What do you picture when you think of deceleration in sports? A wide receiver getting into a cut? A basketball player going hard to the basket and pulling back for a jump shot? Those are great examples of deceleration but we look at deceleration as a whole a lot of times and miss some vital elements.
Let’s take a look at deceleration in its many forms. As a strength and conditioning coach I see deceleration in the weight room with every rep. It’s the eccentric portion of the lift. As a coach with a background in multi-directional speed, I see deceleration in a dynamic fashion with quick changes of direction or landings from a jump. Deceleration also occurs with every step you take. When your front foot hits the ground it sets off a chain reaction where muscles slow, control the actions of the body. And this is where I want to focus today.
We are going to start at the foot and work up to the hip in regards to deceleration. Recently, we have been working with a soccer player returning from a knee injury. After watching him perform lunges it quickly became clear to me, he can not decelerate properly. His foot would roll to the outside (think twisting your ankle) when stepping forward and lowering to the ground. Here are some points on why your foot finding the floor is important…
- Multiple points of contact on the foot give the brain feedback it needs for stability, control and muscle activation
- Pronation of the foot causes internal rotation of the femur which loads muscles (think about stretching a rubber band, that is what internal rotation of the femur does for the glute max.)
- When your foot is firm on the ground you are less likely to twist an ankle
- The glute max is allowed to work. It controls, stops the internal rotation so the knee doesn’t fall in and possibly become injured.
- If the foot stays rolled out (supinated) and the glute can’t work properly then compensations may occur causing issues such as patella femoral pain (front of the knee), tibial torsion, tension in the lateral leg because it is trying to be a butt to help the glute.
Start with a static position like a half kneeling (one knee down, one foot down, stationary lunge position) and see if the athlete can demonstrate control without anything to decelerate. Then you simply progress accordingly.
Example: ½ kneeling chop to a split squat to a reverse lunge to a forward lunge to a jump with split stance landing
Wrapping this up, when giving an exercise to an athlete that requires deceleration, whether it is aggressive cutting or squats, make sure they can decelerate properly. We want the appropriate muscles performing the right tasks so look at the whole picture…including the feet.