View Full Version : Generating power for the break

03-11-2002, 06:37 PM
In the "Breaking" thread, I said that I used to be a martial arts instructor and that I would write out an explanation of how the human body can be used to generate power. I finally got around to writing it up. This post will talk only about principles, not specific techniques. There will be another post later on specific techniques.

As many people know, when we talk about “power”, or “force”, we are talking about mass and velocity. Let’s first talk about velocity, or speed.

Generating power for a technique (a punch, a kick, a fastball, a break, etc.) requires generating the maximum speed for the part of the body that is being used for whatever task we are generating power for.

To generate speed, we must combine the speeds of numerous joint motions. The sum of the speeds of these joint motions will be the speed of the part of our body that is actually contacting what it is we are moving. Let’s look at a simplified example.

Stand still. Throw a ball at 20 mph. Relative to you and to other stationary objects around you (like the ground, for instance), the ball is moving at 20 mph. Simple. Now start walking forward at 10 mph. And throw the ball at (relative to you) 20 mph. The ball is moving relative to the ground at 30 mph. Now put yourself in the back of a semi-truck, moving 60 mph. Walk forward (relative to the truck) at 10 mph, and throw the ball (relative to you) at 20 mph. The ball is now traveling at 90 mph.

Each item of movement adds its speed to the sum of the items of movement before it. The truck is moving 60 mph. You are moving (relative to the truck) at 10 mph. So relative to the ground, you are moving at 70 mph. Your hand is moving (relative to your own body) 20 mph. All them all up, and your hand (which is the last thing connected to the ball) is moving at 90 mph, relative to the rest of the world.

To achieve power with the human body, we need to use this same principle. Although the techniques are different for different activities, the principles are the same. There is a succession of joint motions, usually starting at your foot, and usually ending at a hand, foot, or elbow. These combine to form a speed at the part of your body being used that is equal to the sum of the speeds of each motion.

For a movement that ends with the human hand (like throwing a ball), the following are the joint motions that could possibly form the chain of motion: the toes, the ankle, the knee, the hip joint, the trunk, the shoulder, the elbow, the wrist, and finally, the fingers. Note that not all of these will be used in all techniques. For example, the fingers come into play when throwing a 100 mph fastball. But they don’t come into play when punching.

I’d like to take a moment and distinguish between “trunk” and “shoulder”. Stand still and twist your upper body back and forth, keeping your hips still. The spine is twisting left and then right. That is “trunk”. Now stand still, and move your right shoulder forward and back. Don’t move anything else in your upper body. That is “shoulder”.

For our example, I will use a Pool break. I won’t go into specific breaking techniques, but I am using it as an example because it will be a common frame of reference for us to discuss. I could make the same example out of throwing a fastball, or throwing a punch.

In a break, the following joint motions come into play: ankle, knee, hips, trunk, shoulder, elbow, and wrist. To generate maximum speed, all of the following must be happening at the point in time at which the cue hits the cueball: the ankle is flexing downward to push the ball of the foot against the floor, the knee is straightening out, the upper leg is straightening out in relation to the hips (this movement takes place at the hip joint), the hips are turning, the trunk is twisting, the shoulder is moving forward, the elbow is flexing (to swing the forearm forward), and the wrist is making a lateral motion from the pinkie side to the thumb side. The sum of the speeds of all these joint motions will be the speed at which the hand is moving, relative to everything else around you. Such as the floor, the table, and the cueball. Since the cue is connected to your hand, it will be moving at the same speed as your hand.

There is an important point we have to make here, and that is “timing”. Note how I said above that “the following must be happening at the point in time at which the cue hits the cueball”. That is often called “timing”. The joint motions must be executed in a way that they are all moving when the cue hits the cueball. If the timing is off, and a joint motion has already gone through its range of motion and stopped before the cue hits the cueball, its speed will not be added to the sum of all the others. It would be added to the sum at an earlier point, but by the time the cue hits the cueball, the cue has slowed down, because of the loss of that joint motion.

There is another component to power, and that is mass. We just talked about velocity. But our discussion of mass will be much shorter. Why? Because of two reasons. One is that it will largely happen automatically if the principles of generating speed are followed, and combined with proper technique execution (and that’s a whole different subject). All of those joint motions working together, through a proper technique for what we are trying to do (again, that’s a whole different subject) will move your weight (what we call mass in a non-zero G environment) in the direction of the technique execution. The other reason we don’t have to talk about mass is that we are dealing with very light objects here. Hitting a cueball is a different experience than, say, hitting a 240 lb man in the chest.

