The word torque is used in slightly different contexts over a number of fields from engineering to theoretical physics. It is a fundamental concept that accounts for a lot of how we, as humans, interact with the world. In the broadest sense, torque describes how leverage can be used to generate force, power or lift. It is most commonly spoken of in the world of motor vehicles.
In fitness, ‘torque’ describes a concept in biomechanics. It allows the human body to push, pull and lift objects when we are in our homes, on the street or at the gym.
Though torque isn’t always an easy concept for people to understand, this doesn’t make it any less important to the world of fitness. On the contrary, in fact. An understanding of this biomechanical concept is important for a number of reasons. But we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s take a look at what it actually means.
The Concept of Torque in Biomechanics
The concept of torque can be represented by this formula:
T=F x R x Sin(Theta)
For most of us who are not mathematically inclined, this means very little. It basically says that torque is the product of a force multiplied by the perpendicular distance of a line of movement, from its axis. Still confused?
To clarify, visualise a large, very heavy door that you need to push closed. You start by pushing the door right next to its hinges, finding it very difficult to get the door moving. However, when you push on the side furthest away from the hinges, far less strength is need be applied to create the movement.
By creating more space between the hinges of the door (the axis) and the spot where pressure is applied, you have created a larger perpendicular line of movement. By doing so, more torque is generated. This allows the door to move with less effort.
Torque, Muscles, Joints and Ligaments
Of course that description of the concept can describe torque in any scenario. When it comes to lifting during exercise, one needs to understand how the mechanics of the human body can be leveraged to generate torque to allow the athlete to lift weights by maneuvering their body around the weight rather than the weight around their body.
In doing so, an athlete can consider their joints the axis during the movement (as though they were the hinges of a door). This allows the athlete to perform movements that put minimal stress on their joints while still generating enough power for the lift.
The Intuitive Process of Generating Torque
When we perform a lifting action, we tend to intuitively process what we need to do to create optimal power during the movement. It seems to happen in an automatic way but there are a number of processes at play when we do this:
- Firstly, we visualise how the force we are applying might affect our bodies. This allows us to gauge our own capacity to perform the movement and what we will need to do to do it successfully.
- Next, we make a calculation of how much torque we will need to generate in order to complete the lift. This is done taking into account a number of factors, including:
- Our own strength,
- The mass of the weights to be lifted,
- How much stability we require, and
- A host of other factors.
- The final step of this automatic process is forcing our muscles and joints to act accordingly so that we can generate the torque needed, according to our calculations.
Although the process is somewhat automatic, we are human, which means that we may make miscalculations. This may lead to dysfunctional movement patterns. To improve on this, athletes should consciously ensure that their movements and positioning are acting to correctly support their joints under the strain of torque.
Torque plays an important role in many different types of exercises. A sound understanding of the concept will allow you to approach workouts with the knowledge of how to get more out of your performance while simultaneously ensuring that your muscles, joints and ligaments are kept protected under the strain of rigorous activity.
If you would like to learn more about the intricacies of the fitness industry, why not consider getting a personal training diploma from us here at Trifocus Fitness Academy. If you would like to find out more about our online, internationally accredited fitness courses, be sure to visit our website for details.