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Teach them to Land First

Posted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:28 pm
by Jason Nunn
Teach Them to Land First

Jason Nunn MS, CSCS

Plyometrics have been a part of most athletic development programs for many years. It has become quite commonplace for coaches to implement these sort of hops, jumps, and triple jump variations during the speed and acceleration development periods of their programs. These sorts of drills have been proven time and again to improve both starting strength and elastic strength in athletes. In most of the beginning literature from the Soviets, the thought was that an athlete must be able to squat two and a half times their own bodyweight to be able to perform plyometrics. However, in most athletic programs, this simply will not work. Most athletes today will not have the time to develop this type of strength. Honestly, this would limit most athletes from being able to perform this type of exercise. For example, Hossein Rezzazadeh weighs three hundred and sixty pounds, can clean and jerk five hundred and eighty pounds and squat eight hundred and sixty pounds (raw I might add). Yet, by these rules, he cannot do plyometrics.


Sorry Mr. Rezzazadeh, I know you can clean and jerk a house, but you can’t do box Jumps.

Given this, I do not think an old way of measuring strength is applicable to today’s athlete. Rather than just looking at squatting strength, let’s look at their relative and functional strength. By relative strength, I mean the ratio of an athlete’s strength to their bodyweight, and by functional strength, I mean the ability of an athlete to “stick” a landing without a valgus of the knees (adduction of the knee relative to the hip and ankle) and collapsing the core (excessive forward lean).

Valgus Knees

Excessive Forward Lean

It is my opinion that many strength coaches tend to put the carriage before the horse. That is, they are in such a great hurry to get their athletes “stronger”, that they neglect any type of progression or injury prevention in their periodization scheme. Most of all athletic injuries occur during deceleration and in the transverse plane. That means that most of the athletes are trying to simultaneously stop and turn at the same time when they are injured. This is the most common in females, due to the natural angle of their hips. Let’s break this down a little bit and discuss the excessive forward lean and torso vertical stability and torso rotational stability first. Then, we’ll look at the valgus knee issue.

Excessive Forward Lean

In training the core (anything between the hips and the chest) it is important to remember that the primary responsibility of these muscle groups is lumbar spine stability, not mobility. This is key when addressing the excessive forward lean. Most times, the excessive forward lean is due to having a weak core. If the athlete’s core is not strong enough to absorb the force of the landing, the core will collapse causing them to buckle forward. To prevent this from happening, you must first focus on the isometric strengthening of the core musculature (pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, diaphragm, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, and rectus abdominus). Here are some exercises to incorporate into your program to do so:

Front Bridge

Pull the naval in towards the spine and squeeze the gultes

Side Bridge


Keep the hips even with the shoulders.

Side Bridge with Glute Activation


Press the knee firmly into the ground.

Bent Knee Bridge


Hold each of these 6 – 30 seconds depending on the athlete’s strength level.

Valgus Knees

Like stated earlier, valgus knees are the adduction of the knees in relation to the hip and ankle. This is a very dangerous position that can lead to many knee injuries, as well as, several other hip and low back problems throughout the kinetic chain. For most athletes, this is just a simple matter of re-learning the motor pattern. If this is the case, the easiest way to do this is doing a drill I call “Landing Mechanics”. (Very creative, I know) This is a drill that I incorporate at the end of my dynamic warm up.

Frontal Landing x 5


Starting Position Landing Position

Have the athlete start on a bench or plyo box that is about knee height and fall into a good landing position.

If you’ve done the following drills for a couple weeks and the athlete is still exhibiting the same valgus knees, this may be a sign that there are bigger problems that may need some extra attention. A little corrective exercise training may be order.

First off, let’s look at the problem. The knees are moving inward. Let’s take the Janda approach and look at which muscles are locked long (weak) and which opposing muscles are locked short (tight). I think that Gray Cook put it best when he said, “The knee is a slave to the hip and the ankle. For dysfunction in the knee, look either a foot north or a foot south, you will find your problem.”

Possible Tight Areas

IT – Band

Tensor Fasciae Latae

Peroneal Complex

Outer Head of the Gastrocnemeus

Possible Weak Areas

Gluteal Complex

Vastus Medialis (VMO)

Hip Adductors

Corrective Exercise Training for the Valgus Knees

Now that we’ve identified which muscles are tight and which ones are weak, let’s look at how to fix the situation. First, we will start with lengthening the short muscles by:

Foam Rolling:

IT – Band


Start with the roller at the greater trochanter and work your way towards the lesser trochanter. Hold each tender spot thirty seconds.

Peroneal Complex

Roll from the head of the fibula to the lateral malleolus. Hold each tender spot thirty seconds.

Static Stretch:


Be sure that the arch of the back foot does not collapse

Hip Flexors


Squeeze the glutes and keep the shoulders back.

Following the foam rolling and static stretching, you will implement a comprehensive dynamic warmup. Then, you will be able to incorporate the core above mentioned isometric core exercises, as well as, the following:

Lateral Tube Walks

Begin with a mini band just above the knees and the feet just a little wider than hip width. Then, while maintaining core stability, step out just wider than shoulder width. Then, step back to starting stance. Do this 10x to the right and 10x to the left.

Hip Thrusts


Begin with one leg bent just past 90 degrees at the knee and the other pointed straight up. Press the heal of the foot into the ground, squeeze the glute, and press the hips up as high as possible. Repeat 10x each leg.

Athletes get injured for three reasons. They either aren’t strong enough, aren’t flexible enough, or by contact. If the athlete gets hit by a car, you can’t help that, but you may be able to fix the other two! By spending a little time working on preventative maintenance, the coach greatly reduces the risk of injury to their athletes.


Janda V. Muscles and cervicogenic pain syndromes. In: Grant R., editor.Physical therapy of the cervical and thoracic spine. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 1988. p. 153-66.

Meyer, G.D., et. Al., Neuromuscular Training Improves Performance and Movement Biomechanics. J. Strength Cond. Res. 19:51 – 60. 2005

Rodger, Robb, Kids Jump Down.

Jason Nunn is a Personal Trainer and Sports Performance Coach in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is the Owner of Nunn’s Performance Training, LLC. He works with clients of all levels from weekend warriors to division I athletes. Check out for more info.

Posted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:31 pm
by Jason Nunn
Dont know how this ended up here. Can it be moved to the articles? Not sure if the pics are gonna work so here's a link to my website with the pics ... 0first.htm

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 3:10 am
by Rik-Blades
Jason Nunn wrote:Not sure if the pics are gonna work so here's a link to my website with the pics
Try using the 'preview' button before 'submit', that way you can tell if you've made a hash of your post.

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:30 pm
by Ironman
I'll move it and fix your pictures.

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:45 pm
by Ironman
What you needed to do was right click the pictures and choose view image, then copy that url. You did the [img] part right though.

Posted: Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:15 pm
by Jason Nunn
Ironman wrote:What you needed to do was right click the pictures and choose view image, then copy that url. You did the [img] part right though.
Thanks for the help!

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:20 pm
by Jason Nunn
Just posted to elitefts. Check it out

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:31 pm
by hoosegow
I saw that Jason. Pretty cool. Congrats. Good info, too.