Exercises in applied mechanics?

Whereas my teaching of Physics, always tended to migrate into Philosophy, my efforts at Athletics coaching (on Shot, Discus, and Hammer) always involved informal lessons on Applied Mechanics. Ignoring aerodynamic effects (and the shape of the gravitational field, etc), the distance an implement flies depends on the square of its speed at the moment of release, and this in turn depends on the amount of work you have done on it – not the maximum force you apply.

The art is to apply the force that you muster over as long a path as possible, and to do so smoothly so that the implement doesn’t ‘get away’ from you. It doesn’t matter what the shape of the path is, which is why rotational shot putting can work – if you can control it. With the hammer you can only accelerate it around your vertical axis while you have both feet on the ground so you can apply a torque – no wonder our British women’s record holder was a ballet dancer.

Knowing what needs to be done, and being able to do it are two quite different things !