In motion capture applications whose aim is to recover human body postures from various input, the high dimensionality of the problem makes it desirable to reduce the size of the search-space by eliminating a priori impossible configurations. This can be carried out by constraining the posture recovery process in various ways. Most recent work in this area has focused on applying camera viewpoint-related constraints to eliminate erroneous solutions. When camera calibration parameters are available, they provide an extremely efficient tool for disambiguating not only posture estimation, but also 3D reconstruction and data segmentation. Increased robustness is indeed to be gained from enforcing such constraints, which we prove in the context of an optical motion capture framework. Our contribution in this respect resides in having applied such constraints consistently to each main step involved in a motion capture process, namely marker reconstruction and segmentation, followed by posture recovery. These steps are made inter-dependent, where each one constrains the other. A more application-independent approach is to encode constraints directly within the human body model, such as limits on the rotational joints. This being an almost unexplored research subject, our efforts were mainly directed at determining a new method for measuring, representing and applying such joint limits. To the present day, the few existing range of motion boundary representations present severe drawbacks that call for an alternative formulation. The joint limits paradigm we propose not only overcomes these drawbacks, but also allows to capture intra- and inter-joint rotation dependencies, these being essential to realistic joint motion representation. The range of motion boundary is defined by an implicit surface, its analytical expression enabling us to readily establish whether a given joint rotation is valid or not. Furthermore, its continuous and differentiable nature provides us with a means of elegantly incorporating such a constraint within an optimisation process for posture recovery. Applying constrained optimisation to our body model and stereo data extracted from video sequence, we demonstrate the clearly resulting decrease in posture estimation errors. As a bonus, we have integrated our joint limits representation in character animation packages to show how motion can be naturally constrained in this manner.