generate a more powerful stroke if the feet are firmly set against the surface of the court.  Wearing the proper shoes can improve firm footing to increase running speed.

3.  Force is greater when initial tension on muscles is increased just before muscles contract. Elastic recoil, or the stretch-shortening cycle, occurs when a quarterback draws the arm back to pass a football.  This places the muscles of the throwing arm on stretch, leveraging stored energy that increases the force of contraction for the pass.

4.  Executing a follow through at the end of a throwing or striking action maximizes force generation and eliminates the tendency to decelerate prematurely.   Reversing the feet at the end of the shot put or discus throw maximizes acceleration while helping prevent fouling.  A baseball pitcher follows through after releasing the ball and preparing to field it at the front of the mound.

These are just a few tips based on biomechanics to help guide sports training and technique development.  For more tips,  see Sports Training Adviser: Principles of Force.

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