Exercise physiology and biomechanics

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course provides knowledge of organ function and systems involved in physical activity in routine and extreme conditions. The course provides the theoretical basics in the techniques of analysis and the tools commonly used for studying biomechanics in sports.
Expected learning outcomes
Students will learn simple laboratory tests for the functional evaluation of sedentary subjects and athletes. By the end of the course, students will be able to understand the physical parameters of movement in different types of sports and the essentials for solving simple biomechanical problems in sports.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Course syllabus
Biomechanics module
1. Elements of the physics of the locomotor system: human body in static and dynamic conditions, physical model of the muscular system; the human body as a machine; physical aspects of motor alterations; joints as levers. Physiology of skeletal muscle tissue; tension/length of sarcomeres and isolated muscles. Strength/speed relationship in isolated muscles
2. Kinetics/angular dynamics. Moment of inertia. Rotational kinetic energy. Work and angular momentum; principle of conservation of angular motion. Static (isometric) and dynamic (isotonic/isokinetic) contractions. Motor unit: definition and types. Patterns of motor unit activation in the graduation of force (recruitment and frequency of activation). Biomechanical model of the muscle
3. Factors that influence the expression of muscle strength. Types of muscle fibers; pennation angle; kinematic characteristics of joints; area of the transverse section; spatial and temporal recruitment. Effects of training and stretching on the contractile and viscoelastic characteristics of the muscle-tendon unit
4. Muscle efficiency. The concept of muscle efficiency and transmission efficiency
5. Biomechanics and energy cost of locomotion
6. Locomotion on land: cycling: aerodynamic resistance and rolling friction; normal and efficacious force applied to the pedals; transmission efficiency in the man-bicycle unit
7. Race-walking and running: stride phases; duty factor; ground force reactions. Internal and external mechanical work. Positive work, negative work, and mechanical efficiency. Biomechanics of race-walking and running on sloped ground with different loads applied. Transition and Froude number. Mechanics and energetic in competitive race-walking
8. Locomotion in water. Static and dynamic body positions in water. Hydrodynamic resistance (active and passive drag). Efficiency of propulsion. Biomechanics of flipper swimming (diving in apnea). Mechanics and energetic of canoeing and kayaking
Exercise physiology module
1. Sources of energy and biochemistry of muscle contraction: aerobic, anaerobic alactic acid, and lactic acid processes. Training-induced changes in muscle. Fuel of choice and muscle work. Control of substrate consumption during exercise. Indirect calorimetry and respiratory quotient at rest and under stress. Resting metabolism and calories of foods. Energy balance. Physiology of hydration.
2. Anaerobic lactic acid metabolism and physical exercise. Lactate shuttle. Concept and physiology of anaerobic threshold. Methods for estimating anaerobic threshold. Ventilatory threshold. Lactate curve during exercise. Concepts of onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) and maximal lactate steady state (MLSS). Mader test; Conconi test; anaerobic metabolism and alactic acid; Margaria test; Mongoni test; Wingate test
3. Fick equation applied to the heart-lung-muscle complex at rest and during submaximum and maximum exercise. Respiratory and cardiocirculatory changes during isotonic and isometric submaximum and maximum exercise; training-induced cardiocirculatory changes. Models for studying oxygen consumption
4. Cardiopulmonary testing: rest-exercise and exercise-rest transients (changes in oxygen consumption and pulmonary ventilation, heart rate, stroke volume, and cardiac output, arteriovenous oxygen difference in exercise; excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC); oxidative processes and steady state. Maximum oxygen consumption: definition, meaning, measurement, value in sedentary adults and athletes in various types of sports according to age and sex
5. Heart rate: definition and physiology: autonomic control of the cardiovascular system. Adaptation of heart rate to work load and threshold testing based on heart rate. ECG and heart rate at rest and under stress. Cardiac adaption to training: athletes, sedentary adults, young people, the elderly, males, females. Measurement of heart rate: heart rate sensors
6. Arterial blood pressure: definition and physiology. Method of measuring arterial pressure. Sphygmic wave and its variation during exercise. Physiology of pressure control and variation in pressure indices during isotonic and isometric exercise. Arterial baroreflex at rest and during exercise. Measurement of arterial pressure and variation in response to training
7. Thermoregulation. Regulation of body temperature, thermogenesis, and thermodispersion; conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation. Physiology of reaction to warm and cold environments during physical exercise. Thermoregulation during exercise. Thermodispersion during exercise in children. Physical exercise and humidity
8. Neuroendocrine control in physical exercise. The autonomous nervous system and its function during physical exercise. Stress hormones: adrenalin, cortisol. Glucose regulation during exercise: insulin and glucagon. Response of GH, testosterone, and thyroid hormones to physical exercise
9. Exercise physiology in extreme environments. Physiology of deep diving: diving in apnea and on scuba. Physiology of exposure to high altitude: ventilatory and cardiocirculatory response; blood composition and maximum aerobic potential at high altitude. Physiology of exposure to microgravity: effects on the cardiorespiratory system and work capacity
10. Pathophysiology of physical and mental disability. Physical exercise in rehabilitation and training of persons with disability. The wheelchair and physical exercise: sports therapy. Mental disability and physical exercise.
Prerequisites for admission
Firm knowledge of the concepts covered in the second year course in physiology: blood, neurophysiology, muscle, cardiocirculatory and respiratory systems, endocrine system.
Teaching methods
Frontal lectures and workshop exercises, with attention to understanding the adaptation of many physiological parameters (oxygen consumption, heart rate, lactate production, etc.) to exercise.
Teaching Resources
Reference text for the "Physiology of the exercise" module:
. Autori Vari, Fisiologia dell'Uomo, Edi - Ermes, Milano
. Tutorial manual on the Faculty website.
Further reading texts:
McArdle et al. Fisiologia applicata allo sport, Casa editrice Ambrosiana.
Reference material for the "Biomechanics" module:
. Winter, Biomechanics and Motor Control of Human Movement, John Wiley & Sons Ltd (in inglese).
. Vincenzo Pirola, Cinesiologia, Edi Ermes.
. Bartlett R. Introduction to Sports Biomechanics. E&FN SPON, 1997.
. P.E. di Prampero, La locomozione su terra, in acqua, in aria. Edi Ermes.
. Cavagna G. Muscolo e locomozione. Raffaello Cortina Editore. Integration slides on Ariel's website.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Biomechanics module: written exam with open questions
Exercise physiology module: interview on the topics covered in the frontal lectures
The final grade is the average of the grades for the two modules.
BIO/09 - PHYSIOLOGY - University credits: 9
Practicals: 24 hours
Lessons: 49 hours
Professors: Esposito Fabio, Maggioni Martina Anna, Merati Giampiero
Educational website(s)
By appointment
Via Antonio Kramer 4/A - 20129 Milano or Via Giuseppe Colombo 71, (Building #2) - 20133 Milano