In today’s age of sports when it comes to performing on the field, speed is king. We, as trainers, are trying to get our athletes bigger, stronger, and faster to achieve maximum results in competition. But in recent years, the rate of injuries seem to be on the rise and we may be partially at fault for these occurrences. All too often we are training our athletes with explosive movements to help with acceleration, focusing on these aspects to create a faster athlete. Although, at the same time, we forget about an area of importance which is deceleration and proper landing mechanics. Properly teaching our athletes to start and stop when accelerating and changing directions as well as to jump and land correctly help not only to improve speed and agility, but will also significantly reduce the chance of injury.
Involving deceleration and landing mechanics training in a properly balanced speed and agility program has all too often been neglected or quite simply not been used enough in training to help reduce injuries. Often, the primary goal of the athlete is to get faster in their sport and we focus mainly on concentric exercises to help with acceleration. Biomechanically, proper deceleration occurs when our muscles eccentrically contract to help us come to a stop safely. Studies have shown that most injuries occur to our muscles during eccentric movements. Therein lies the importance of properly teaching our athletes to start and stop and jump and land correctly.
To properly teach deceleration and landing mechanics, we first must understand, biomechanically, how our body works during these movements. Deceleration causes a high neural demand that puts a lot of stress on our body with eccentric movements. Proper deceleration involves coordinating movements, such as bending at the hips, knees, and ankles while maintaining your center of gravity. Far too often, athletes come to us with bad habits for proper landing mechanics and deceleration or simply have had no training experience with this aspect of speed and agility training. A proper speed and agility program will incorporate these actions on a daily basis.
There are countless exercises you can do to teach deceleration and jumping mechanics. For the purpose of this article, we will list two very basic exercises that will assist in improving your deceleration and jumping mechanics.
- Drop Squat: In a standing position, with feet shoulder width apart, the athlete will start with their arms erected straight up in the air and then proceed to slightly hop in place and lower their arms and land in a proper squat stance with proper hip, knee, and ankle alignment and a good center of mass. Once an athlete has mastered this technique we can get into more progressions such as single leg hops with mini hurdles.
- Sprint to Stop: Just how it sounds, start from a sprinting position and come to a controlled stop with a lower center of gravity and stable base. Initially start off with a short start and stop distance and progress to longer distances to have to start and stop when greater velocities are applied.
These exercises are a great way to implement safe and proper landing and deceleration techniques to help improve speed and agility for all types of athletes. Perform these types of exercises at least two times a week and you should see a formidable change in performance of your athletes, as well as helping prevent any injuries that may occur.
By Darin Jerome