Updated: Jun 23
The study of human movement is an important area for coaches and athletes. A better understanding of movement can help when preparing training programs and correcting movement faults. During our day, we are continuously performing various movements, whether it is a simple walk, lifting a heavy bag, playing with the kids, or during an intense strenuous workout. Movement, or motion, occurs whenever we move our entire body to a different place, or move individual parts so that we change position or posture.
Biomechanics is often confused with Kinesiology. Kinesiology is the study of human movement. It combines various areas of study including physiology, psychology, and biomechanics. Biomechanics is an area of study which applies the study of mechanics to human movement. It analyzes how the motion of the body occurs, the impact forces have on the body and different objects, how the body can generate forces on external objects, and how external forces can affect internal tissues, which is useful for diagnosing and treating injuries.
The study of biomechanics can help you better observe human movement and solve any related problems. This observation can happen either directly through the human eye or with the use of equipment such as video cameras and lab equipment. A coach can analyze the position of the knee during the running stride. However, more detailed analysis, such as evaluating the force used for each foot contact, requires more advanced knowledge and expensive equipment. However, you can still start analyzing performance without having access to any equipment. For example, most modern phones have very good cameras which allow the athlete to see his/her performance immediately after execution. Different people may also observe different things when analyzing performance. For example, a coach may view an athlete’s running speed and technique so as to be able to improve performance. In contrast, a physiotherapist may observe the athlete’s technique and the forces he/she is generating to see if there is any unnecessary strain on the knee.
There are two types of biomechanical analysis. A qualitative analysis describes the movement in a nonnumerical way. A coach watching their athletes perform a skill either directly using the eyes or through a video and giving verbal feedback are examples of qualitative analysis. In contrast, quantitative analysis involves collecting data during the performance and making numeric evaluations. For example, a coach can time an athlete completing a 100 m sprint. More specialized equipment such as force plates can also help measure the forces an athlete is using to push the body off the ground during the sprint.
Quantitative information is much harder to do and analyze as it requires measuring and understanding data. The equipment used to measure the data is often heavy and expensive so it is usually more practical to do it in a laboratory setting. It also requires specialized training to collect the data and know how to use these results to get feedback from that performance. Still, quantitative analysis can help provide a richer analysis as it helps to understand what is happening to the performance. For example, it is easy for a coach to determine a poor jumping performance due to poor technique since it can easily be observed. However, the problem can also be coming from the lack of forces the athlete can generate. Forces cannot be observed qualitatively.
The study of Biomechanics is a useful tool for an athlete to help improve performance. Future blogs will dive into more detail about this area of study.
Thanks for reading, and as always stay fit!
Hamill, J., & Knutzen, K. M. (2006). Biomechanical basis of human movement. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Knudson, D. (2007). Qualitative biomechanical principles for application in coaching. Sports Biomechanics, 6(1), 109-118.
Lees, A. (2002). Technique analysis in sports: a critical review. Journal of sports sciences, 20(10), 813-828.