Biomechanical Analysis: How to Maximize Performance & Minimize Injury

Biomechanical Analysis How to Maximize Performance & Minimize Injury

How do we use Biomechanical Analysis to Maximize Performance and Minimize Chance of Injury?

There is a systematic thought process that every coach and personal trainer must utilize to ensure any person under their care is receiving optimal and maximal attention for every movement suggested.

Figure 1

What do we Analyze?

When we evaluate a trainee’s technique for a specific movement, we are doing a biomechanical analysis for every rep of every set, since each repetition is viewed as assessment. You should be able to distinguish between what is important and what is unimportant, what is correct and what is incorrect, what is possible and what is impossible, what is effective and what is ineffective, what is safe and what is unsafe, etc.

The first thing to evaluate and understand is the movement itself without regard to the forces that caused it. In physics, this is known as kinematics. This would be analyzing such details as the Osteokinematics (planes of motion), the direction of motion, the path of motion, and the range of motion (range of motion is covered in detail in the assessment chapter). A kinematic analysis may include basic kinematic variables such as distance, speed, and acceleration.

Only after you analyze the kinematics does one look at the forces that cause the movement (as well as other forces on the body). In physics, this is known as kinetics.

Another way of looking at the analysis process is to look at joints first (both moving and not moving, describing them kinematically), then the external and internal forces on the body (kinetics).

Muscles are engineered to move joints in a particular fashion (based on the structure of the joint). Therefore, a basic understanding of joint structure and function is essential for proper muscle activation (i.e. if a trainee is moving the joints properly, then the muscles must be working properly). Furthermore, one doesn’t truly know which internal forces are developed without first looking at the external forces that caused it.


How do we Analyze?

DOE-I: The practical way to Analyze and Optimize

While it is unlikely coaches and trainers will be using advanced biomechanical analysis tools with their trainees, there is a step-by-step process to do a qualitative biomechanical analysis.


Step 1: Describe the Ideal Technique

In order to train anyone to do a particular movement, you must have a fundamental knowledge of the skill. This begs the question, how does one know the “ideal” technique? If it’s a performance movement, such as pitching a fastball, the coach will watch successful pitchers, read coaching journals and textbooks, and find any source that discusses how successful individuals apply their skill.

More likely, the coach will be describing some sort of exercise or drill. Once again, the coach will use the same strategy of researching what the “ideal” technique is.  That said, whether one is describing a sports-specific skill or an exercise, one must think critically and be skeptical of the “experts”.

Just because one person is successfully doing a bench press in a particular fashion doesn’t mean everyone should use the same technique. Please remember that the coach’s or personal trainer’s job is to individualize the technique to the individual. It should be customized to the trainee’s current abilities, genetics, and goals.

When the coach or personal trainer is researching sources to describe the ideal technique, they are attempting to find the common characteristics of the most efficient technique to appropriately modify these characteristics with all trainees.

Step 2: Observe the Client Performing the Technique

When observing a client perform a particular technique, we have to ask ourselves several questions:

  • Who are we observing? What is their current skill level? What are their current limitations?
  • Under what conditions?
  • Where to observe?
  • What to look for?

The answers to these questions will determine your ability to successfully evaluate the client.

Step 3: Evaluate the Performance

When the coach or personal trainer is evaluating any performance, they are simply comparing the “ideal” with the actual performance of the client. They are identifying errors and evaluating those errors to determine the focus of your correction efforts. Is the error actually dangerous and there is a risk of injury?  Is it a new trainee learning a new skill that will take time to develop the proper motor pattern?

How do we Optimize?

Step 4: Instruct the Client

This is where proper communication skills are vital so the coach or personal trainer can successfully communicate with the trainee and correct errors in technique. 

What do we Optimize?

Again, we focus on both the movement (kinematics) and the forces that cause the movement (kinetics).

The coach or personal trainer must take into account the structure of the body (specifically, the anatomy of the joints first and the body type), its intended function, and the goal of the exercise.

The need to understand the ideal movement and instruct accordingly is imperative with the goal being that the trainee performs every movement as close to the ideal technique (which may be unique to them) in order to maximize performance and to minimize injury