The biomechanical design and analysis of gymnastics training equipment
2011-02-01T10:08:34Z (GMT) by
Training aids can play an important role in the training of athletes, but only if they assist in the learning of correct technique. The design of a training aid differs considerably from the design of other products because it is crucial that the mechanisms used in learning a skill must be taken into consideration. Research has shown that this can be achieved by: encouraging specific motor skills, providing feedback, providing support in a safe environment, permitting repetition, permitting progressive learning, or by providing some combination of these. For this to be possible an in-depth understanding of the biomechanical requirements of the sporting activity is essential. A study was carried out to determine the fundamental requirements of a training aid, and to then design and build two working prototype gymnastics training aids. Elite training sessions were observed and High Performance coaches were interviewed to establish the skills that required a training aid and the customer requirements for such a device. On the basis of this information two contrasting gymnastics skills were chosen. The first was a handstand on the rings, a complex motor control skill requiring the gymnast to balance on two moving pendulums, requested by 100% of the coaches interviewed. The second skill was a backward handspring, often the first backward dynamic skill most gymnasts will learn, requested by 89% of the coaches interviewed. The training aids were required to simplify the learning of the skill, whilst still utilising correct technique. The backward handspring aid was also required to effectively support the gymnast but not obstruct a good performance. A biomechanical analysis of each skill was carried out in order to inform the design of suitable training aids. The aids were designed and manufactured in accordance with British Standards, and were then biomechanically assessed to ensure that they correctly aided the learning of the skills. In order to assess the aids: displacement, force and muscle activation data were collected and were used to compare the gymnastics skills with and without the aids. The data showed that the training aids replicated the correct biomechanical requirements of the actual skills: the handstand aid was shown to utilise the same control mechanism as was observed on the rings, and the backward handspring aid permitted a unobstructed good performance and assisted in the learning of the skills with correct technique. Both aids were also demonstrated to out-perform any of the existing training aids.