Strength and Conditioning Essentials is back with Part 3 – Landing Mechanics. To read the previous 2 parts of Strength and Conditioning essentials then click on the following links.
- Strength and Conditioning Essentials: Part 1 – Mobility.
- Strength and Conditioning Essentials:Part 2 – Activation.
In strength and conditioning essentials part 3 we will look at landing mechanics. I will highlight optimal landing mechanics, foot placement and body position and explain why optimal landing mechanics are essential for all ground based athletes.
To many times athletes (especially some of the basketball players I work with) want to figuratively “Run before they can Walk”. Or to make it more relevant to this article – jump before they can land. Only this past weekend, when coaching at the basketball national team training camp; did i have a young athlete come up to me and ask –
“hey coach, i want to jump higher, can i get a jumping programme from you.”
My response to these types of question is often the same.
“When you can learn to land well, i will work on helping you jump higher”.
How can we as coaches help the athletes we work with land correctly and safely? When we look at landing mechanics, we want the athlete to land in the safest (least risk of injury) position possible. Most sports injuries occur when an athlete plants their foot in preparation to jump, or lands from a jump. Athletes need to be able to land in the most efficient anatomical and biomechanical body position possible. This will enable them to absorb force/impact, as well as create/produce force to rapidly move or jump again once in contact with the ground. The last point is essential for sports such as Basketball, Volleyball, Gymnastics, and even triple jump. these sports require the ability to rapidly produce force over a series of consecutive jump-landing-jumps.
Im not going to bore you with too much science, but in an effort to improve our explosive power and thus jump higher we would need the following to occur –
- Ensure optimal body position (landing mechanics)
- Build a strength base from which we can produce and absorb a greater amount of force.
- Fully optimise the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) between the eccentric and concentric muscle action. (plyometric training)
Our focus in this article is landing mechanics. If an athlete cannot land properly, they will never be able to reach optimal force production and thus will perform sub-optimally. Also; and of more importance, bad landing mechanics expose said athlete to a greater risk of injury. If you’re not too squeamish, look at any video of a “non-contact” ACL injury. What you will likely see is an athlete that was unable to absorb force while having bad knee alignment on foot planting/landing. This creates a large amount of shear force through the knee joint, which will cause a rupture of the athletes ACL and other injuries.
Below is a picture that will highlight good and bad knee alignment so you can better understand the above statement.
So what do we need to look at to create great landing mechanics? Here are some things to focus on.
- Torso – Your torso should be slightly forward but chest up, however not so your shoulders go beyond the line of your knees.
- Hips – Flex the hips to “stick out the booty”. this helps us stay balances and absorb some of the landing through our posterior chain group of muscles (glutes, hamstrings)
- Knees – There should be a slight degree of knee flexion, and ensure that whereever the feet point we want the knees pointing the same way.
- Feet – We what to land on the mid-foot landing. this allows us to ensure are weight is centered and can ensure good balance and a good position to absorb impact and then produce force.
- Soft Feet – Soft landing, make as little sound as possible. To steal CoachVern Gambetta term “land like a ninja.”
To often landing mechanics and the ability to decelerate with good body alignment, is something that is passed over by coaches and athletes. Every ground based athlete needs to spend a great deal of time working on joint alignment and body position. I suggest incorporating some of the jumps lands you will see in the video below, into their daily warm up routines. I will never progress an athlete onto more demanding and challenging jumping and plyometric drills until they have shown great mechanics and body positions in these most basic of drills.
In the above video the focus should not be on jump height or distance, but on the correct landing. Ensure that all the coaching points raised above are adhered to. Once competent, start to challenge yourself by adding height or distance targets. One way you can add height is with box jumps. These are great, they reduce the impact of gravity and thus reduce landing forces on your body.
One thing I try to always emphisie is “intent”. When performing box jumps, the athlete should always jump as high as possible and then land on the box. Jump with “MAXIMAL” intent. Remember you are still working on landing mechanics when performing box jumps. We want to ensure you always land optimally. All to often I see coaches and athletes jump to a box that is far to high. Resulting in landing with far too much knee flexion and forward trunk flexion, exactly what we are trying to avoid. Even with great jumpers, I won’t use a box height higher than 75cm. I just insure that they always jump with intent.
Something to always remember is that if an athlete cannot land with great mechanics in a close environment (such as in the videos). He or she will never be able to land correctly once you put them into a game (open) environment.
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