In all walks of life we tend to learn things from its foundational phase and slowly but surely make it more complex until we are efficient at that skill or task. Crawl, before you walk and walk before you run are the two most basic progressions we learn growing up.
Oddly enough, when it comes to another basic movement, such as jumping, we very rarely see landing being taught beforehand.
It’s clear to see why we would want to perform jump training (or plyometric training):
- It is one of the most effective ways to improve the relationship between maximum strength and explosive power, a critical component of many sports.
- It allows us to learn how to create power through triple extension (ankle, knees and hips in full extension).
- There’s evidence that a better jump can make you faster.
- Combined with other modes of training it helps make up a very well rounded athletic development program.
- Winning a header in football, blocking a shot in basketball, blocking a spike in volleyball and catching a pass in the end zone of American football are just some basic examples of how out jumping an opponent could be the difference between winning and losing in a competitive environment.
But why learn how to land?
Very simply, if you jump you have to land.
If you can’t land safely i.e. absorb the impact of the force with proper foot strike and align the hips, knees an ankles appropriately then you will be increasing your risk of injury after every jump or worse actually getting injured there and then.
Imagine if pilots were never taught how to land but were excellent at taking off, would you be quite happy to jump on board?
Learning to land before you can jump undoubtedly seems frustratingly obvious, BUT after a decade of coaching in sport and fitness of all levels I can quite confidently say that the large majority of people haven’t learned this key foundational movement skill. We see fancy hurdle drills, fitness training using endless amount of box jumps and of course jumps during competition without any care of the potential damage we are doing during the landing phase.
So, whilst jump training is highly effective and very low risk for athletes, if we want to be able to deliver or participate in a well rounded athletic development program it’s essential that we do what we learned to do from birth, and that is taking it one step at a time.
Here are my go to progressions, which have been successful with both low and high level athletes when teaching jumps:
1) Landing Technique
Land like a ninja! Imagine landing on a glass table you don’t want to break for a soft landing to absorb the impact of your jump. Drop squats are a good place to start.
2) Stick Landings for Stabilization.
Perform submaximal two footed long jumps and hold in the landing position for 3-5 seconds to improve eccentric and stabilization strength.
3) Jump UP!
Now you can teach athletes how to take off and to use a forceful swing of the arms, which can also have a positive impact on the force generated.
Start by jumping onto a box or bench around knee height. Progress that to around mid thigh height.
I highly recommend these steps be done without rushing the teaching process. Master each step one at a time. Some athletes may be able to learn these three steps competently in one session but some may take longer.
These are the most basic and simple progressions. Once completed, more complex progressions can be addressed such as:
- Repetitive jumps in place
- Repetitive continuous jumps over hurdles
- Single Leg Hops
- Short Jumps
- Long Jumps
- Depth Jumps
In summary, regardless of what level you compete at, to maximize the benefits of jump training and to do so safely, learn how to land first and then master the natural progressions suggested above.