The Importance of Biomechanics in Exercise Instruction

Biomechanics is concerned with the internal and external forces that act on the human body and the effects produced by these forces. Most biomechanics textbooks state two primary goals for biomechanics in exercise training:performance enhancement and injury prevention/rehabilitation. Biomechanics enhances performance by using mechanical principles to improve an individual’s technique, the equipment they use (machine engineering), and to modify specific technique and training protocols the coach or trainer implements to help an individual achieve their goals. Similarly, for injury prevention and rehabilitation, biomechanics is used to develop techniques that reduce the chance of injury.

What is the goal of a coach or personal fitness trainer? To help trainees reach their goals in the most efficient, effective, and safest way possible. Compare this statement with the goals of biomechanics – to reach goals (performance enhancement) in the most efficient, effective, and safest (injury prevention) way possible.

Obtaining a good education, specific to exercise training, is to empower the coach or personal trainer with a solid foundation in science. This is particularly important to the subject of biomechanics. This said, the primary goal of this article is to reinforce a perspective of exercise training in general. This perspective is:

Exercise is simply a mechanical stress placed on the body to which the body will adapt.

In order to fully understand this perspective and its importance, one must be willing to accept three premises.

Premise #1

The primary physiological effects of exercise (both good and bad) are in direct response to the mechanical stress placed on the body.

Exercise can be seen as a mechanical stress (Force/Area), placed on the body where the body must accept forces from external sources and respond by creating the appropriate internal forces (from the muscles and connective tissue) to create the appropriate movement. These stressors (both externally and internally) stimulate the physiological adaptations within the body. These physiological adaptations may be structural (adaptations to connective tissue such as muscle, bone, and fascia) or functional (neuromuscular adaptations such as motor learning).

Premise #2

In order to facilitate the proper adaptations for our trainees, we have to understand forces, how they are applied (how much, in what direction, over what range of motion, and at what speed), and how the tissues of the body will adapt to those forces.

Put simply, understanding forces and their effects are at the core of physical training ideologies. Coaches and trainers must remember that there are forces on us all the time (whether something is moving or not). If there is movement, there is a force that caused that movement.

Premise #3

Proper understanding and implementation of biomechanics is essential in all aspects of training (Assess – Design – Instruct – Reassess).

Much of the assessment process consists of postural and movement assessments. These assessments look at how the client’s body has adapted to forces imposed upon it over time. These assessments may indicate certain kinetic chain imbalances (short/tight muscles on one side of a joint) that need to be addressed. Identifying any deficit using assessment protocols must be addressed to ensure all forces are properly placed (optimal technique).

As previously stated, understanding how the body is going to adapt to the biomechanical stresses placed upon it is essential to individualized program design. The exercises chosen (and how they will be implemented) are based on the client’s goals and needs and your knowledge of how to make them adapt safely and efficiently. Once the exercises are chosen, exercise instruction is the area coaches and personal trainers associate with the importance of biomechanics. Put simply, understanding basic biomechanics is the basis of proper technique instruction. Optimizing technique in every exercise used ensures the forces in that movement are stressing the tissues correctly to ensure reaching goals and minimizing the risk of injuries.