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Principles of Biomechanics & Kinesiology Related to Motor Skills & Movement Patterns

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson, we review how biomechanics and kinesiology relate to both motor skills and movement patterns. We also discuss some of the basic principles of each and how they relate to human movement, the brain, muscles, and the body.

Movements and Motor Skills

Do you watch the Olympics and marvel at the almost impossible movements the female and male athletes displayed? The fields of biomechanics and kinesiology study these human movement patterns and related motor skills. Now, the fields of biomechanics and kinesiology can be incredibly complex and so can the concepts of motor skills and movement patterns. It is an absolute must, therefore, that we start off this lesson by clarifying some of these concepts to make things simpler.

Biomechanics, Human Kinetics, and Kinesiology

  • Biomechanics is the study of a living body and its mechanics. This includes the forces exerted by both gravity and muscles on the skeleton. (Biomechanics is sometimes called human kinetics or kinesiology, and the three terms are often used synonymously.)
  • Kinesiology is the study of body movement, especially in humans, and how it relates to the anatomy.

Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills

  • Motor skills are human movements that are produced by a complex combination of nerves and muscles.
    • Fine Motor Skills are small precision movements. These include writing, drawing, or using the eyes for visual tracking.
    • Gross Motor Skills are larger, less precise movements. These include jumping, running, and throwing a ball.

Gross Motor Skills of a Gymnast
sunset

The Principle of Force

Who does not remember from school that vivid image of Sir Isaac Newton himself, the famous scientist, sitting under a tree and getting popped on the head with a falling apple? Suddenly he was struck with an epiphany, or insight, about the force of gravity. Why was this important? Newton is famous for his three laws of motion. In layman's terms the first law states that if an object is at rest it will remain that way unless an external force acts upon it. The most fundamental principle of movement is a very straightforward one and can be summed up in three words: force causes movement. Furthermore, bad force causes bad movement. So when you witness an athlete making an error, you know it was caused by the incorrect application of force.

General, Linear, and Angular Motion

We have all marveled at the Olympic gymnasts who spun through the air and somehow landed cleanly, or at skateboarders who go down scary ramps at breakneck speed and then hurtle themselves through the air to perform stunning tricks. Human movement patterns, or general motion, are essentially a combination of two things:

  • Linear motion - this is movement in a straight line
  • Angular motion - this is movement in a circle (also known as rotary)

Other sports in which we often see lots of angular motion include dancing and figure skating. In layman's terms, angular motion involves rotating around an axis. Now, the arms and legs of the human body act as axes (the plural of axis). Furthermore, so do the hips and the shoulders. As mentioned earlier, the study of biomechanics and kinesiology can be remarkably complex because the human body has so many movable parts, and the forces on these parts can be applied in different ways, with varying degrees of intensity. Now, let us think of a figure skating competitor. The skater glides across the ice in a straight line with increasing speed. Then, suddenly, the skater leaps into the air and spins her body in three full rotations. Do you see how the athlete went from linear motion to angular motion?

Rotary Motion of a Figure Skater
spin

Movement Analysis of Movement Patterns

Who is not mesmerized by watching a video of NFL legend Joe Montana throw a football with almost flawless form? Experts can analyze movement patterns by using a technique known as movement analysis. This is important because, by studying videos, scientists can receive crucial feedback, which can enhance their understanding of both biomechanics and kinesiology. Common sports movements such as throwing, kicking, or hitting can be broken down into three steps which are:

  • Preparation of the move
  • Execution of the move
  • Follow-through after the move

Experts can review the videos and look for both qualitative and quantitative tendencies. Qualitative items would include an athlete's posture and rhythm. Quantitative items would include numbers relating to distance and speed. Armed with this information, experts can then go about making improvements.

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