I read a great article on the breaking muscle website the other day called “Why Athletes Need to Understand the Concept of Torque.” If you understand the concept of torque, not only will it improve your movements, more importantly, it will make you safer. Let’s begin with a basic definition, torque is the tendency of a force to cause or change the rotational movement of a body. I like the example used in the breaking muscle article where they explain the concept of torque using a heavy door. If you push on the heavy door near the hinge, it is difficult to open, however if you push the side opposite the hinge, the door opens easily. There are also some good graphics in the article if you are having an issue grasping the concept. So what does this have to do with your safety?
The body is essentially made up of a bunch of pulleys and levers, which require the application of torque to function. In order to make these systems function, you want to apply the minimum amount of torque at precisely the right moment to accomplish the required amount of work. When that torque is applied is the most important time for your muscles to be active and generate force to support the joint/ligaments/fascia that are experiencing the strain. One of the most common injuries you hear about that results in a tear as a result of lack of muscular support during a time of greatest torque is an ACL injury.
As you can imagine, this is why we focus so much on body position in certain parts of your lifts or even body weight movements. We want you to be in the most effective position for your muscular system to support your joints at the points of highest torque. Take the push up for example, we encourage you to keep your arms at a 45 degree angle (more like an arrow) as opposed to a t-position so that when you’re at the bottom of the push up exerting the maximum amount of torque on the shoulders, your joint is in the best possible position for your muscular system to support the joint.
I encourage you all to read the full article, they do a pretty good job of simplifying a somewhat complex physics problem.