Stopping is More Important than Starting
Everyone wants to go faster, that’s a given. Taking .2 of a second off your 40 yard dash is a “sexy” number. But what happens to your body when it tries to deal with that extra force you’re producing? Agility and the ability to stop and change direction is generally more important than absolute speed.
When you hit the ground, the ground hits back. Ground reactive (GR) force is basic physics in action, therefore the faster one moves, the more force they generate. The more force that is generated into the ground, the more is returned and the stronger the corresponding muscles must be to control that force. Controlling and neutralizing that force is essential to the health and longevity of joints and connective tissue. Training must include training proper braking mechanics and joint stability to adequately ensure injury prevention.
Most running gurus will tell you that proper technique for running is on the ball of the foot and speed is determined by forward lean. Braking, however, is initiated through the heel, with the focus on dropping the hips and spreading out the force. Learning to come from a sprint to a gradual, rather than an immediate stop by dropping the hips and keeping the toes up will cause the GR Force to be absorbed through posterior muscle and away from the knees and quads where toe braking is done. Toe braking can be attributed to numerous common lower body injuries, such as tendonitis, Jumper’s Knee, ACL damage, etc. When the Quad performs double duty by being used for acceleration and deceleration, an imbalance is caused in the strength in front and back of the body, the first sign of this imbalance is knee pain, generally just below the kneecap. Where pain is the warning sign, injury often follows unless steps are taken to prevent it. Braking drills such as bounding to a hold position, Box Jumps with a focus on landing and Broad Jumps, also with a focus on landing can help improve braking ability.
A simple test to measure the difference in strength between the quad and hamstring is the position of the knee in relation to the toe during squatting and lunging movements. One should be able to maintain the knee directly over or slightly in front of the ankle, without passing the toes in an unweighted squat or lunge. If not, the hamstring may be unable to overcome the forward pull of the quad. This can be corrected by the implementation of proper form training and the addition or substitution of Romanian Dead-Lifts (RDL) or other hamstring heavy movements.
Everyone wants to be faster and stronger, however one should not pay a price for those achievements. Strength should be universal, including the muscle used for control as well as that used for power. The inability to control the force one generates makes that force nearly useless and often dangerous.
Jaime Gamache M.Ed., CSCS, is Owner and Head Strength Coach of The Way Human Performance Institute ( www.thewayhpi.com and www.facebook.com/pages/The-Way-Human-Performance-Institute/117742824954659 )