Biomechanics is the science concerned with the internal and external forces acting on the human body and the effects produced by these forces.
Kinematics is the branch of biomechanics about the study of movement with reference to the amount of time taken to carry out the activity.
Distance and displacement
Distance (length of the path a body follows) and displacement (length of a straight line joining the start and finish points) are quantities used to describe a body's motion. e.g. in a 400m race on a 400m track the distance is 400 metres but their displacement will be zero metres (start and finish at the same point).
Speed and velocity
Speed and velocity describe the rate at which a body moves from one location to another. Average speed of a body is obtained by dividing the distance by the time taken and average velocity is obtained by dividing the displacement by the time taken e.g. a swimmer in a 50m race in a 25m length pool who completes the race in 71 seconds - distance is 50m and displacement is 0m (swimmer is back where they started) so speed is 50/71= 0.70m/s and velocity is 0/71=0 m/s
Acceleration is defined as the rate at which velocity changes with respect to time.
From Newton's 2nd law:
If the mass of a sprinter is 60kg and the force exerted on the starting blocks is 600N then acceleration = 600 ÷ 60 = 10 msec²
Acceleration due to gravity
Whilst a body is in the air it is subject to a downward acceleration, due to gravity, of approximately 9.81m/s²
Vectors and scalars
Distance and speed can be described in terms of magnitude (amount) and are known as scalars. Displacement, velocity and acceleration require magnitude and direction and are known as vectors.
Components of a vector
Let us consider the horizontal and vertical components of velocity of the medicine ball in Figure 1.
Figure 2 indicates the angle of release of the medicine ball is 35° and the velocity at release as 12 metres/second.
Let us now consider the distance the medicine ball will travel horizontally (its displacement).
Distance (D) = ((v² × sinØ × cosØ) + (v × cosØ × sqrt((v × sinØ)² + 2gh))) ÷ g
Where v = 12, Ø = 35, h = 2m (height of the shot above the ground at release) and g = 9.81
The time of flight of the shot can be determined from the equation:
Uniformly accelerated motion
When a body experiences the same acceleration throughout an interval of time, its acceleration is said to be constant or uniform and the following equations apply:
Moment of force (torque)
The moment of force or torque is defined as the application of a force at a perpendicular distance to a joint or point of rotation.
Angular distance and displacement
When a rotating body moves from one position to another, the angular distance through which it moves is equal to the length of the angular path. The angular displacement that a rotating body experiences is equal to the angle between the initial and final position of the body.
Angular movement is usually expressed in radians where 1 radian = 57.3°
Angular speed, velocity and acceleration
Angular momentum is defined as: angular velocity x moment of inertia
The angular momentum of a system remains constant throughout a movement provided nothing outside of the system acts with a turning moment on it. This is known as the Law Conservation of Angular Momentum. (e.g. if a skater, when already spinning, moves their arms out to the side, then the rate of spin will change but the angular momentum will stay the same).
Kinetics is concerned with what causes a body to move.
Momentum, inertia, mass, weight and force
The classification of external or internal forces depends on the definition of the 'system'. In biomechanics, the body is seen as the 'system' so any force exerted by one part of the system on another part of the 'system' is known as an internal force all other forces are external.
Newton's Laws of Motion
Newton's law of gravitation
Kinetic Energy and Power
Kinetic energy is the mechanical energy possessed by a moving object.
Kinetic Energy = ½ x mass x velocity² (joules)
Power is defined as the rate at which energy is used or created from other forms
Translation and couple
A force that acts through the centre of a body result in movement (translation). A force whose line of action which does not pass through the body's centre of gravity is called an eccentric force and results in movement and rotation.
Example - if you push through the centre of an object it will move forward in the direction of the force. if you push to one side of the object (eccentric force) it will move forward and rotate.
A couple is an arrangement of two equal and opposite forces that cause a body to rotate.
A lever is a rigid structure, hinged at one point and to which forces are applied at two other points. The hinge is known as the fulcrum. The two forces forces that act on the lever are the weight that opposes movement and a force that causes movement. For more details see the page on Levers.
If an object has a curved top and flat bottom (e.g. the wing of an aircraft), the air will have further to travel over the top of the wing than the bottom. For the two airflows to reach the rear of the wing at the same time the air flowing over the top of the wing will have to flow faster resulting in less pressure above the wing (air is thinner) than below it and the aircraft will lift. This is known as the Bernoulli effect.
The reference for this page is:
The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page: