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JBS

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Thanks to @maz-y for posting this... great question that's not as simple as it seems!
 

maz-y

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May 17, 2020
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Should girls ranging from about 60-120 pounds be using different numbers of springs in the springboard on vault? The vault is a front handspring, if it matters.
 

JBS

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Should girls ranging from about 60-120 pounds be using different numbers of springs in the springboard on vault? The vault is a front handspring, if it matters.

A 60 pound athlete and a 120 pound athlete would have different spring settings if I was coaching vault.
 

ReluctantGymMom

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May 11, 2020
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A 60 pound athlete and a 120 pound athlete would have different spring settings if I was coaching vault.
Do you find it makes a big difference? My 10 year old is vaulting on the same settings as the 16,17,18 years old for tsuks. I think partly to economize time because we’re short staffed on coaches, but she complains frequently about the springs lol
 

JBS

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Do you find it makes a big difference? My 10 year old is vaulting on the same settings as the 16,17,18 years old for tsuks. I think partly to economize time because we’re short staffed on coaches, but she complains frequently about the springs lol

The newer the springs the bigger the difference it makes... I would say it's like pulling back a bow in archery. If you can make them move... more is typically better. If you can't make them move it's like hitting concrete.

That's not to say we don't do things to minimize settings and maximize time at our gym. We only vault on odd numbers... 105 cm... 115 cm... 125 cm. While I change the springs if needed... the athletes can change the boards... when they are changing... the springs stay and the boards move. With lower level groups we don't typically have more than 2 different spring settings in any one group. We have athletes that use 4... 5... 6... and 7 springs. When they go to meets they may have a different number of springs based on how new or old the springs are as well as the brand of board.

Vault is definitely something that is tough to get proper reps if you have only one runway... a medium to large team... and lots of settings.

@Geoffrey Taucer Do you have any sort of a physics break down on the difference that number of springs can make? Seems like there are lots of variables in this one.
 
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ReluctantGymMom

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May 11, 2020
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The newer the springs the bigger the difference it makes... I would say it's like pulling back a bow in archery. If you can make them move... more is typically better. If you can't make them move it's like hitting concrete.

That's not to say we don't do things to minimize settings and maximize time at our gym. We only vault on odd numbers... 105 cm... 115 cm... 125 cm. While I change the springs if needed... the athletes can change the boards... when they are changing... the springs stay and the boards move. With lower level groups we don't typically have more than 2 different spring settings in any one group. We have athletes that us 4... 5... 6... and 7 springs. When they go to meets they may have a different number of springs based on how new or old the springs are as well as the brand of board.

Vault is definitely something that is tough to get proper reps if you have only one runway... a medium to large team... and lots of settings.

@Geoffrey Taucer Do you have any sort of a physics break down on the difference that number of springs can make? Seems like there are lots of variables in this one.
We All vault on 7 springs (for optionals) - I know when they get new spring boards and the springs are new, everyone is like “my ankles are about to break”. At our last location, the coach changed the settings per person but it ate up into his time and the girls, plus led to a ton of arguments between the girls if someone put a hurdle line wrong. Now everyone has the same hurdle line, vaults at 125 and 7 springs. While my kid feels it’s a little unfair to her (lol), it took her about a month to adapt to and now she vaults comfortably and the girls can get in a ton of reps without arguing over who forgot to move the spring board and the hurdle line
 

mom2newgymnast

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Jul 8, 2014
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Is it bad that my daughter has been in this sport a long time and I didn't even know that the number of springs in a springboard was variable or that changing them was a thing?? lol

I do know that they have 2 vaults set at different heights, but never knew that the springboard could change. I'm guessing they don't change them every practice for her group? Her teammates are all fairly similar age/size now so maybe that's why.
 

JPC13

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Mar 25, 2022
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Is it bad that my daughter has been in this sport a long time and I didn't even know that the number of springs in a springboard was variable or that changing them was a thing?? lol

I do know that they have 2 vaults set at different heights, but never knew that the springboard could change. I'm guessing they don't change them every practice for her group? Her teammates are all fairly similar age/size now so maybe that's why.
I think changing springs is pretty unusual. More often I've seen coaches using two different springboard, which I assume are using different springs.
 
