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Rhythmic Gymnastics vs. Physics

Throwing apparatuses with any part of our body and performing beautiful movements when it in the air to then catch it gracefully is not as easy as it looks. When watching the precision of the skills of a rhythmic gymnast a scientist will tell you it's physics in its purest form.

RG defies gravity every time we use an apparatus. This goes to show that despite how effortless gymnasts make their routines seem, the skills that RG involve are so hard to perform that rules of physics need to be used to explain them sometimes.

Today, we are explaining the physics involved on a "risk".

A risk consists of throwing the apparatus through the air and then do dance steps, skills, or an acrobatic element, trying to time it so that they stop doing said movement at the proper moment to catch the apparatus and move into the next movement. The angle of trajectory plays a big part in these.

Risk by Linoy Ashram. Source:

Risks are a vital element of a routine, but the sport involves much more than just these and apparatus difficulties. So we will be posting a part two on Gymnastics vs. Physics were we discuss the scientific complexity of balances, pivots and leaps. Let us know in the comments if this is something you would like to learn about!

The formula

"The trajectory formula helps us to find the gravity that acted on an object. Also, the trajectory has vertical (y) and horizontal (x) position components. Moreover, if we launch the projectile with an initial velocity v_{0}v0​, at an angle \thetaθ from the horizontal plane. Then we can find the vertical position of the object from the horizontal position using this formula"

Source: physics formulas/

What it means

The angle of trajectory is the path described by an apparatus moving through the air under the influence of such forces as thrust and gravity. When we change the angle of the release point, the object’s path will change as well.

Figure from the study "Key Elements of Sports Techniques of Ball Throwing and Catching by Those Engaged in Rhythmic Gymnastics at the Stage of Preliminary Basic Preparation"

The speed created by throwing the apparatus will determine how high it will go and the time we have to perform the risk. This means that when we throw the apparatus with too much strength it will go too fast, and therefore come back to the floor earlier than it should, leaving us no time to finish our risk, for example.

The angle of the throw also matters, even an inch of a difference can lead to an apparatus drop. In a competition, that can be a one full point deduction. So if we overextend our arm

when throwing a hoop, for instance, it will go

in a different direction and it will be too far to


Faults in technique created by imprecise trajectories, such as an incorrect catch or the loss of the apparatus can have deductions from 0.1 to 0.7 and artistic faults as a result of lost apparatus, being a lack of unity or harmony between movements can be up to 0.5.

Obviously, not every gymnast needs a degree in physics or knowing crazy formulas, because gymnastics is about practice. Even if she doesn't know the theory behind it, a gymnast will start to subconsciously understand the basic principles when throwing an apparatus. Isn't it crazy how the human brain works?

Muscle memory is what allows us to throw apparatuses up in the air without having a PhD. Once we practice enough and we know the right strength, angle and time we can practice the risk until our body gets so used to that precise movement that we do it pretty much subconsciously. After fifty tries, a risk will start to slowly improve and drop the apparatus less and less.

The bottom line

The angle of trajectory is the path the apparatus takes once it's released into the air to do our risk.

When we change the angle the path will change as well. Taking the distance, the angle and time of your throw when practising is what makes the gymnast catch it. However, once it's practised enough, the muscle memory kicks in and the risk will be perfectly done almost automatically.

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