Understanding Biomechanics and Body Movement

Biomechanics is the study of how living things move

Athlete does a cardiac stress test in a medical study, monitored by the female doctor.

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Biomechanics studies the human body and animals and even extends to plants and the mechanical workings of cells. However, most people think of biomechanics in terms of sports and athletic performance. The use of biomechanics helps create everything from optimal sports equipment to injury rehabilitation techniques.

Sports biomechanics is the science of understanding why the human body moves the way it does, including when things aren't moving optimally or correctly. Below, learn more about biomechanics and how it applies to training, performance, equipment, and injury treatment and prevention.

What is Biomechanics?

Biomechanics is the science of the movement of a living body, including how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together to move. Biomechanics is part of the larger field of kinesiology, specifically focusing on movement mechanics. In short, it's the study and analysis of how all the individual parts of your body work together to make up athletic and everyday movements.

Biomechanics includes the structure of bones and muscles and the movement they can produce, as well as the mechanics of blood circulation, renal function, and other body functions. The European Society of Biomechanics defines biomechanics as “the study of forces acting on and generated within a body and the effects of these forces on the tissues, fluid or materials used for the diagnosis, treatment or research purposes.”

Sports Biomechanics

Sports biomechanics studies human motion during exercise and sports. Physics and the laws of mechanics are applied to athletic performance. For example, the biomechanics of the squat includes consideration of the position and/or movement of the feet, hips, knees, back, shoulders, and arms. Knowing the correct movement patterns for a squat will help make the most of the exercise while preventing potential injuries, correcting form mistakes, and boosting results.

There are various uses for biomechanics, including developing properly functioning sports equipment that will improve performance, analyzing individual's movements to make improvements and boost results, treating injuries, and informing training protocols. Knowing how the body moves and why it moves the way it does helps experts prevent and treat injuries, reduce pain, and improve performance.


Biomechanics can be used in the design of sports equipment, clothing, shoes, and the fields and facilities where sports are played. For example, a shoe can be designed for the best performance for a middle-distance runner or a racket for the best grip. Playing surfaces are also studied for this purpose, such as how the surface stiffness of artificial turf affects athlete performance.


Biomechanics can be applied to individuals, analyzing their movements and coaching them for more effective movement during exercise and sports movement. For example, an individual’s running gait or golf swing can be filmed and recommendations made for them to change and improve it.


Biomechanics can be applied to studying the causes, treatment, and prevention of sports injuries. The research can analyze the forces at work that can lead to an ankle sprain and how shoe design or the playing surface might reduce the risk of injury.


Biomechanics can study sports techniques and training systems and develop ways to make them more efficient. This can include basic research into how hand position affects propulsion in swimming. It can propose and analyze new training techniques based on the mechanical demands of the sport, aimed at resulting in better performance. For instance, in cycling, where muscle activation, measured using electromyography and kinematics, helps researchers see how factors such as posture, components, or exercise intensity affect muscle activation.

Careers in Biomechanics

  • Biological science: Studies of human, animal, cell, and plant biomechanics
  • Engineering and applied science: Applying the research of biomechanics to various situations
  • Ergonomics and human factors: Using biomechanics in human-machine interfaces, workplace, and functional designs and processes
  • Exercise and sports science: Applying biomechanics to human performance in athletics
  • Health sciences: Researching causes, treatment, and prevention of injury and using biomechanics to design rehabilitation programs and equipment

Motions of the Body

In biomechanics, the body's motions are referred to from the anatomical position of standing upright, with your gaze straight ahead, arms by your sides, palms facing forward, and feet spaced slightly apart at the heels with toes forward. From here, there are three anatomical planes: sagittal (median), frontal, and transverse (horizontal).

If you divide your body into right and left halves, that is the sagittal or median plane. Flexion (smaller joint angle) and extension (larger joint angle) also occur in the sagittal plane.
The frontal plane divides the body into front and back sides but also includes motions of abduction (moving a limb away from the center) and adduction (moving a limb towards the center) take place in the frontal plane. The upper and lower parts of the body are divided by the transverse (horizontal) plane. Rotating movements occur in the transverse plane.

Moving your body in all three planes of motion occurs during daily activity. So, it's wise to also perform exercises in each plane of motion to build strength, function, and stability in each one. For instance, when training your core, don't just perform crunches but also Pallof presses and windmills.

Tools Used in Biomechanics

There are various tools used to study biomechanics. You've likely heard of certain exercises being touted as activating the target muscles better than others. These studies are usually performed using something called electromyography (EMG) sensors.

These sensors are placed on the skin and measure the amount and degree of muscle fiber activation in certain muscles during tested exercises. Not only can EMGs help researchers understand which exercises may be more effective than others, but they also help physical therapists know whether patients' muscles are firing the way they should.

Dynamometers are another useful tool that can help measure muscle strength. Dynamometers measure the force output generated during muscle contractions to see whether muscles are as strong as they should be. They are commonly used to measure grip strength, which is an indicator of general strength, health, and longevity.

A Word From Verywell

Biomechanics is a complex field of study and application that helps inform training, recovery, and equipment development. Scientists, sports medicine doctors, physiotherapists, and conditioning specialists use biomechanics to help develop training protocols and techniques to improve outcomes for athletes and the general population.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Society of Biomechanics. About Biomechanics.

  2. Hall SJ. What Is Biomechanics?. In: Hall SJ. eds. Basic Biomechanics, 8e New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2019.

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  4. American Council on Exercise. Planes of Motion Explained.

  5. Huang, L., Liu, Y., Lin, T., Hou, L., Song, Q., Ge, N., & Yue, J. (2021). Reliability and validity of two hand dynamometers when used by community-dwelling adults aged over 50 years. BMC Geriatrics, 22. doi:10.1186/s12877-022-03270-6

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.