In a given discipline, the comparison between expert and non-expert sportsmen constitutes a fascinating area of research. In certain cases we can even predict optimal performances by athletes. Thus at the beginning of the nineteen-eighties, studies of which Yvon Brénière was one of the kingpins, at the de Université de Paris XI-Orsay, made it possible to predict to the nearest kilogram the individual record for a group of weightlifters in the snatch category. However, it is evident that these types of predictions only work for relatively simple movements. They are not yet applicable to the performance of a gymnast on the rings or a pole-vaulter. We cannot predict everything and biomechanics still leaves a lot to “feeling“ in the planning and monitoring of sports training.
The athlete in his search for performance often has a tendency to focus on the motor components of the movement to be accomplished than on his postural components. Yet the starting posture largely controls the movement. This is why biomechanics explores the connections between posture and execution of movement. “Everything happens as if the subject had a posturo-kinetic capacity “, explained Gilles Dietrich a few years ago, who was then head of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute of Sports and Physical Education (INSEP - France).
Some twenty years ago, studies showed that for the sprint events in athletics, a forward body position at the start pushed the barycenter towards the rear and increased the starting forces, and at the start of the race increased speed during the first few strides. Although more favorable in terms of performance, such a position was nevertheless more destabilizing. Its adoption also involved specific muscle-building programs, in particular in the region of the torso and arms. This is how biomechanics has guided the muscular development of a whole generation of sprinters.
The infrared world
Until recently, the University of Liège did not have a laboratory devoted to the analysis of human movement. At the same time, the ADEPS regretted that there was no sufficiently efficient laboratory in the French community to support elite sportsmen. This double shortfall resulted in the creation of LAHM, the material for which was financed by the French community (more than 200,000 euros) and its fitting out in the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of Liege was financed by the university itself (around 150,000 euros).
The new facility which was officially opened in March 2012 is big enough to be able to welcome athletes from various disciplines, including sprinters and footballers. It features a 27 meter-long race-track which can be lengthened by six meters. As for its measuring equipment the optical systems and the force platforms, they are cutting edge. Soon these will be accompanied by electromyography.