Training

Biomechanics – Your secret edge?

Mar 17, 2020

The human body is made to move, move fast, move high, move far and just keep moving. To be able to move is a privilege. Movement is art and to create the motion of running is a masterpiece. The runner becomes the paintbrush privileged to create his/her masterpiece of an experience every time he/she steps out onto a road, park or track.

This is how passionate I have always been about running. In my opinion, running forms the basis for all sport, hence my enjoyment working with runners and continuously looking for ways to help them as a running specialist physiotherapist. This stems from the fascination I have for human movement and using biomechanical principles to further help runners. Movement patterns are essential in runners.

Biomechanics

Biomechanics is necessary for all runners as it ensures correct running posture. To achieve this we need to incorporate the physiological aspect of movement processes and the structural components into a synergetic working relationship for the body. Forget about the injury aspect – every runner is running with a purpose and to improve their overall well-being and health status. Hence we are always trying to improve our running performance attempting to shave off time as a measure of improvement.

In pursuing your Personal Best time (PB’s) we look outside our bodies rather than within which is our greatest exponent of performance –  movement efficiency, ultimately Biomechanics. When I say ‘outside’ it is because we try supplements, shoes, diets, etc. to enhance performance. Not that fuelling your body does not enhance performance, of course it has its place, but the basis lies in efficient movement through correct running posture. I want you to think economy. We budget on our lifestyles, running is lifestyle, so let’s start thinking of running economy. This is my message to runners, improve your running economy.

When assessing runners’ mechanics, the basis is gait analysis. We look for deficiencies in the 3 anatomical planes – Sagittal, Transverse and Coronal planes. I am separating injuries for now because I want you as a runner to see this as being important to your fulfillment and passion for running rather than something to consider only after sustaining an injury or damage to your body that that is frustrating and challenging to rectify.

In the sagittal plane I assess comparatively the left and right side of the body

  • Angles of hip reach vs shoulder follow through
  • Heel strike
  • Axial movement of lower back
  • Knee joint relative to all of the above

In the frontal plane I observe

  • Neck motion during walking and running gait
  • Arm swing in relation to midline
  • Knee extension
  • Toe off
  • Pelvic action

The transverse plane provides information on your flexor pattern and spinal influence of movement or economy of movement.

So what will improved biomechanics do for you?

  • Improve running form
  • Prevent obstruction to VO2 max apparatus
  • Energy conservation (subsidiary of running economy)
  • Improve speed
  • Correct functioning of running muscles
  • Minimise stress on joints
  • Execute force output to generate power
  • Longevity
  • Better core engagement

Neglecting biomechanics results in incorrect running posture which is one of the critical factors in the occurrence of running injuries. Biomechanical abnormalities in runners have a range of consequences including incongruent angles of opposite shoulder vs opposite hip, dissociation of shoulders and hips in the propulsive part of the movement pattern, sacroiliac joint mobility, asymmetrical patterns of movement, contact points on landing and take off. This provides major clues in neural transmission or interruptions along the neural pathways affecting movement. If proprioception (awareness of body movement) and neural feedback is hindered, the quality of movement is compromised thus resulting in incorrect biomechanics.

What causes incorrect biomechanics?

  • Muscle imbalances
  • Nerve related injuries
  • Running injuries:
    • piriformis syndrome
    • patella and Achilles tendonopathies
    • plantar fasciitis
    • lower back injury
    • repeated muscle strains
  • Poor running form
  • Inactivated core

From the information obtained during a gait assessment, we can then provide the most necessary solutions to improving your running, improving your performance and recovery from injury.

By providing you with the right sequences of movement patterns, one should experience a positive outcome on all aspects mentioned in terms of performance and injury.

The purpose of this article was simply to provide information. This is just part of the detail I employ in my work with many international athletes that fits into the bigger training plan. However the finer details are often what give us the edge over our opponents or our own personal goals. Biomechanical principals to treatment and performance are another form of therapy to improve your form, performance and prevent injury. As athletes evolve and keep looking to break the barriers in human movement and sport performance, biomechanics in top athletes may be what makes the difference and it will be interesting to watch. Biomechanics is not rehab, it is slightly different but does compliment rehab if need be.

Sumeshen Moodley


Sumeshen is a qualified physiotherapist in Durban who has worked with numerous international sports teams and athletes. He is passionate about running and has a special interest in human movement and biomechanics to optimise athletic/sport performance. Find out more about Sumeshen here

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