What are biomechanics and what can I do to avoid injury?

In this article, coach Soraya discusses how two key areas of the body that offer your platform for good movement and function. If you aren’t sure that Biomechanics matter, read this article about how poor biomechanics is one of the main reasons that triathletes get injured. Read on here to find out about how to improve your shoulder and your pelvis function to ensure you avoid the dreaded overuse injury.


“Biomechanics is the study of the mechanics of the movement of living organisms [1]".

In other words, in the context of sport, biomechanics is the study of understanding what muscles need to be used and when. Every movement you make will engage a number of muscles; the muscles your body decides to use and the order in which it uses them is important. This chain of muscles working together to create movement is called the kinetic chain. If some muscles aren’t strong enough for the work being asked of them, then other muscles will compensate and eventually get hurt. As you strengthen your kinetic chain, each muscle will do only the work they are designed to do and you will give yourself much better chances of staying injury free.

“The greatest expression of force generated and controlled by your body comes from the hips. Second is the shoulders” . [2]

The hips

When talking about strengthening the hips, we refer to all the muscles that cross over the hip joint. These include the glutes (all of them), the psoas, hamstrings and inner thighs. Together, these muscles stabilise your pelvis and thighs. They also allow hip extension (usually where the power comes from), hip flexion (bending at the hips) and lifting your leg sideways or inwards. If some of these muscles are weak or tight, then other muscles will overcompensate and work too hard. Sometimes though, it might not even be about strength, but about control. For example, the famous “hip collapse” when running is usually due to a poor connection between the hip and the core - some glute activation exercises to teach the correct muscles to get to work may be sufficient to address this.

The shoulders

We use our shoulders for pretty much everything we do (even running). There are many muscles, ligaments and tendons that help to keep the shoulder healthy and stable. The most important muscles that do this are the rotator cuff muscles which are found at the front (for internal rotation) and at the back (for external rotation) of the shoulder. An imbalance between the front and back rotator cuff muscles, insufficient strength, or low range of motion can cause injury not only in these muscles but also in other areas such as the wrists. In swimming, for example, lack of flexibility and stability in the shoulder can lead to the famous “swimmer’s shoulder”.

The important thing to understand is that most overuse injuries are a symptom of a bigger underlying problem (often, but not always, in the hips or shoulders). A good sports physio that understands biomechanics will be able to identify the root of the problem and solve the cause, not the symptom. Even better, a good physio can prevent these injuries before they happen by identifying and help you correct poor biomechanics [3]. If you need recommendations for physios, please get in touch.

So what can you do to avoid getting injured?

Staying injury free is really important for everyone (obviously!). You should therefore be taking this just as seriously as you do your swim, bike and run training.

Below are the boxes we recommend you “tick” in order to enjoy the sport for longer and free of injury:

  • Get a yearly MOT checkup at the physio. Make sure you choose a physio that specialises in sport as they can even look at your running form…etc

  • Get a bike fit

  • Make sure you warmup before every session and do your drills to promote good form

  • -Incorporate mobility and Strength and Conditioning into your training. Pay particular attention to the core, upper and lower back, and hips. Keep your eyes peeled for next week’s blog - we will cover some mobility and strength exercises to help keep you strong and robust.

There are a few “self tests” you can do at home that can help you to evaluate whether you may need to book an appointment at the physio.

1) Checking for knee tracking

Stand on one leg with your pelvis level. Slowly bend your standing leg trying to avoid lateral movement (your knee should be in line with your middle toe). If your knee wobbles from side to side, then there is probably an imbalance between muscles at the front of your hip and your glutes (often, it is because the glutes are under-active and hip flexors are tight).

2) Heel raises

As a runner, you should be able to perform 20 controlled (lifting up through the middle toe) single leg heel raises holding a 25kg weight. Most runners can’t even do half of that, so when they end up with issues with their achilles, for example, they shouldn’t be all that surprised!

3) Single leg bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips by squeezing your glutes. Lift one leg off the floor. Your hips should remain level. If you lift your right leg and your right hip drops, then it means your left glute isn’t doing its job (the hamstring, hip flexor or muscles along the spine will overcompensate - injury in the making!).

[1] https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/biomechanics

[2] https://www.triathlete.com/2012/07/training/making-the-invisible-visible-the-importance-of-biomechanics_57127

[3] Common injuries stemming from poor biomechanics: ITB syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome, achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, plantar fascitis…and more!