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JBS

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I think changing springs is pretty unusual. More often I've seen coaches using two different springboard, which I assume are using different springs.

Many coaches have trouble changing the springs... it takes a bit of strength.

Also... FIG rules don't allow you to change the springs... only the boards (which have different spring configurations).
 

JPC13

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Mar 25, 2022
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Many coaches have trouble changing the springs... it takes a bit of strength.

Also... FIG rules don't allow you to change the springs... only the boards (which have different spring configurations).
Yes. It seems like a total PITA.

I've only ever seen one of my daughter's coaches change springs when she's in a combined training group with older kids. She used to train with some early teens at her old gym back when she was a 35 pound 7 year old and their board setting was totally unusable to her.

Now that she's 45 pounds and vaulting with people in the 50-70 pound range she just seems to make due by jumping harder.
 
Sep 30, 2022
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My coaches have always changed springs for me. I'm an Xcel Gold but on the older end, being 14yrs with most of my teammates being about 10-12yrs. I would question not changing things? It does frequently have to you with the power of the gymnast though.
 

Oopski

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May 25, 2012
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Just asked my 12 year old level 8, whose training group is split into littles and bigs. She said they change the springs themselves, in between turns. Reading these replies has me wondering if a 75lb 12 year old can remove a spring in between turns, why can’t a coach??
 

mom2newgymnast

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Jul 8, 2014
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Is it bad that my daughter has been in this sport a long time and I didn't even know that the number of springs in a springboard was variable or that changing them was a thing?? lol

I do know that they have 2 vaults set at different heights, but never knew that the springboard could change. I'm guessing they don't change them every practice for her group? Her teammates are all fairly similar age/size now so maybe that's why.
Ha! I just asked my daughter and she said they do change them themselves during practice. I haven’t watched in years so I didn’t know. She seemed surprised that I didn’t know that and said “of course we change them, not everyone can go on the same number” Apparently she uses 6.
 

jillc

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Apr 1, 2016
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I remember watching a in house practice meet for my DD and was impressed how they do vault.

They have a group of 8-12 girls depending on the day/health etc. Everyone is level 8 or above (all doing flipping vaults). Ages are 12-18.

They go in a very specific order every day to make it most efficient as a team. Springs, table height, board placement— are all factors in that order.

The girls do most of the changes (they vault, then do the changes for whoever vaults after them). They are often getting coached while changing the settings.

I asked my DD a little more about it specific to springs— she said There is one spring change in the lineup (the girls with fewer go first, more go last). The coach does the majority of the spring changes, but the girls can do that too.

I don’t think they did a lot of this stuff until later levels. Table height at level 6/7; springs didn’t seem to start until level 8.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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@Geoffrey Taucer Do you have any sort of a physics break down on the difference that number of springs can make? Seems like there are lots of variables in this one.
Not one I'll claim any sort of confidence in. My gut intuition is that the ideal number of springs is whatever number results in the board almost-but-not-quite bottoming out when the athlete punches it, but I wouldn't be able to give any sort of detailed breakdown of why.
 

JPC13

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Mar 25, 2022
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Not one I'll claim any sort of confidence in. My gut intuition is that the ideal number of springs is whatever number results in the board almost-but-not-quite bottoming out when the athlete punches it, but I wouldn't be able to give any sort of detailed breakdown of why.
It’s been a long time since I took a dynamics class, but the force of a compressed spring is equal to K*X, where K is a constant dependent on the nature of the spring (thickness, material, etc) and X is the amount of displacement from resting.

Given that, from a force perspective I don’t think the number of springs would matter at all — assuming that you’re hitting them hard enough to displace them all.

What I think would be different is the deceleration on your body. You’d be much much more likely to hurt yourself vaulting on a board that barely moves than you would on one that displaces more. This is because your deceleration upon hitting the board would be much higher with less spring displacement.

