Introduction to Kinesiology
What is Kinesiology?
Kinesiology is the study of the mechanics of body movements.
When you first begin to study physical activity, you do not need to look at what the muscles are doing in a particular physical exercise, instead, you need to look at the movement of your joints.
Why Kinesiology is important, whether you major in it or not:
1. Kinesiology improves your physical fitness
You will gain a new appreciation of your body when you have a deeper understanding of your body’s capabilities.
Knowing more about your body can even help if you struggle with obesity, and it will improve your quality of life. Therefore, the study of Kinesiology is an excellent pastime, not only for a fitness professional or athlete.
The engineering of your own physical body is beyond amazing. As a result, the more you know about yourself, the more fit you will become.
How does that work?
When you realize the capabilities of your body, you will want to get fitter, to fully experience your body’s capabilities.
2. Kinesiology helps you train safer
When you understand how your joints work, you will train safer.
Watch the video below of Physical Therapist Jeff Cavaliere, who does just that. He demonstrates why you should never do a behind the neck shoulder press. Using a model of the shoulder joint, you can now see the best angle for shoulder presses.
3. Understand and appreciate your major joints
Kinesiology helps you learn and appreciate the gift of your joints and the movements they perform.
What are your Major Joints?
These are your basic joints:
Movement of your body happens at your body’s joints. Therefore, to study kinesiology, you must understand how your joints move.
- Your skeletal muscles move your joints.
- It is fascinating to realize that only your skeletal muscles are under your control.
Other muscles in your body, like your heart and lungs, function without needing your conscious thoughts.
Imagine if you had to remember to breathe or activate your heartbeat. That will be a complete disaster if you are forgetful.
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Which Joints Move the Least and the Most?
- The ankle joint moves the least.
This lack of movement in the ankle joint is a good thing because your ankle is supporting your entire body. You do not want to be flailing around in the wind like a scarecrow. Therefore, your ankle has limited mobility.
- This limited mobility of your ankle joint provides a solid base of support for your body.
On the other hand, your shoulder joint moves the most.
- The mobility of your shoulder joint is excellent for doing physical work with your hands.
4. Understand Flexion and Extension
When the angle of a joint shortens, this shortening is called flexion, and when it lengthens, this is called extension.
- Think of your elbow when you do a biceps curl.
When you lift the weight, the angle between your forearm and bicep is shortened, which is called flexion. This flexion is also known as the concentric movement.
And when you lower the weight, and the angle lengthens, this is called elbow extension and is also known as the eccentric movement.
5. Understand Adduction and Abduction of Joints
There are two joints in the human body where adduction and abduction apply.
Imagine a line that goes down from the top of your head, right in the center of your body, dividing your frame into two halves.
This line is called the midline.
When your leg or shoulder moves away from this midline, this is called abduction.
If your leg or shoulder moves towards this midline, then you have performed adduction.
6. Why Study Physical Activity?
Think of the major joints in your body, your ankles, knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders.
You can define exercise as an activity that when joints are moving, there is an effort against gravity.
So, back to the biceps curl, the main exercise is when you are lifting the weight, moving against gravity, and performing elbow flexion.
The curl is a single joint exercise.
An example of a multijoint exercise is the squat or deadlift.
Picture the squat in your mind, and you will see that the main movement against gravity is when you lift the weight from the full squat position.
At that moment, you are performing hip, knee, and ankle extension.
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Now you can understand why squats and deadlifts are more effective movements for total body transformation when compared to a biceps curl because squats and deadlifts are multijoint. In contrast, a biceps curl is a single joint exercise.
You will get much more bang for your buck, spending your athletic training time doing squats and deadlifts than you will with biceps curls. Great examples of how multijoint exercises like squats, deadlifts, and pushups can build athletes are:
- Saquon Barkley, running back for the NY Giants
- Herschel Walker, former football player, and Mixed Martial Artist
- Shirley Webb, the Powerlifting grandma who regained her mobility at the age of 75 because of deadlifts
- Stephen Curry, the MVP basketball player who rehabbed his ankles with hex bar deadlifts
- Allyson Felix, Olympic Gold winning track and field star who used the deadlift to become one of the greatest female runners of all time
7. Understand Ankle Flexion
What is Ankle Flexion?
Ankle flexion is when you move your foot towards your shin. You flex your ankle upwards. That is ankle flexion.
The other capability is ankle extension.
Ankle extension is when you point your toes, which is when your foot moves away from your shin.
What Type of Joint is the Ankle?
