Proper Landing Mechanics
Received an e-mail the other day requesting more information about proper landing mechanics. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail:
Could you talk a little about landing positions, if you haven’t already done so? I remember reading a comment recently about coaches emphasizing legs together on landings, but it makes more kinesiological sense to have knees and feet shoulder width apart. The Gymnastic Minute on YouTube addressed the correct landing posture today, but I’d like to have a more in-depth explanation.
Here’s the YouTube video that this individual is referring to:
In terms of the feet being together versus apart, a wider base of support allows for more stability. Secondly, it is nearly impossible to get the hips shifted back enough to allow the glutes and hamstrings to assist in absorbing the energy from the landing if the feet are together. Why is this important?
The hamstrings originate on the ischium of the pelvis and attach on the back of the tibia (shin bone). Their main job is to bend the knee and their secondary job is to open or extend the hip. Well, as the knee bends from a landing, the hamstrings will activate and pull the shin bone backwards. This takes some of the stress off of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ACL attaches at the back of the femur (upper leg bone) and the front of the tibia. Its main job is to prevent the tibia from moving forward too much. So, if the hamstrings activate and pull the shin backwards, this takes some of the load off of the ACL.
Now for the glute max. The glute max’s main job is to open the hip (extension). However, the glute max also helps in controlling rotation of the femur since it partly inserts on the greater trochanter of the femur. (I say “partly” because part of it also forms with the TFL and creates a sheath that runs down the side of the leg known as the IT Band and this connects on the side of the tibia) Further, it assists the gluteus medius (as Kris Robinson mentions in the YouTube clip) in preventing the knees from dropping in – known as “valgus” position.
Controlling rotation of the femur and preventing it from dropping inward is very important to knee health. Coupled with an inwardly rotated tibia, you’ve got the makings for disaster. This is why what appears to be a perfect landing could end with the gymnast on the ground in agonizing pain. Having been witness to a couple of these in my coaching career, I now have a better understanding behind the “why.”
While this is all well and good, the problem is that gymnastics promotes a quad-dominant landing despite the obvious biomechanical problems that it presents. Despite the traditional gymnastics approach, I encourage all of you to think about the health of your gymnast and consider having them bend at their hips a bit more and push their butt backwards to allow for the glutes and hamstrings to engage more and assist in absorbing the landing. Your gymnast’s knees will be thankful later.
Anyway, I hope this offers some insight into proper landing mechanics and their importance.