The above assumes we’re talking about ideal springs, which we probably aren’t. The above expression only holds away from the extreme ends of compression (too little and too much). I don’t think I’ve ever seen an expression for a non ideal spring.

Given that, I think “just enough springs so you don’t get too close to bottoming out” is probably the right call. Just from an injury perspective, if nothing else.
 

JBS

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Given that, from a force perspective I don’t think the number of springs would matter at all — assuming that you’re hitting them hard enough to displace them all.

Displace... that means to push them down... right?
 

JPC13

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Mar 25, 2022
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Displace... that means to push them down... right?
Yes. Basically if you measured them at rest, then measured them at their most compressed when you vault, the difference would be X.

On edit: the above expression actually holds if you were talking about stretching a spring as well.
 
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Geoffrey Taucer

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It’s been a long time since I took a dynamics class, but the force of a compressed spring is equal to K*X, where K is a constant dependent on the nature of the spring (thickness, material, etc) and X is the amount of displacement from resting.

Given that, from a force perspective I don’t think the number of springs would matter at all — assuming that you’re hitting them hard enough to displace them all.

What I think would be different is the deceleration on your body. You’d be much much more likely to hurt yourself vaulting on a board that barely moves than you would on one that displaces more. This is because your deceleration upon hitting the board would be much higher with less spring displacement.

The above assumes we’re talking about ideal springs, which we probably aren’t. The above expression only holds away from the extreme ends of compression (too little and too much). I don’t think I’ve ever seen an expression for a non ideal spring.

Given that, I think “just enough springs so you don’t get too close to bottoming out” is probably the right call. Just from an injury perspective, if nothing else.
Ok, so just spitballing here, but

My understanding (and let me give a disclaimer that my education in mechanics is entirely informal) is that if an athlete puts in X amount of energy to compressing the springs, it doesn't really make a difference whether I'm slightly compressing a stiff springboard or significantly compressing a soft one, as they'll both put the same amount of power back out for a given amount of power put in, right?

But we're making some underlying assumptions here. First, we're assuming the springs don't bottom out; if they do, then any residual power goes into the floor under the board, and is (I suspect) dissipated rather than returned to the athlete. Second, we're assuming the athlete puts the same amount of power into a soft or stiff board.

I feel like an athlete is likely to punch more aggressively on a soft springboard than on a stiff springboard.

If I'm correct on all of this so far (and again, I'm just throwing ideas here and not claiming any real confidence in them), then the ideal solution would be to make the board as soft as possible (to encourage the athlete to punch as aggressively as possible) without bottoming out (which would dissipate excess energy into the floor).

@JPC13 does this sound right to you, or am I way off base?
 

JPC13

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Mar 25, 2022
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Ok, so just spitballing here, but

My understanding (and let me give a disclaimer that my education in mechanics is entirely informal) is that if an athlete puts in X amount of energy to compressing the springs, it doesn't really make a difference whether I'm slightly compressing a stiff springboard or significantly compressing a soft one, as they'll both put the same amount of power back out for a given amount of power put in, right?

@JPC13 does this sound right to you, or am I way off base?
I think you're right, but you need to keep in mind the the different acceleration/deceleration, which is going to be very apparent. When you jump on a spring with your full weight, the landing and take off is going to feel a lot softer if the spring compresses more -- this is due to spreading out the application of force over time.

In more formal language, the total amount of kinetic energy (your jump) that is converted into potential energy (a compressed spring) has nothing to do with the amount the spring is displaced -- a fat spring will store more energy for a given displacement than will a thin one. Even so, a stiffer spring is going to be much more jarring even if the total transfer of energy is the same.

Your point about not bottoming out is totally valid. That's a completely different sort of physics problem. The other issue, which I'm sure you know more about than me, to keep in mind is that springboards seem to kind of hop around a bit. That motion is going to cause a vaulter to loss a bit of kinetic energy through movement and friction. Probably negligible for a kid, but I bet you might see a different amount of movement given different spring counts.

The physics of gymnastics is interesting. If I had a second life career, I think I'd try to pursue coaching at a high level.

On edit: my typos are out of control.