Walking is seemingly the most natural of human actions. It is among the first things that we learn to do. This means that the average person probably spends very little time thinking about technique and performance when performing this activity.
There are, however, cases where the way in which a person walks can have an effect on either their health or their performance in sport. Athletes and patients may have a number of reasons to consider technique during this deceptively complex motion. Thus there is also a need to analyse and fine-tune the way people walk in a way that is scientific. That’s where biomechanics steps in.
The motion of walking
What Does Biomechanics Mean?
In a nutshell, biomechanics is the study of human motion. The discipline unites a scientific understanding of the principles of physics and mechanics so that they can be applied to athletic performance and physical health.
The practice is especially useful for athletes since it allows them to analyse their movements and form in a way that is detailed enough to allow them to fine-tune their movements for better results. When competing at a professional level, biomechanical analysis can often give athletes the edge that they need to surpass their competitors through targeted training.
When walking, results are best achieved on a treadmill. This way, stop motion cameras can be set up around the equipment to capture the subject at different stages of the walking action.
This information is used to measure the placement of parts of the legs as they move, for example:
- The angle of the hamstring and quadriceps in relation to the pretibial muscles; or
- Velocity could be measured to determine the impact on the knee during the motion.
The results can be used for a range of possibilities such as determining the root cause of foot pain or enhancing athletic performance.
The Principles of Biomechanics
Of course, the data produced by a biomechanical analysis is useless without an understanding of:
- What exactly is being measured; and
- Which benchmarks should be used to measure results.
A sound understanding of the below principles allows practitioners and fitness instructors to understand the data provided so that it can be used effectively.
Stability increases in objects where:
- The centre of gravity is low;
- There is a large base of support;
- The line of gravity is close to the base of support;
- The object’s mass increases.
Maximum force can only be achieved when all joints contributing to the objective (movement) are used.
Maximum velocity requires the use of all joints in order from smallest to largest.
The greater the applied impulse, the greater the increase in velocity.
Movement usually happens in opposition to an applied force.
Angular motion is produced by applying force at some distance from an axis, otherwise known as torque.
Angular momentum remains constant when an athlete or object is in the air.
Not all of these biomechanical principles are applied to all movements all of the time. It depends rather on what type of movement is being performed. Still, by having a sound understanding of these principles, and having a familiarity with seeing them at work, those measuring movements can come to beneficial results.
Finding the Cause of Injuries and Avoiding Them
Injuries from repetitive or erroneous motions can result in constant pain, discomfort or a certain degree of loss in mobility.
Some of these injuries may come from more obvious motions such as shin-splints from running. Others aren’t always easy to spot such as longitudinal and rotational stresses placed on lower extremities when walking with weight applied more to one side of the foot than another.
Improving the Effectiveness of Movements
By measuring the position, angle and velocity of limbs during workouts and even walking, a biomechanical analysis can provide athletes with information on:
- How to improve their form;
- How to conduct movements that use energy more effectively; and
- Those that enhance performance by applying the principles of maximum effort and velocity.
This also leads to movements in athletes that reduce the risk of them contracting injuries during performance.
Many industries and practices make use of biomechanical analyses to treat patients, refine techniques and even to develop new ones. If you would like to learn more about how they are used in the fitness industry, why not get an internationally accredited personal training certificate from Trifocus Fitness Academy today. Visit our website for details on our online fitness courses.