Last week, the National Strength & Conditioning Association posted some research on swimming starts. It looked at long jump training and the effects it can have on starts.
For masters athletes, a few main questions and concerns arise when the word “jump” shows up in training.
- How do I jump properly to minimize injury?
- What is the proper way to program jumps into training?
- How can I progress jumps without equipment?
A1: Focus on landing mechanics. A large portion of jumping related injuries occur when an athlete attempts to land from a jump. When landing, an athlete wants to load the proper structures (muscles) versus improper structures (joints). On a well executed land, muscles provide a natural braking tool. What does a proper landing look like?
In this first picture, you can see that the shin is kept relatively vertical with the knees over the ankles. This allows force to travel up the body in proper sequence. The squat landing allows for muscle absorption of the force and a gradual slowing of the body. Landing similar to this will reduce chances of injury and allow the athlete to stay in control of the movement.
In this picture, landing has occurred in a straight legged position. The force is able to travel vertically from the landing. However, the muscles are unable to absorb the force as effectively and a controlled landing is tough to complete. In this position, force can vibrate up through the ankles, knees, and even hips. Over time, this can have a degenerative effect on joints.
You may also hear the term “land softly.” Landing softly, in its simplest form, means making as minimal noise on the ground as possible. Being able to land softly shows that the athlete is in control and decelerating at a manageable rate. With a straight leg landing, deceleration happens much more rapidly and results in a more jarred, out of control landing.
The last example involves a landing where one or both knees dive inward. In this landing, the red line also represents the direction force will travel from the ground through the knee joint. With an already twisted knee, this return force becomes even more dangerous. To avoid this, focus on keeping the knees pressed out on a landing. Minimizing shake in the knee upon landing will definitely play a role in injury reduction.
A2: The key with jump training is to start slow and rest often. For the first few sessions, you should spend your time on focusing on the mastery of form.
Set up with your feet about shoulder width apart. Feet pointed forward or slightly turned out.
The next phase is the countermovement. This involved a rapid downward loading of the body before transitioning to the jump phase. The countermovement should be done with pace. Completing a countermovement too slowly will result in less loading before the jump. We already discussed the landing mechanics above, so let’s focus on programming now.
- Schedule adequate recovery between jump sets. Leave around 2-5 minutes between jump sets. You can mix in other exercises during this time.
- For a masters athlete, 10-20 jumps total is sufficient. This is a good rule for when focusing on power development. When completing jumps focused only on speed off of ground (not height or distance), a higher repetition range may be used.
- Take a rest day between jump training. When focusing on the higher intensity of movement, it is good to take a break between jump sessions.
A3: Progression without equipment is easy!
The first step is use something to track your distance covered. Then try to beat it. This is the simplest form of progression. Trying to get a little further each week is a good goal.
After that, try adding multiple jumps in a row! This will challenge landing stability and transferring back to a power move effectively. Being able to reproduce high powered movements will help athletic endeavors.
Finally, add in single leg variations.
For this movement, start on on leg and land on one leg. This is super challenging from a landing perspective. It will also load the one leg more than a double leg variation. This is a natural way to add resistance to the movement. Really focus on landing properly!
What about vertical jumps? Do they serve a purpose?
Check out a sample of the new jump mechanics tutorial on RITTER Masters. We answer that question and show some other ways to maximize jump training.
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