The 5 Stages of Motion Analysis

By Steve Glass, Brian Hatzel, Rick Albrecht

Part of Kinesiology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Motion analysis is a fancy way to refer to the act of evaluating how someone one moves. Coaches, physical fitness trainers, physical therapists, and others use motion analysis to help their patients and clients enhance mobility and improve performance. Knowing where to start can be difficult, but if you break the analysis down into five stages, you’ll be well on your way!

Stage 1: Knowing the nature and objective of the motion

To begin movement analysis, the examiner (coach, clinician, personal trainer) must have some background knowledge about the task to be completed. Understanding what the performer is trying to accomplish and knowing the components needed to be successful are essential to the analysis. Background knowledge helps you identify the key elements of the movement that need focus.

Stage 2: Breaking the movement up into clear phases

To make sense of what you are seeing, you break the movement up into segments or phases. Complex movements all require preparation, execution, and follow-through components. Within each phase is a series of movements that need to occur for the next phase to follow and/or be successful.

For example, when you perform a squat, you start in a standing position and then squat down. But to squat down, you need to bend your hips, then knees, and finally your ankles, all while keeping your back straight. To come back up, you do the reverse in a timely and coordinated way. In this case, someone analyzing these motions would break the squat into two phases, the down (return) and up (power) phases.

Stage 3: Noting the preparation position

At this stage of the analysis, you note the patient’s or client’s preparation position. Getting into a position that facilitates the impending movement is the key to this phase. To jump, for example, you need to bend at your hips, knees, and ankles. This action represents the preparation phase of a standing long jump. By achieving a proper preparation position, the performer is able to facilitate the strength, speed, and efficiency of the task.

Stage 4: Providing evaluation and diagnosis

Ultimately the purpose of the motion analysis is to correct or improve the performance or avoid injury. To do this, you evaluate the subject’s performance of the actual task. Based on your findings, you can identify specific flaws and make diagnoses. For example, you may note that someone is limping when he walks. By noting where within the walking pattern he has a flaw, you can determine what the problem is (perhaps he isn’t striking the ground with his heel as he should) and identify how to correct it.

The evaluation process usually involves a comparison of the pre-defined critical factors. If you find that the performer repeatedly falls outside of the normal range, you note it during this stage.

Stage 5: Providing intervention and feedback

Saying what is wrong with someone’s motion is usually easy; figuring out how to correct it is a bit more challenging. To perform this final step in, you must have very good knowledge of the task at hand and be able to focus in on relevant information from the client or patient (strength, injury, and performance) and his goals. Based on what you know about the patient, you can prioritize the feedback you give.