| Article written on August 10th, 2016 at 10:49am | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
When it comes to running, you will find different professionals promoting various ways to improve performance and prevent the likelihood of injury. There is no one specific modality that does it all. But, over the years I have found jumping and landing to be a valuable strategy to provide gains in performance while also improving function.
When we break down running, it becomes obvious that much of cycle requires propulsion and absorption, all while controlling body position. Each push-off leads to a phase where the body is floating through the air before striking back down.
Oftentimes, runners solely train for muscular strength, power, and endurance in their functional training programs, without enough emphasis on deceleration, single leg stability, and balance. All of these characteristics can be targeted while incorporating jumping and landing. Not only that, but enhancing the anticipatory and reactive aspect of running during each ground contact.
Before you start incorporating jumping and landing, it is always important to rule out any dysfunctional movement patterns. One should be able to squat and lunge properly, and also possess adequate mobility in the toes, ankles, and hips. When function is at an acceptable level, we get to work…
Box jumps are a great starting point and shouldn’t be intimidating. The horror stories you have heard of people scraping their shins and spilling are usually due to inflated ego and lack of progression. Pick a box that is at a comfortable level because essentially it’s about the movement, not the height of the box that provides value.
People always ask, “Why not start by landing on the ground?” Essentially, you are catching yourself in a higher position which limits ground reaction forces and stress throughout the body. As you complete the movement, emphasize a soft landing by using each lower extremity joint to decelerate your downward motion.
Once you have mastered and feel comfortable with box jumps, jumping and landing from the ground is next. Because we are now allowing the body to come all the way down, the amount of ground reaction force increase. All of the above mentioned tips still apply. We want to come into contact with the ground and bend at each joint to accept the forces as opposed to landing abruptly. When you first begin don’t worry about jumping too high, but focus more so on the landing. Progress to higher jumps as long as the landing can still be completed with integrity.
Lastly, and where I find the most value for runners and athletes is with the single leg version. When incorporating jumping and landing on a single leg, the body now has to stabilize, and balance. These two characteristics are HUGE for runners since much of their sport relies on single leg stance. In addition to a structured ankle and hip strengthening program, single leg jumping and landing can be the key strategy that enhances stability and balance. That’s important, not only for performance, but to improve function throughout the lower extremity and reduce the likelihood of injury.
As you try the single leg version, alignment becomes even more essential. If there are any issues with hip stability and/or balance, they will often be magnified with this drill. But, as you come back into contact with the ground, absorb through the lower extremity and maintain the knee in good vertical alignment between the ankle and hip. This really calls into play the hip stabilizers to anticipate and react to the landing while maintaining a proper joint position.
Now that you have a better understanding of how valuable jumping and landing can be to boosting performance and reducing the likelihood of injury, try it! Remember, it’s not about the height of the jump, but the controlled position of the landing. Learning how to properly absorb forces throughout the kinetic chain can be a worthwhile strategy that pays dividend in the long run.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART