Speed Training - Push Off Versus Landing Strength
By guest author: Thurman Hendrix
When it comes to sprinting, many athletes understand that they must forcefully push into the ground in order to thrust their body forward. Therefore, they work tirelessly in the weight room to improve their push-off (often called concentric) strength. Many use exercises such as squats and leg presses to accomplish this goal, usually focusing on the portion of the exercise in which they push or straighten out their legs. While this type of strength is extremely valuable for sprinting, many athletes often underestimate the type and amount of strength that is required in order to simply absorb their bodyweight and land upon each foot strike (often called eccentric strength).
When sprinting, runners usually hit the ground with force much greater than 4 times their body weight. In other words, a 200 hundred pound athlete will need to decelerate well over 800 pounds of force (landing strength) before they can then explode (push-off strength) back into the ground to move forward. Keep in mind that this force deceleration occurs on every stride they take during the sprint. Think about it, if their muscles were not activated during the landing portion of the stride their body would simply crumble to the ground under the force of gravity.
Many of the athletes that I train, including professionals, often wonder why I teach them landing techniques (eccentric) prior to teaching them jumping or explosive techniques (concentric). I then explain that in order to get full benefit out of doing something explosively (push-off strength), they must first be able to absorb and control all of their forces (landing strength).
Most exercises done in a weight room involve both a concentric and eccentric portion. Therefore, athletes are most likely already training this landing strength component. For example, in the first paragraph, I mentioned that they often use squats and leg presses and focus on the part of the exercise in which they straighten out their legs. This is the concentric (push) part and is usually perceived as the "hard" portion of the exercise. However, the lowering, eccentric part is equally important and should also be emphasized. Rather than just lowering the weight aimlessly, the athlete needs to focus on their form and technique so that they are in a safe and strong position when transitioning into the push-off phase. Again, if the muscles were not activated during the lowering portion of the lift, the athlete's body would get crushed!
Training eccentric (landing) strength can sometimes get complicated and should originally be taught under the guidance of a qualified professional. Exercises, such as depth jumps that involve falling from a distance before jumping may seem easy to understand, but due to the extreme forces involved and the demands that it places on the nervous system, one must respect this type of training and always start out slow.
To learn how to improve your 60 yard dash and baseball specific speed visit: http://www.60yarddash.com
Thurman Hendrix is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and specializes in training athletes. As a former pro baseball player he will help you increase speed in a very short amount of time.
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