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Mechanics: The “How” of Movement

  • May 1, 2018

You may have heard us throw this word around a lot: Mechanics.

What exactly do we mean? Well, let’s shine some light on this.

Mechanics refer to the ‘how’ of a movement. You can throw a baseball on target, but how do you do it? What angle does your elbow bend to? How much does your wrist turn over at the release? Which way are your hips facing when you start your forward projection?

We look at the mechanics of the movement by breaking down how each joint acts during the flow of the movement.

So, how do we decide what “good” or “bad” mechanics are? There are two major things we look for:

1) Division of Work: No one joint does more work than necessary

You’ve probably seen the picture that shows how to properly and improperly pick up a heavy object:

The reason we call the form on the left “bad” mechanics is because 75% of the stress is on the spine.

People often call the form on the right “lifting with the legs”. Really, it’s lifting with the ankles, knees, hips, back, and arms all at the same time. Spreading the load out as much as possible.

This approach reduces wear and tear on a single area. It can take one heavy load or hundreds of lighter loads to cause injury using poor mechanics in this way.

Common injuries we see associated with the form on the left include

  • Bulging discs in the spine
  • Meniscus tears
  • Muscle strains
  • Ligament sprains
  • Pinched nerves

The second characteristic of determining mechanics is:

2) Inefficiency: Movement that is not contributing to the primary goal

Aside from injury, we can look at the performance of a movement. Is your body using its movements as efficiently as possible?

We look for things we call “energy leaks”: movement that is not contributing to the goal.

For example: if you’re kicking a soccer ball and your non-kicking leg is bending or moving, that takes away from the stable base for the kicking leg. That will inevitably take power away from the kick itself.

The biggest “energy leak” that contributes to injury is unnecessary movement through the core. That’s why you hear so much about the importance of core stability!

We often see injury from energy leaks in overuse injuries:

  • Tendonopathy (tendonosis, tendonitis, etc.)
  • Bursitis
  • Fasciitis (as in plantar fasciitis)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Inappropriate muscle soreness after activity
  • Muscle Strains

I hope this explanation helps you understand why we are SO adamant about teaching our community about proper mechanics!

It’s one of the earliest things you can do to prevent injury and disability in the future.

-Brittney, Exercise Guru

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