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J Biomech. 2003 Jul;36(7):921-7.

Coping with perturbations to a layout somersault in tumbling.

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  • 1School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Loughborough University, Ashby Road, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK.


Tumbling is a dynamic movement requiring control of the linear and angular momenta generated during the approach and takeoff phases. Both of these phases are subject to some variability even when the gymnast is trying to perform a given movement repeatedly. This paper used a simulation model of tumbling takeoff to establish how well gymnasts can cope with perturbations of the approach and takeoff phases. A five segment planar simulation model with torque generators at each joint was developed to simulate tumbling takeoffs. The model was customised to an elite gymnast by determining subject specific inertia and torque parameters and a simulation was produced which closely matched a performance of a layout somersault by the gymnast. The performance of a layout somersault was found to be sensitive to the approach characteristics and the activation timings but relatively insensitive to the elasticity of the track and maximum muscle strength. Appropriate variation of the activation timings used during the takeoff phase was capable of coping with moderate perturbations of the approach characteristics. A model of aerial movement established that variation of body configuration in the flight phase was capable of adjusting for takeoff perturbations that would lead to rotation errors of up to 8%. Providing the errors in perceiving approach characteristics are less than 5% or 5 degrees and the errors in timing activations are less than 7ms, perturbations in the approach can be accommodated using adjustments during takeoff and flight.

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