Landing mechanics has always been a hot topic within the realm of the rehabilitation and sports medicine world. Let’s be honest, watching elite athletes perform at a high level and analyzing their movement is sexier than most low-level rehab exercises for movement enthusiasts. So it’s natural for clinicians and trainers to get excited when teaching someone landing mechanics. However, we want to ensure that clinicians are thorough when assessing patients, as subtle compensations and poor movement patterns with landing mechanics are often easy to miss! In this article, you’ll learn the basics of what to focus on with teaching landing mechanics!
The Basics With Landing Mechanics
Landing mechanics, in short, is simply how you land and how it looks. Landing is utilized in many different sports, such as a more simple landing like coming down from a rebound in basketball, or the more extreme side of the spectrum such as gymnasts sticking a backflip. To master landing mechanics, you have to have big brakes, meaning strong muscles throughout your lower extremities as well as great core stability. Before you even start working on landing mechanics, you need to have prerequisites of adequate strength and deceleration skills. If you need to work more on deceleration before progressing to landing mechanics, read our blog post below!
Once you have checked the boxes off in regards to adequate strength and deceleration control, then you can work on landing mechanics. Below are some of the basics I want to check off and accomplish with landing mechanics. We want to ensure that our body has a solid base and foundation before moving into jumping exercises. There will be less force through the body as well when transitioning to a landing position due to the decreased amount of time spent in the air, leading to fewer ground reaction forces. This is also good earlier on in rehab when someone is recovering from a particular injury, and you want to avoid disruption of the healing process.
Above is an ideal representation of what landing mechanics should and shouldn’t look like. There are a couple of things I also want to make note of below.
Form – Shoulders in line with the hips, hips in line with the knees, shoulders stacked over knees, knees stacked over toes. You can appreciate this by looking at someone head-on (see photo above) and from the side.
Active Shock Absorption – Another word for absorbing force and landing softly using the muscles vs. hard/stiff landings putting more stress through the tendon and the joint. There is a time and place to practice harder landings, however, I like to teach someone landing mechanics first with a soft landing. An easy way to cue this is to tell the person to be quiet with their landing.
Looking To Get Back To Jumping After An Injury?
Eventually, as individuals start to progress towards more plyometric exercises such as bounding and jumping, stiffer landings are actually preferred. This is because with plyometrics, the goal is to generate more force, and the way to generate more force is by decreasing ground contact time and taking advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle of the tendons. Quicker landing to jumping movements will result in more powerful movements! These stiffer movements are ok, as long as the foundations of landing are mastered before progressing to higher-level plyometric exercises. This is explained in the video below.
When And Why Shock Absorption Matters
Weight Distribution – You don’t want the weight shifted too far back on the heels or too far forward on the toes. We also don’t want to see someone favoring one side more than the other, poor balance, or lack of trunk control. This is something I review in the video later on with Mike.
You often hear when landing, “stick your butt back” and think about having the weight on your heels. Yes, this is a good movement strategy (known as the hip strategy) to utilize as it places an emphasis on posterior chain muscle activation with less strain through our knees; however, be sure that individuals are not utilizing this too much with their toes lifting off the ground!
One way to test this as a clinician is to apply a perturbation (a slight push to the body in a specific direction), in this case, a forward to backward perturbation, and assess if the patient is able to maintain their balance/center of mass. If your patients fall backward towards their heels, they may be over-utilizing the hip strategy and will need to work on a proper balance between knee and hip strategies.
Master Landing Techniques and More With Our Jump Basics Program
In order to become successful with jumping, whether it is a part of your exercise routine or sports you participate in, you have to start with the basics. In this program, that is exactly what you will gain access to! From there, you can progress to our jump performance program, and take yourself to new heights you never thought were possible – quite literally.
How To Assess And Teach Landing Mechanics With Craig And Mike
Key takeaways from this video:
Make sure that your eyes are up as you progress with landing exercises, as this translates to where your eyes are with sports and other activities! You do not keep your eyes down when you are scanning the field as a soccer player or looking to make a pass in basketball! You always want to focus your rehab on making it as specific as possible to the types of activities you are eventually returning to. Becoming too visually dependent on your movement can be detrimental!
