Biomechanics: Work Out Smarter, Not Harder


Biomechanics is the science that studies the body’s motion; according to the American Society of Biomechanics (ASB), it is an extensive interaction between biology and mechanics. Biomechanics comprises several subfields; from amongst them, we shall shed light on Sports Biomechanics. As the name implies, this subfield aims at improving performance and reducing injury threats in exercise and sports. Generally, it can help prevent injuries, know their causes and treatment methods—as using prosthetics and improving walking devices—and treat other injuries.

First, there are some terms that we need to know. For example, the term “force” refers to any movement that alters the body’s movement or that of the equipment used, such as a racket. “Movement” is primarily due to muscle movement, but is also affected by external forces in the surrounding environment. While the force spins a body limb or the racket, the result creates a “torque”, the importance of which in tennis lies in the serve power—it occurs due to a spinning torque at the shoulder joint to produce more force.

Second, we must also know Newton’s Laws of Motion:

  1. The Law of Acceleration determines the amount of movement generated by the force. For example, when a player increases his legs’ strength by training while keeping his mass fixed (F = ma), he will be able to run faster using his legs due to having better agility and pace.
  2. The Law of Inertia states that a moving body will remain moving unless another force affects it, and a still body will remain still unless a force affects it.
  3. The Law of Reaction states that, for each action, there is an equal opposite reaction, such as the downward force of the legs on the ground and the ground’s upward reaction, which enables the players to run on the pitch.

Now, let us delve more into sports biomechanics. This branch is concerned with analysing a person’s movement while exercising by applying the laws of physics and mechanics. It examines people’s motion while playing sports, and accordingly instruct them to do it more efficiently. For example, it can help improve how you run or how you swing a golf club by recording and reviewing the tapes to make recommendations.

Sports biomechanics also contribute to developing and manufacturing sports clothing, equipment, and shoes, as well as constructing sports fields and facilities. For example, it offers the scientific bases for designing a racket that would provide a better grip or a shoe that would improve running. It also analyses sports methods and training approaches, and consequently introduces new, more effective ones. For example, it has been found that hand placement in swimming has an effect on propulsion.

Another example is from the 2010 Football World Cup, where players criticized the “Jabulani” ball; strikers and goalkeepers said that it had a strange and unexpected trajectory. After scientifically inspecting the ball, the results backed the players’ claims, revealing that the ball was too round to fly in a straight line. A contributing factor was its internal seams, which turned the ball to a perfect circle. On the other hand, the unevenness of a ball’s texture enables a more fixed and controlled flight, which is what enables the baseballs’ curving and the tennis balls’ spin.

Now, let us shed some light on some other subfields of biomechanics. For example, occupational biomechanics analyses and perfects the employees’ mechanical interaction with their surroundings. It aims at improving the employee’s performance without jeopardising their safety. Thanks to it, new furniture, tools, and other factors that helped reduce work pressure were introduced.

On the other hand, there is clinical biomechanics, which uses mathematics and mechanics facts and techniques to understand and evaluate ordinary and non-ordinary human anatomy and physiology. Clinical biomechanics specialists have a great interest in the creation and development of artificial limbs. This has resulted in a significant development in physiatry, as well as the enhancement of orthopaedic implants’ mechanical effectiveness.

Furthermore, it aided in developing walking devices for people suffering from lower-leg amputations and kids suffering from cerebral palsy. It also inspired the creation of new wheelchair designs, as well as improving the surrounding environment, like the stairs to provide better mobility for the disabled.

It is marvellous how science can leave its positive stamp in every aspect of our lives, fostering our performance, promoting our abilities, and making life much easier for everyone.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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