The main bones of the ankle are:
- the talus in your foot and the
- tibia and
- fibula in your lower leg.
The ankle is a hinge joint.
Ankle Anatomy Tutorial
8. Knee Flexion and Extension
Flexion of the knee is when you move your heel towards your hamstrings, the back of your leg.
For example, when you are on the leg curl machine. You move your heels towards your glutes, which is knee flexion. For a more technical definition of knee flexion, remember this:
Knee flexion is a decrease in the angle between your tibia and femur. The tibia is the major bone of your lower leg, and the femur is the major bone of your thigh.
Knee extension goes the opposite way. When the angle is increasing between your tibia and femur, this is knee extension.
Classic examples of knee extension are squats and deadlifts.
As you stand up out of the squat or deadlift, you are performing knee extension, which is one of the reasons that squats and deadlifts are so powerful.
Squats and deadlifts require that you perform knee extension, hip extension, and ankle plantar flexion.
All at the same time.
That is why the squats and deadlifts are known as compound exercises.
A compound exercise requires multiple joint movements at the same time.
What type of joint is the knee?
The knee is also a hinge joint, like the ankle.
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9. Hip Joint Movements
The hip has more mobility than the ankle, but less than the shoulder.
Flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction are the joint movements of the hip.
Many compound movements involve the hip.
For example, squats and deadlifts are two examples of compound movements that engage the hip.
Both the squat and deadlift require hip, knee, and ankle extension, which is why squats and deadlifts are two of the most exceptional exercises you can ever do to build full-body strength.
How to Hip Hinge – Crucial for Squats, Deadlifts, and Preventing Lower Back Pain or Injury
10. Spine Joint Movements
The spine can do lateral flexion, as in a side bend.
Also, the spine does an extension, as in a ‘superman.’
The superman exercise is when you lie face down on the floor.
Then, you simultaneously raise your arms and feet, which extends your spine and is an excellent floor exercise.
By the way, all spine exercises are considered multijoint movements.
11. Rotation Movements
The spine, hip, and shoulder joints all perform rotation movements.
Also, there is an internal and external rotation at these joints.
12. Elbow Flexion and Extension
Elbow flexion is when you move your forearm upwards towards your shoulder. The classic example of elbow flexion is when you do bicep curls.
On the other hand, elbow extension is when you are straightening out your arm.
An example of elbow extension is when you are pushing yourself up in a dip.
NASM will call this part of the exercise as ‘concentrically accelerating.’
The concentric action of an exercise is when you are producing the most effort.
Technically, when your muscles are contracting.
Eccentric movement is when your muscles are lengthening.
In the meantime, remember that flexion is a decrease in angle, whereas extension is an increase in the joint angle.
When the elbow joint decreases in angle, this is flexion, and the opposite is elbow extension.
What type of joint is the elbow?
The elbow, like the ankle and knee, is also a hinge joint.
The most common type of joint is the synovial joint, the hinge joints of the ankle, knee, and elbow.
However, the shoulder and hips are ball and socket joints.
13. Understand Shoulder Joint Movements
The shoulder is your most mobile joint. Your shoulder joint can do flexion and extension.
But that is not all.
Your shoulders can also perform abduction and adduction are also shoulder joint movements. Furthermore, your shoulder can also do horizontal abduction and adduction.
Imagine that you are standing straight, with your arms at your side.
Your hands are open and facing forward.
Anatomical position is the baseline starting point of all kinesiology. The study of human movement begins with an anatomical position.
Now, imagine a line going down the middle of your body, from your head to between your feet. This imaginary line is called the midline of your body.
Joint Angle Decrease and Increase
When your arm moves forward, this decreases the angle of your shoulder joint.
Just remember that moving your arm forward is called shoulder flexion.
Moving your arm downward and back is known as shoulder extension.
An example of an exercise that uses shoulder flexion is a front raise with dumbbells.
A shoulder extension exercise is a straight arm pulldown.
When you swim, you are doing repeated shoulder extension, which explains the V-shaped backs of swimmers because swimming develops the shoulder extensors, particularly the latissimus dorsi and teres major muscles of your upper back.
14. Shoulder Abduction and Adduction
Shoulder abduction is when you move your arms away from the midline of your body.
For example, when you do a wide-grip shoulder press.
At the moment of the most significant effort, your arms are moving away from the midline.
Another example of shoulder abduction is the lateral raise.
The lateral raise is when you lift each arm out to the side, to about shoulder level.
Typically, you perform lateral raises with dumbbells in each hand.
On the other hand, when you do wide grip lat pull down, your arms are moving towards the midline.