An interesting note about speed versus mass in generating power: It is common sense that it is easier to generate power if you start out with a larger distance. As my Master told us once: “Anyone can knockout this distance” (Holds hands two feet apart, indicating starting out a punch with your hand two feet from the opponent). “I walk out on street, find anyone, bring them in here. They can knockout from this distance.” “But difficult to knockout this distance” (holding hands about 6 inches apart, indicating starting a punch with your hand 6 inches from the opponent). He of course is correct. The reason it is easier to generate power with a longer distance is not because of mass. It is because of speed. Out muscles cannot instantaneously accelerate to maximum speed. The extra distance gives us more room with which to accelerate our joints to maximum speed. The extra distance doesn’t do much for mass. If a technique is executed so that your mass is moving in the direction of the technique at the point in which the object is being struck, that’s good enough.

I haven’t talked here about specific techniques for generating power on the break. I’ll save that for a later post. But when discussing techniques for generating power on the break, we are discussing how to follow the principles we just laid out. It is important to keep these principles in mind as we talk about how to execute them for specific techniques.

03-11-2002, 07:54 PM
Thank you Mike. I've printed it and am waiting for the next installment.

03-15-2002, 09:59 AM
The faster your muscle twitch fibres are, the faster you can accellerate to maximum speed.
If you have something in the way and try to move it as fast as you can, then you are accellerating to maximum speed, then when you let it go, you will have maximum speed.
You can do this by holding the cue in your fingers and then let go of the cue after it has accellerated. You will not need any stroking distance for this.
It is like snapping your fingers, you hold the middle finger with you thumb while accellerating, then you let it go and it touches your palm with high speed. You can't do that without the thumb, there is too little distance to accellerate.

The faster your fibres are, the faster you can turn on all the fibres and the faster you accellerate. When all your fast fibres are turned on, you are moving as fast as you can.
If your maximum speed is 100MPH and you have 100MPH pulling in the other direction, you will not move.
Now when you let go of the pulling speed, you will go 100MPH. But you can't hold it for too long because the muscle fibres get tired fast.
When weightlifters lift a weight, they only use their maximum speed for a very short time and then the fibres get tired and the arm can move at less speed, but because of the weight is already moving they will not need maximum speed to push it more, because if the weight is moving at 5MPH already, you will not need the same speed as when moving the weight when it is still. If your maximum speed of the arm is 100MPH without pulling speed to the other direction, then with the weight moving already 5MPH, you will only need 95MPH maximum speed of the arm. This is why you can lift more when moving faster.

Of course if your muscles don't weigh anything, you can't push anything no matter how fast you go.

They can't move the weight from the ground instantly, it takes a very short time before the muscle has accellerated to its maximum speed.

I will share a secret technique for you, you can use this for muscles, there is biceps and triceps, if both has accellerated to their maximum speed, then when you let go of the triceps, you will have maximum speed forwards, but it is difficult to turn off all the fibres from the triceps so fast. But this helps a little for faster speed.
This is why some humans move the cue forwards without a pause at the backswing, because they are flexing the triceps muscles on the way back. If you are flexing the triceps on the forward swing, it is counterproductive, you have a pulling speed backwards.

I have seen karate movies and they flex the arm before punching.

Snooker players have a pause at the backswing because it makes it more accurate without any pulling force to destroy the movement forwards.


03-15-2002, 10:36 AM
I am studying taekwon and I have found this to be true also. I haven't thought it out quite as thouroughly as you have mike but I knew most of my power doesn't come from my arm but from my legs and hips. When I break I apply my taekwon do techniques in my stance and I try to coil my body so I spring up and out. When I get the timing right it works beautifully.

03-15-2002, 02:09 PM
Hi there!

When I used to be an instructor, it was at a Tae Kwon Do school. Although seeing the style, most would not have recognized it as TKD. Much more advanced hand-fighting than is usually seen with TKD, including trapping techniques.

You're right, I have thought it through quite a bit! /ccboard/images/icons/smile.gif Really, at this point, all the stuff for generating power is just common sense to me, but for most Pool players, how to use the human body to generate power is a mystery.

I'll be writing up the stuff about specific techniques probably by Monday. Patrick kinda-sorta explained a part of it, but there is much much more.

03-15-2002, 02:25 PM
Can't disagree on your method of developng power on the break but you should also have control on the cue ( center of the table )so that you have a decent chance of having that next shot after the break

03-16-2002, 04:03 PM
Just an FYI for anyone reading this thread: I just posted part 2 of this. Titled "Generating power for the break, prt 2"