How to Land Properly

“I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down, is the hardest thing.”
-Tom Petty

Not only is that my favorite Tom Petty song, but it doubles as a nice metaphor for leaving our feet in fitness, because 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.

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 broad jump, we land after a period of deceleration, and landing is even pertinent when in Weightlifting movements. 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:

  1. Avoiding leg stiffness upon surface impact. We must actively bend the ankles, knees and hips when we land in all jumping endeavors. Your landing should make minimal sound. If you are making a loud stomp on the ground (broad jump) or surface (plyo box), you likely need to flex more at the knee and ankle. 
  2. 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.
  3. Never rebound. Bounding box jumps are probably the single stupidest thing to ever be included in functional fitness. 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. It might shave a few seconds off of whatever time you are going for, but it’s also a highly effective way to rupture your Achilles tendon.
  4. Avoid acting like an asshole. Step 1, don’t rebound. Step 2, 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, depth jumps and any other form of athletic powermetrics 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.

Landing is a loaded movement and like anything we do under load, we must pay attention to technique.

-Dave Thomas

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Steele, Julie. Sheppard. Sports Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation. “Landing Mechanics in Injury Prevention and Performance Rehabilitation.” 2016. P. 121. Print.

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