By Austin G Johns CCS CES
Return to Sport Program
You can't sprint if you're unable to stop, and you can't jump if you're unable to land. The idea referenced in this quote refers to standard laws in mechanical physics. No body in motion immediately stops, there is always a deceleration period. For humans playing sports, deceleration is required to stop or change direction while running or during landing after jumping. The more abrupt the deceleration, the more likelihood there is for serious injury.
So much strength and conditioning is centered around creating "bigger, faster, stronger" athletes – all acceleration based pursuits – that we often forget basic physical principles when designing workout programs. Here are some exercises that improve the ability to decelerate:
- Drop Jumps & Depth Jumps
- A drop jump starts with a landing. You begin by standing on a plyo-box. This is effectively starting at the apex of your jump where all energy is downward potential. Proper absorption is required to land this "jump". This drop is frequently followed immediately by another jump – this is called a depth jump.
- Backpedaling utilizes the same musculature that is necessary for sprinting but in reverse. By improving your backpedal speed, you effectively improve your negative sprinting speed – also known as deceleration.
- Reverse Skip
- Running requires rhythm. Skipping requires more rhythm. Therefore if you are proficient at running and skipping forward, the best ways to negate those forces or decelerate is to perform them backwards. Reverse running is backpedaling (see above) reverse skipping is simply skipping backwards.
Your goal with both a backpedal and a reverse skip is to have their speed approach that of their opposite, sprinting and skipping respectively. Although you should not be able to make your pace equal, the closer your 40m backpedal gets to your 40m sprint, the better you'll be able to decelerate a sprint. Likewise with the skipping.
- Med ball Slams
- You'll notice that the posture for deceleration is exactly opposite that of acceleration. Accelerating requires an upright, extended posture with narrow foot position. Deceleration requires a crouched and sometimes bent posture with a wider base of support (until you begin to accelerate backwards as in reverse skipping and backpedaling). Med Ball Slams accelerate you into a decelerated position which is the exact opposite from most power movements like squats, jumps, sprints, dead lifts and other weight lifts.
By regularly incorporating drop or depth jumps, backpedaling, reverse skipping, and med ball slams into your strength and performance workout, you can ensure that you are working on your landing and stopping to augment your jumping and sprinting.
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