Therefore, the wide-grip lat pulldown is an example of shoulder adduction.
15. Horizontal Shoulder Abduction
The classic example of horizontal shoulder adduction is the bench press.
Your arms move towards the midline of your body on the bench.
A seated wide-grip row is an example of horizontal shoulder adduction.
16. Horizontal Shoulder Adduction
At this point, if you feel frustrated and wondered out loud, who cares!
The answer is that you want your joints to function as best as they can.
Not being capable in one joint movement is like having a Cadillac with power windows.
But, you do not have the switch activated to use the feature.
All of these joint movements are features of your remarkable body engineering.
So, instead of exercising the mirror muscles only, like your chest, quads, and shoulders.
You also want to exercise the muscles of your back, glutes, and hamstrings, known as your ‘posterior chain.’
A stronger posterior chain helps you stay balanced and ensure that you stay healthy for all functional activities of daily living.
Shoulder Joint: Movement, Bones, and Muscles – Human Anatomy
17. Wide-Grip Exercise vs. Close Grip Exercise
In a wide-grip exercise, the elbows are out and away from the body.
Whereas, in a close grip, the elbows are close to the body.
Maybe you never thought there is much of a difference.
But, now that you know a bit more about joint movements, you can see there is a big difference.
For example, if you do a close-grip pushup, you are doing shoulder flexion.
But, if you move your hands wider, now you are doing shoulder adduction.
Two completely different joint movements.
18. Anatomic Position
The anatomic position is the standard reference point to understand Kinesiology. Stand up straight with your palm forward, as in the graphic below that is the anatomic position:
Through the scientific study of human movement, you can design a more effective program of exercise for yourself, friend, or client. If you sit in an office all day, you are probably not looking to become the next Mr. America bodybuilder.
You want to have an exercise program that improves your functional ability to do the things that you want to do. Move furniture, carry groceries, play with the kids or grandkids, lift, carry, walk without getting winded.
19. Train to Achieve Your Fitness Goals
If you are not or do not want to be a bodybuilder, then stop training like a bodybuilder, which is only one insight that Kinesiology can teach you about the effectiveness of your workout routine.
You should only train like a bodybuilder if you want to be a bodybuilder. Otherwise, you should perform exercises that help you achieve your physical fitness goals.
You should train to improve your ability to perform activities, practical activities.
With Kinesiology, you study movement, describe the action, and apply exercise to improve mobility and function. A degree in Kinesiology will open up a wide variety of careers.
20. Observe Exercises and Know their Joint Movements
With this knowledge, now you can observe activity and define the joint movements of the physical exercise.
Bear in mind that a change of grip from a wide-grip to close-grip or vice versa can affect the joint movement of any expected exercise.
Here are a sample of exercises, their names, and their joint movement(s):
- Elbow Flexion and Shoulder Adduction
- Knee Flexion
- Hip extension,
- Knee extension, and
- Ankle extension
- Elbow Flexion and
- Shoulder Extension
- Elbow Extension and
- Shoulder Flexion
- Single joint,
- Horizontal Shoulder Adduction
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Elbow Extension and
- shoulder abduction
Straight Arm Pulldown
- Single Joint Shoulder Adduction
Machine Leg Press
- Knee extension, and
- Ankle extension
Bicycle Ab Exercise
- Spine Flexion,
- Knee Flexion, and
- Hip Flexion
- Elbow Flexion &
- Shoulder Abduction
Overhead Tricep Press
- Single Joint – Elbow Flexion
Crunch Sit Up
- Spinal Flexion
21. Kinesiology and Financial Fitness
When you work at what you love, it is difficult to call it a job. Instead, you are following your passion. And if you enjoy training and helping others, a degree in Kinesiology opens many doors for financial success as well.
