Deceleration Training and Landing For the Everyday Athlete

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You don’t have to be LeBron James or Megan Rapinoe in order to train more like an athlete. You just need to be realistic (and smart) about it.

What’s more, being athletic isn’t only about accelerating. You also have to be able to apply the brakes – quickly – too!

(and beat Rambo in arm wrestling match. it’s science)

Today my good friend and colleague, Matt Ibrahim, showcases some simple drills that emphasize the latter.

Deceleration Training & Landing For the Everyday Athlete

Everyone pays close attention to how powerful and explosive an athlete can be, and how quickly he or she can speed up and take off. However, everyone ignores the foundational components that precede acceleration and force production, which are deceleration and force absorption.

All athletes, regardless of sport or athletic endeavor, need to develop the skills necessary to slow down, absorb force, and land in an organized manner.

Decelerate & Land on Two Feet

Drop Squat to Stick:

 

Grabbing a rebound or spiking a volleyball comes easy to most since the task is clear: jump up into the air as high as possible and either gather the basketball or launch the volleyball. But, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone as concerned with their jump height as their jump landing.

Put the squat jumps on pause for a moment and dial in your technique here first.

This is a good place to start if you’re new to deceleration training and landing skills. Here’s a drill that requires much more focus than what you see in the video. The entire emphasis should be on creating as much speed as possible when dropping down to the floor.

Your goal is simple: slow down fast.

Yes, that’s correct. The same way that you’d want to speed up fast during acceleration, you’d also want to slow down fast during deceleration.

Coaching Keys:

  • Stand with both feet hip-width apart and your hands down by your pockets
  • Now, reach both hands up high toward the ceiling above you
  • Raise both heels off the floor, but keep the toes glued down for a moment
  • Quickly snap down as fast as humanly possible while allowing the toes to leave the floor ever so slightly
  • Finish in the bottom of a squat with your arms long and behind you

Learn How to Land in a Split Stance

Drop Reverse Lunge to Stick:

 

The same rules apply here as in the above exercise.

Don’t be fooled though; this variation is much more difficult.

Whether you’re doing split squats in the gym or sprinting in your sport, the split stance is a highly-coveted position to become strong and durable in. Quit doing split squats for one block of training and replace them with these for faster performance results.

On paper, the goal here is pretty simple: reach up and drop down fast into the reverse lunge position. However, performing this deceleration exercise is much harder than just that. The front leg will take most of the load while the back leg works in an assisting manner.

Think: jab that foot back and slightly lean your trunk forward. That’s the key to results here.

Coaching Keys:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands down by your sides
  • Reach your fingertips high and up toward the ceiling
  • Raise both heels up off the floor
  • Snap down quickly while simultaneously jabbing one foot back behind you
  • Make sure to finish in the bottom of a reverse lunge with your arms reaching back

Pump The Brakes & Land on One Foot

Drop Squat to 1-Leg Stick:

 

Watch an athlete in any sport perform a cutting action, a change of direction, or even turn the corner. It’s likely that you’ll see the athlete, at one point or another, land on one foot. Even when athletes land on both feet they tend to favor one side over the other. The point is that all athletes will find value in developing the skills in the weight room necessary to be strong and durable on one foot.

Deceleration training and landing is no different.

Single leg strength starts at the foot and lower leg.

Building legs and feet that are resilient to loading, whether from the speed emphasis in deceleration training or from the weight on the bar, is the pivotal first-step to longevity in the iron game. Drop quickly here and stick your landing on one foot.

You’ll be surprised at how many reps it takes until you get it right.

Coaching Keys:

  • Stand with both feet hip-width apart and both hands down by the pockets
  • Reach your hands up toward the ceiling
  • Raise both heels off the floor, but keep the toes glued down for a moment
  • Quickly snap down as fast as possible while allowing the toes to leave the floor slightly
  • Finish the landing on one foot with both arms behind you

Stick Your Landing Off An Elevated Surface

Depth Drop to Stick:

 

At some point, performing all of these drills from the floor will become too easy. This is why it’s important to provide some sort of overload stimulus to continue making progress in your deceleration training. Starting from an elevated surface from a box or a bench will do the trick.

The key here is to avoid jumping off the elevated surface, and instead, dropping down as fast as possible. This goes back to the whole notion of slowing down fast. The faster you come down off the box, the more challenging it will be to land in an organized manner. Step up to a box or bench height that will challenge you if your ultimate goal is to build quality deceleration and landing skills.

Coaching Keys:

  • Stand on a plyo box in the range of 12 to 24 inches
  • Lead one foot off the box out in front of you
  • Reach your fingertips up high above you
  • Drop down off the box and stick the landing on both feet with your arms behind you

Now, Do it On One Foot

Depth Drop to 1-Leg Stick:

 

Not much different here than the previous exercise aside from the fact that now you’ll be forced to land on one foot. There’s a reason this is the last stop on the train in this series of exercise progressions since it challenges you the most, both from a speed overload and stability standpoint.

The challenge here is to demonstrate body control during landing by sinking into your hips and letting your chest dip forward a bit. Again, your arms play a big role in this drill due to the amount of speed they can create based on how hard and fast you swing them down from the top position.

Ease into this one, but once you master it, let it rip.

Coaching Keys:

  • Stand on a 12 to 24-inch plyo box
  • Lead one foot off of the box out in front
  • Reach both hands up high toward the ceiling above you
  • Drop off the box and stick the landing on the lead feet with both arms long and by your pockets

Closing

Deceleration training and landing skills are where it all begins in plyometrics. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sport-based athlete or an iron athlete in the weight room, landing skills are important for everyone. Build the brakes before you slam down on the pedal.

About the Author

Matthew Ibrahim serves as Co-Owner, Director of Strength & Conditioning and Internship Coordinator at TD Athletes Edge in Boston, MA.

He is also an Adjunct Professor at Maryville University and Endicott College, in addition to being a Ph.D. student at Rocky Mountain University in the Human and Sport Performance program.

As a public speaker, he has provided presentations at Google Headquarters, Stanford University, and Equinox, in addition to speaking at several NSCA conferences and clinics.

As a writer, his articles have been featured in some of the world’s largest publications, such as Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, and T-Nation.

Connect with him on Instagram – HERE.

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