Landing Mechanics Primer
Effective plyometric training relies on deceleration, followed by a progression to quick coupling, where the athlete minimizes the time between eccentric deceleration and concentric acceleration.
Key Point: However, before one progresses to that end result—body control, landing skills, basic movement progressions and power development are the rule.These foundations must be laid before speed, load and more complex plyometric progressions are considered. An emphasis on whole body control and deceleration—knowing how to stop and control movement—is at the heart of Movement Training and Plyometrics 101.
Plyo Training Progression
Foundational mechanics that lead to safe and effective plyo training include proper arm drive, multi directional movement capability, controlled movement before explosive movement, solid take off and landing skills, as well as overall, sound movement fundamentals.
1. What and why of plyometrics.
- Plyometrics involves quick counter-movement (deceleration) that uses the elastic qualities of the muscle, stimulates the stretch-shortening cycle reflex and increases neural drive to the muscle.
- Decreased coupling-time is the key to maximizing the effect of the stretch-shortening cycle and the plyometric effect.
- The link between the end of eccentric deceleration and concentric acceleration is referred to as coupling-time.
- An effective plyo program results in mobility, stability, unified balance and body control.
2. Plyo training progression.
- True plyo training takes advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle (stretch reflex) and elastic components of the muscle-tendon unit.
- A rapid pre-stretch or eccentric loading phase (deceleration) is followed by an amortization/transition phase.
- This represents the time between the end of the deceleration/pre-stretch, and the start of an explosive concentric muscle action.
- Quick coupling occurs when an athlete minimizes the time between the eccentric loading (deceleration) and the resultant explosive concentric phase.
3. Power development.
- On the other hand, power development is not dependent on this plyo-reflex response.
- Jumping onto a tall box and Olympic lifting represent power development, and not true plyo training.
The end result of plyo training is explosive power, quickness and acceleration. Efficient movement is timing dependent. Plyo progressions train quickness, stability, balance, power, rhythm and timing, which represents the foundation of athleticism.
Lower body plyometric training must focus on optimal landing and take off mechanics. Proper landing mechanics help to prevent injury and produce power. This is important to athletes and consumers, regardless of age, sport/activity or skill level.
Proper landing mechanics include:
- Land softly and quietly when contacting the landing surface. Doing so indicates that the athlete is actively absorbing force with muscles, and not ligaments or passive joint structure.
- Keep body weight evenly distributed throughout the entire foot by landing flat-footed.
- Move the hips/glutes back, keeping the shins vertical and the knees at or behind the toes. This represents a “chair sit” or butt-out landing, and a glute dominant landing posture.
- Do not collapse, or fold, at the waist. Keep the torso fairly upright, core braced, and head aligned in a neutral position.
- Glute dominant landing positions (weight is shifted more over the entire foot and hips are back) unload the ACL and increase injury prevention, versus quad dominant landing postures that occur when athletes shift weight forward by using their quadriceps muscles.
Landing mechanics summary:
- Perform jump skills by focusing on correct takeoff and landing mechanics. Coordinate proper arm action by “setting the arms” back, to drive movement
- Arm movement comes from the shoulders.
- Elbows are quiet (no angle change).
- Maintain proper body position, especially during the landing phase.
- Start, by flexing your ankles, knees and hips, pull your arms back (set the arms), and drive the arms from the shoulder as the ankles, knees and hips triple extend off the floor to the box.
- Land and take off with the core braced neutral, torso upright and knees pushing out (avoid medial collapse).
- Avoid folding at the waist. Focus on a landing/deceleration phase that emphasizes body control and maintenance of good form through the core, and as it relates to knee/foot position during landing and take off positions.
- Land “lightly” on the box or floor, absorb and control the landing. Don’t let the hips quickly collapse to the floor or box, and keeps the hips pushing back.
- Cue a more vertical shin position (hips back), which equates to a hip/glute dominant position.