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Learning to Fly

The other day I wrote about understanding the fundamentals of speed. The main premise being that you must get stronger and be able to produce more force if you want to increase your speed. So if getting stronger is the first step, the second part to the speed equation is being able to produce force quickly.

The ability to produce force quickly is often referred to as power and the most common form of power or explosive training is plyometrics. When talking about developing lower body power, plyometrics often consist of different types of jumps. While it is true that jumping is a great way to develop power unfortunately as often happens people skip steps and want to get right to the big pay off without instituting the proper foundation first. In the case on jumping everyone is only concerned with how high or how far they can jump, in other words the concentric phase of the movement. In reality if you want to be fast and powerful it all starts with the landing. In order to be able to accelerate quickly and explosively in any sport whether it’s jumping or changing direction you must be able to decelerate efficiently. The ability to decelerate effectively is what puts the athlete in the proper position to able to accelerate.

The foundational drill that we use for athletes when teaching them how to land or decelerate properly is what we call altitude landings, a phrase coined by strength coach Eric Cressey, in which the athlete simply steps off a plyo box and lands on the ground in a good balanced athletic position. If done properly this position should have the athlete land softly with slight hip and knee flexion and  their ankles, knees and hips all stacked over their feet. When in this position of controlled deceleration the athlete is now in the best possible position for them to be able to produce force through a sprint or jump. Much like the old saying you must learn to walk before you run you also must learn to land before you jump.

If you are planning on employing jumping into your training routine to help develop increases in power be sure to make use of this often overlooked tool to maximize your ability to decelerate efficiently and effectively in turn giving you the power to fly.