Bachelors in Kinesiology jobs:
- physical therapy or occupational therapy
- public health promotion
- personal trainer
- sports management
- sport psychology
- sports medicine
- physical education teacher
- physical or occupational therapists
- Athletic Director, Athletic Scout, Athletic Trainer
- Camp Owner/Director, Cardiac Rehabilitation Therapist, Certified Orthotist, Certified Prosthetist, Chiropractor
- Clinical Exercise Specialist, Coach, Corporate Wellness Manager
- Ergonomic Researcher/Designer
- Exercise Physiologist, Exercise Physiology Nurse, Exercise Program Director
- Fitness Instructor
- Fitness Specialist
- Health Educator
- Occupational Therapist
- Performance Enhancement Specialist
- Personal Trainer
- Pharmaceutical Sales Consultant
- Physical Education Teacher
- Physical Therapist
- Physician Assistant
- Pro Sports Fundraiser
- Recreation and Fitness Manager
- Recreation Therapist
- Rehabilitation Therapist
- Respiratory Therapist
- Sporting Attire Manufacturer’s Consultant, Sports & Fitness Equipment Designer, Sports Administration
- Sports Massage Therapist
- Sport Psychologist
- Strength & Conditioning Coach
22. Subdisciplines of Kinesiology
Motor learning and kinesiology
A specialization in Motor learning is a subdiscipline of Kinesiology that examines how people develop motor skills. Motor learning is a complicated process in the brain which causes a change to your Central Nervous System (CNS) that allows you to learn and perform and new motor skill.¹
Do not confuse Kinesiology with Applied Kinesiology (AK), because Applied Kinesiology is an alternative medicine method which claims to treat or diagnose illness through muscle testing, such as high blood pressure or nutrient deficiencies.
However, “a double-blind study was conducted by the ALTA Foundation for Sports Medicine Research in Santa Monica, California and published in the June 1988 Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study used three experienced AK practitioners. It concluded, “The results of this study indicated that the use of Applied Kinesiology to evaluate nutrient status is no more useful than random guessing.”²
Kinesiology vs. Exercise Science
What is the difference between Kinesiology and Exercise Science, or are they the same thing? Kinesiology is a broad field that studies the mechanics of human movement and its effects on health. Whereas Exercise Science is a subfield of Kinesiology.
- Kinesiology zeroes in on the mechanics of movement, performance, and function, whereas
- Exercise science studies the response of the human body to exercise
Theoretically, exercise science will prepare you more specifically for a career in designing exercise programs for:
- weight loss,
- strength training
While Kinesiology is typically for:
- occupational therapy
- fitness assessments
You will find that Kinesiology and Exercise Science frequently paired together, and there is considerable overlap in the careers you can aspire to with a degree in one or the other.
23. Popular Kinesiology Programs around the United States and Canada:
- ASU Kinesiology – Arizona State University
- Cal State Fullerton Kinesiology – California State University, Fullerton
- CSUSM Kinesiology pre-physical therapy at California State University San Marcos
- CSULB Kinesiology at California State University Long Beach
- CSUN Kinesiology – California State University, Northridge
- SDSU Kinesiology – San Diego State University
- UCONN Kinesiology – The University of Connecticut ( Top 10 Doctoral Program for Graduate Study in Kinesiology and Exercise Science)
- Kinesiology UIU – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champion
- UIC Kinesiology – The University of Illinois at Chicago
- UKY Kinesiology – The University of Kentucky
- UMASS Kinesiology – University of Massachusetts Amherst
- UNLV kinesiology – University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Rutgers Kinesiology – Rutgers University School of Arts and Science, New Brunswick, New Jersey
- NYU Kinesiology – New York University, New York City
- ETSU Kinesiology – East Tennessee State University
- TAMU Kinesiology – Texas A&M University
- UTSA Kinesiology – The University of Texas at San Antonio
- TSU Kinesiology – Tarleton State University, Member of The Texas A&M University System
- TWU Kinesiology – Texas Woman’s University
- UNT Kinesiology – University of North Texas
- BROCKU Kinesiology – Brock University Ontario, Canada
The average salary for a Kinesiologist across the United States is $48,306 with an entry of 33k up to a high of 97k – (PayScale.com)
Wrapping Up – What is Kinesiology?
To sum up, Kinesiology is the scientific study of human movement. Become aware of how amazing your body is. How your joints move. As you become more aware of the movements that you do every day, you can train more effectively.
Exercise to improve your functional ability to perform what you need to do as part of daily living.
Knowing what you or a client does in their daily activity will help you design a customized exercise program.
And, once you understand joint movements, you can learn the underlying muscles used for each action.
Understanding kinesiology and exercise science will help you create a more balanced exercise program.
What is Kinesiology used for and why learn about Kinesiology?
You can now describe the daily activities of a person in terms of joint movements.
For example, standing up from a chair or getting out of your car requires hip, knee, and ankle extension (ankle plantar flexion).
Also, you can begin a career doing what you love most, helping others get well, leaner, and stronger through exercise.
You or your client can train more effectively for the joint movements that you need to do every day in your life; this is how Kinesiology improves the quality of your life, this is the promise of Kinesiology.
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¹ https://www.physio-pedia.com/Motor_Control_and_Learning – Motor control and learning