You walk before you can run. You must look before you leap. Now you must land before you can jump… Why?
There are two main reasons for practicing your landing mechanics. One is injury prevention and the other is power production. Naturally it is best advised to train to avoid injury before making you more powerful. It won’t matter how high you jumped if you crumble in a world of pain on landing. As an athlete the joints in your lower body are exposed to forces that far exceed your own body weight, by as much as 10-15 times.
Proper jump training will teach you to absorb these forces using your muscles primarily, instead of your joints. In doing so you should be at a reduced risk of injury, including ankle sprains and serious knee injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament tears. Principles and coaching points learnt here can be applied to other sporting movements and exercises, such as squats, lunges and Olympic lifts.
You may exhibit one or more of the following traits that can be seen in the adjacent picture:
- Hips collapsing (pelvic tilt & body lean)
- Knee instability (moving towards body midline)
- Ankle pronation (foot flattening)
Start basic landing technique training with 1-2 exercises 2-3 times per week. Keep the sets and reps simple (2-3 sets x 6-10 reps) as it should be considered an accessory exercise. It should be performed early in a workout, after a quality dynamic warm-up and prior to the strength portion of your training. Exercises below are advisable...
Drop JumpsStanding on a low bench. Step off with one foot and fall to the floor in a soft and quiet two-footed landing that absorbs force through the entire body in an athletic stance ruled by mid foot pressure. After the first 2 reps, maintain the landing position for 5 seconds before moving.
When landing, force is absorbed with triple flexion of the lower extremity. Sit back on the gluts (butt out) instead of extending the knees forwards far past the toes. Doing so unloads strain on the ACL and plays to your body's strengths by utilising your gluts for powerful movement.
Band Resisted Squat
Tie a resistance band around your thighs just above the knees when your legs are together. Then step your feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider, taking up resistance on the band.
Baechle & Earle (2008). Essentials of Strength Training & Conditioning, 3rd Ed; Human Kinetics, US
Hauschildt, M. (2008). NSCA Performance Training Journal; 7(1): 13-16