Find the balance in weight between a knee and hip strategy as we discussed above. It will take some time to master, but with repetitions, you will be able to find that sweet spot of a good posterior weight shift, while maintaining your control
Perturbations can be added to make landing mechanics even better. Make it unexpected to promote anticipatory control!
Look to see if someone is favoring one side and apply perturbations to promote feedback to the patient. For example, if someone is returning to activity following an ACL reconstruction, that individual may ever so slightly shift their weight towards their uninvolved knee, either due to decreased strength, motor control, or stability in the affected knee! Again this could be very subtle to notice to the naked eye in real-time speed, but you can slow it down with video, or apply perturbations towards each leg to see how a patient responds
Plyometrics, including landing mechanics, is a crucial component of ACL rehab. Listen to our [P]Rehab Audio Experience episode with Dr. Wesley Wang discussing this and much more!
So you watched the video above and you’re trying to teach someone landing mechanics, however, it’s just not working out. Don’t stress it, below you will find a few videos to help build someone up to depth landings demonstrated in the video with Craig and Mike. We are here to help you master your landing mechanics!
Single Leg Landing Mechanics
Once you master double-leg landing mechanics, you can move on to single-leg landing mechanics.
The Prehab membership is the anti-barrier solution to keeping your body healthy. Access state-of-the-art physical therapy, fitness programs, and workouts online in the comforts of your own home or gym! Taking control of your health with exercise & education from the palm of your hand has never been easier. Get access to 50+ programs, 100+ unique workouts, and 3000+ exercises to build your own workout routines. Trial it for free, and learn how to get out of pain, avoid injury, and optimize your health with [P]rehab!
HOW: Begin by standing on an elevated surface. Step off of the surface with one foot and land with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Absorb the landing by bending your knees and hinging forward at the waist.
FEEL: You will feel all the muscles in your legs working.
COMPENSATION: Landing Position. Make sure your knees are aligned over your toes. They should not dive inwards on the landing. Your goal is to absorb as much of the landing forces as you can and land softly. That means that you want your hips and knees to bend as much as they need to, to absorb the force. If you do not let them bend much, you will land “stiff” and hard. Let your hips go back and while keeping your chest up to help absorb the forces. Your toes should touch the ground first when you land and quickly your heels will follow. You should land in a “ready position” like you would if you were playing sports, with your weight ever so slightly forward on the balls of your feet. You should not fall forward or backward after landing.
The main takeaways about teaching landing mechanics from this article are:
Brakes before gas! Strong and stable musculature, as well as high-quality deceleration in all three planes of movement, is required before progressing to landing mechanics
Soft landing versus stiff landing
A soft landing is what is performed when first mastering landing mechanics to decrease ground reaction forces as well as promote proper stability. Stiff landings are utilized during the latter phases of plyometrics when focusing on power. Understanding what tissues are stressed with each type of landing will help you make a better-informed decision with your programming.
Watch for subtle compensations with landing such as:
– Favoring uninvolved lower extremity after an injury
– Shifting too far back on heels when attempting to utilize hip strategy, or even too far forward if attempting to utilize knee strategy
– Utilize perturbations to decipher if someone is having compensatory movements when landing if it is too difficult to see in real-time speed
Want to Master Jumping? Master The Fundamentals First
A key aspect to feeling resilient and confident is owning the fundamentals or basics with graded exposure. It is not wise to do 50 box jumps if you haven’t jumped in a month. It’s not wise to do 50 box jumps if your form is compensated. It is wise to take the time to own the fundamentals of jumping and then move into performance. What we are trying to say is, that you are wise!
About The Author
Craig Lindell, PT, DPT, CSCS
[P]rehab Co-Founder & Chief Content Officer
Craig is a South Jersey native & Penn State Kinesiology Alumni. When the opportunity came, Craig packed his bags and drove to California to pursue his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. With [P]rehab, Craig oversees all digital content creation and multi-channel publication that reaches millions of people on a weekly basis. As a PT, Craig has a wide array of experience from working with various neurological conditions to working with collegiate & professional athletes across the Big Five in North American sports. Experiencing physical therapy first-hand as a soccer player in high school, Craig has a passion & special interest in adolescent athletic development working with young athletes to overcome injuries. In his spare time, Craig enjoys exercising, playing golfing, hiking, traveling, watching Philly sports, and spending quality time with his family.
Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.