By Jen Bazan, PT, DPT
Let’s talk about landings. When gymnasts land, they need to absorb a significant amount of force (over 14x their body weight!) in a short amount of time and they are expected to stick this landing! Sometimes if everything is not working in sync, you can see a stiff legged landing with an increase in the arch of the back. This puts a lot of stress throughout the vertebrae as well as the knee and foot/ankle joints. Our spine and pelvis need to be able to absorb the force of our landing. The knees should act as a shock absorber. The mobility and control of movement in the ankles are also important in order to be able to navigate landing on an unstable mat surface. My first exercise today is a basic squat. Make sure to follow my cues because if you are doing this correctly, you should be feeling this in the back of your legs (not your quads!) as well as in your core. This helps to prep the body to absorb forces when you land.
My second exercise works on ankle mobility as well as core control. Two very important concepts when trying to stick a landing. If you are able to perform the motion without any loss of balance or fatigue in the bottom of your feet, challenge yourself even further and practice on a balance beam, pillow, or any other unstable surface.
And lastly, this third exercise progresses our functional movement pattern even further. Posting yourself against the wall will help generate tension throughout the body. You will be activating the back side of your standing leg eccentrically, then challenging it to concentrically fire to drive your body upward. This is a glute burn!
Remember, the key to these exercises are to perform them slowly and with control in order to get the proper muscle recruitment. This intrinsic stabilization will soon become second nature to you and as you progress back into your sport with jumping and landing, and your body will be stabilizing for you!
As always, it is always better to have movement analyzed by a professional. We teach movement day in and day out and know the proper form and progression. If you have any concerns/questions, please reach out!