By Julie Gooderick (MSc, Bsc Hons, ASCC)
DoTraining coach and brainbox Julie Gooderick, has taken a break from her busy coaching schedule to fill us in on practical applications for landing mechanics.
At any stage of athlete development, training landing mechanics and force absorption is of vital importance. This has been well documented in the previous DoTraining article HERE, which highlighted the basic landing requirements and the implications for injury with incorrect form. We will now take a look at the practical implementation of some of these drills as well as things to be aware of in terms of the progressions and regressions for your athletes.
Coaches often make the mistake of considering landing mechanics to be an assumed skill and that their athletes already possess the competence required to move onto more advanced jump and plyometric training. The video sequence shown below demonstrates how to build up landing drill.
When working with youth athletes, you may see various issues arising at various stages of development. When working pre pubescent athletes, working on the basic squatting patterns will help reinforce correct landing form. Developing the athletes’ eccentric strength whilst remaining static will allow them to learn the correct patterning whilst you as the coach can teach correct alignment in a more controlled situation. The focus when teaching landing mechanics has to be on movement quality. Subsequently, these drills should not be done under fatigue during the time the athlete is learning the skills. The general consensus in current literature suggests that the work to rest ratio for plyometrics training should be anywhere between 1:5 to 1:8, dependent upon the exact nature of the training. Whilst landing drills are not quite as neurally demanding as plyometrics, the same work to rest ratios could be applied to ensure movement quality throughout the drills. As anyone who has ever worked with prepubescent athletes will know, trying to implement this type of work to rest ratio with children can be a challenge. Try to implement your landing drills, then allow your young athletes to work on other skills in the rest time, such as 10 ball catches before the next set. If your athlete has any tightness which is affecting their mechanics, rest times could be used to address this. This will optimise their mechanics for the next set of landing drills, whilst also keeping them entertained and giving them relative rest before the next set.
Even if you assume your athlete has solid landing competency this should be reviewed as the athlete develops and grows. This does not need to be anything more than you as a coach being aware of how your athlete is looking during training, although a more formal movement competency assessment could be done if you wanted scores to compare. When athletes go through puberty, sudden increased growth can mean a decrease in flexibility and coordination, which can subsequently affect their ability to land with correct form. Basic skills and movement patterns may need to be revisited. Inefficiencies in landing post puberty can occur anywhere along the kinetic chain and coaches should be able to identify and correct any tightness they see which is causing incorrect form.
Post puberty, many athletes show tightness through their posterior chain, causing excessive forward lean and a rounded back upon landing. Often, revisiting hip hinging movements can speed up the correction of this landing dysfunction, rather than solely drilling the landing mechanics. Working on the hip hinge in conjunction with some flexibility work, gives the athlete the flexibility required as well as enhancing motor skills. They relearn how to maintain an erect torso whilst loading through their glutes and hamstrings. Hip hinge drills in conjunction with revisiting basic landing drills should ensure athletes regain their landing skills as quickly as possible.
When building up landing mechanics drills, athletes MUST earn the right to increase distance, increase height or perform multiple jumps (plyometrics). This right is earned through repetition and continual correct demonstration of the basic landing skills. Do not be in a rush to progress developmental athletes through the stages of these landing skills; the focus should always be on the movement quality. As mentioned previously, if an athlete cannot maintain correct mechanics in a closed environment, form is highly likely to breakdown in an open environment, increasing injury risk. Landing mechanics are a fundamental skill of building an athlete and should be revisited at various stages of development.