Push-off versus Landing Strength...
and how they Relate to Speed
order to move your body forward during sprinting, most athletes realize
that they need to explosively push down and back into the ground.
Therefore, they’ll train for hours in the weight room working towards
improving their push-off strength (another term for push-off strength
is concentric strength). Most will use traditional exercises such
as leg presses and squats in hopes of accomplishing this goal, often
only paying attention to the part of the movement in which they “push”
or straighten out their legs from a bent position. While I’m not
denying that push-off strength is extremely useful in order to run
fast, many athletes usually under appreciate another form of strength
called “landing” or “eccentric” strength. This type of strength
is responsible for absorbing the large amount of gravitational and
bodyweight forces that occur every time a foot hits the running surface.
sprinting, athletes often strike the ground with force much greater
than four times of what they weigh. Meaning an athlete weighing
205 lb will be required to absorb well over 800 lbs of force upon every
stride taken during the top speed phase of the sprint. This makes
sense because if their muscles did not turn on during the landing phase
of each stride their body would collapse due to gravity.
training my athletes I always start by teaching eccentric, landing
techniques before teaching concentric, jumping/push-off
techniques. Many of them feel like I’m starting them out too
slow, but the only way to maximize explosive, push-off strength is to
be sure that they are first able to control and absorb all landing
Traditional weight room exercises usually require both
an eccentric and concentric portion. In other words, if you are
lifting weights you are probably already doing a form of eccentric
(landing strength) training. As stated earlier, when doing a
squat, athletes usually key in on the phase of the lift in which they
push into the ground in order to return to a tall position. This
is because this concentric/push portion is usually recognized as the
difficult part of the lift. On the other hand, when lowering the
weight back down for the next rep many athletes appear to be taking a
break. While this part may seem easier, they must understand that
this eccentric/lowering is just as (if not more) important than the
push phase that follows. Instead of simply lowering without
focus, the athlete should concentrate on their form and center of
balance. When done correctly, they will end up in an advantageous
position in which to transition into the concentric/push phase.
Remember, if your muscles were not working during the “down” part of
the movement, your body would collapse!
An example of a drill
that stresses the eccentric component is a depth jump. This is an
exercise in which the athlete steps down from a prescribed distance,
lands, and then jumps back up in the air as high as possible.
While this exercise may seem simple, it places great demands on many
systems of the body. Like many exercises, it can reap great
rewards when done correctly. Therefore, when first incorporating
technical exercises it is recommended that you seek the advice of a
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