Understanding Acceleration

Acceleration is the most common and important motion in all team based sports. Points, games, championships are won on an athlete’s ability to get from point A to Point B the quickest. Acceleration and speed are often interchanged but in terms of physics they’re not the same thing. Acceleration is the rate you change speed divided by time, and speed is the distance travelled divided by time. If you’re moving at a constant of 20mph, your speed is 20mph and your acceleration is zero mph. As a strength coach it’s important to understand this distinction and have a basic understanding of physics.  Important components to understand acceleration in sports are Newton’s First and Second Laws of Physics.

Newtown's First Law

A body at rest will stay at rest, a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force.  Newtons first law predicts the behavior of objects when forces are balanced. The object will not accelerate unless forces become unbalanced, this leads us to Newton’s Second Law, the law of Acceleration.

Newtown's Second Law

Newton’s Second Law- The 2nd law states acceleration is dependent on the net force applied to the object and the objects mass, Acceleration is equal to net Force divided by Mass. If Athlete A is 185lb and Squats 405lb, Athlete B is 205lb and Squats 405lb , Athlete A will have a higher potential to accelerate their body. As a coach Newton’s second law helps me understand why force production, rate of force development, the athlete’s relative body strength in developing acceleration ability.

Newton’s laws help us understand the laws that govern motion. As a strength coach the basic understanding of the physics that govern motion help us at the BVT Lab design the training framework to help athletes improve their acceleration. The next part of this article series will cover Newton’s 3rd law and biomechanics.