How to Land Properly
“I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down, is the hardest thing.”
Tom Petty, jumping coach extraordinaire. Coming down really is the hardest thing in the world of jumping. A lot of people can jump, but few focus on how to complete the range of motion with proper landing, and how we land can influence our outcomes in very significant ways.
First, let’s define what landing consists of.
The landing phase of any jump starts the moment an athlete contacts the supporting surface and continues until their center of mass stops moving downward. This point is different for every kind of jump. For the box jump, we land at apex. For the bench jump over, we land after a period of deceleration.
The ankle, knee, and hip are the primary shock absorbers, and because the human body operates as a single, athletic kinetic chain, if any of the absorbers are off then it will be transferred up or down the chain. Jogging is equal to landing forces of 2x bodyweight and landing abruptly from an aggressive jump can be 4-11x bodyweight so it’s important we land properly by focusing on the following:
Land like a ninja
As you work your way up to more and more body control, you always want to think about landing soft like a ninja, not like a Clydesdale horse in full gallop. Soft landings mean less shock absorption on the joints, and typically more preserved ankles, knees, and hips. A good rule of thumb is to perform reps at heights you can perform “quietest” and then work your way up as your body control develops. A great movement to pay attention to this are Jump Overs, where we have to be under control past the point of apex (unlike a box jump).
Avoiding landing on the forefoot
If we land on the balls of our feet and in a position of heel-elevated ankle dorsiflexion, we turn the small bones of the toes into shock absorbers, a role for which they are not intended.
Bounding box jumps are one the single stupidest thing to ever be included in functional fitness, and thankfully they are mostly extinct now. These are when you hit the ground and immediately jump right back up, using recoil produced from the height of the fall back down to the ground to propel and spring you back up off of the ground so that there is no wasted time between reps. Some asshole somewhere told people to do this to shave some time and achilles surgeons around the world have been partying ever since. Fine, it’s a slight exaggeration but it’s not a movement any gen pop human being should ever do.
Here’s a few reps after some idiot juice:
Don’t do this.
Don’t Bottom Out
You want to avoid crashing into an uncontrolled squat in a movement like the box jump. Here is a great video of Coach John and Coach Ashley explaining it.
Perform repeatable reps
Land on what you can make and repeat. Pay attention to each and every rep. If you are over extending the height of your jump and find you cannot control your landing technique in steps one and two, it’s time to drop height. Treat your jumps like lifts. There is no need to rush the reps. We program power jumps into workouts for you guys so that you can take your time and develop.
Broad jumps, box jumps, and any other form of athletic plyometrics optimize the use of our tendons to store and recoil energy which improves our ability to efficiently produce power at higher outputs. They help build important connective tissue and stability for muscles, joints, and bones, and also teach our body to decelerate, especially in the broad jump. However, they can all go south if we don’t know how to land.
Steele, Julie. Sheppard. Sports Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation. “Landing Mechanics in Injury Prevention and Performance Rehabilitation.” 2016. P. 121. Print.