The proliferation of new biomechanical technology in laboratory and field settings facilitates the capture of data-sets consisting of complex time-series. An understanding of the appropriate statistical approaches for analysing and interpreting these data-sets is required and the functional data analysis (FDA) family of statistical techniques has emerged in the biomechanical literature. Given the use of FDA is currently in its infancy with biomechanical data, this paper will form the first of a two part series aiming to address practical issues surrounding the application of FDA techniques in biomechanics. This work focuses on functional principal components analysis (fPCA), which is explored using existing literature and sample data from an on-water rowing database. In particular methodological considerations for the implementation of fPCA such as temporal normalisation of data, removal of unwanted forms of variation in a data-set and documented methods for preserving the original temporal properties within a set of curves are explored in detail as a part of this review. Limitations and strengths of the technique are outlined and recommendations are provided to encourage the appropriate use of fPCA within the field of applied sports biomechanics.