Editors Note: This is the twelfth post of our series designed to help you run for a lifetime. If you're tired of dealing with injuries every time you start running and wonder if you're even capable of running pain-free, this series is for you. You can find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, and Part 11 in the hyperlinked text.
The last stop on our journey to transform your body, your routines, and your running performance is here. If you've been hard at work to meet the standards we've laid out in this series, by now you should have a solid hold on what your actual strengths and weaknesses are.
Today, we'll enter the last standard every runner should be able to achieve.
Standard #12 Jumping and Landing
Specifically, can you jump and land with good mechanics? In essence, the running motion is a series of single-leg mini squats each time your foot hits the ground. The ability to maintain good posture and alignment in this instance has a direct correlation to the health of your ankles, knees, hips, and low back.
Similar to our Squatting Standard, landing from a jump should demonstrate your ability to create a stable mid-line, produce torque at the hips, and control your foot and knee position as your feet hit the ground. If your feet turn out and your knees collapse in when you land from a jump, it's a good bet your body does the same thing when you run. And there's no amount of tape, arch support, or pain medication that will keep you from shredding your patellar tendons and grinding your knee cartilage to dust if you run like a duck (toes out) or a pigeon (toes in).
Mastering good jumping and landing mechanics takes a huge injury risk off the table and helps you develop better strength through your posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) as well as your feet and ankles.
Passing the Jumping and Landing Standard is a two-part test. First, can you jump and land with both legs, maintaining good foot, knee, and spine position?
Test #1: Jumping Onto A Box
Sit back in a quarter squat position, loading your hip and hamstrings, keeping your mid-line engaged and back neutral.
Forcefully extended your knees and hips, pushing off the ground while your arms swing forward and upwards.
Good landing position looks exactly like a good squat position: your shins are vertical, your back is straight, and your knees are out with your feet pointing straight ahead.
Fault #1: Knees collapsing inward
If you land with your knees touching or inside the arches of your feet, please stop it, while your ACL's are still intact.
Fault #2 (Feet turned out)
If you land like this (with your feet turned out like a duck), not only are you collapsing your arches but once again you are creating an abnormal amount of torque in your knees that will grind those joints down at an exponential rate.
Test #2: Single Leg Jumps
Our second jumping and landing test will tell you if you've got good power in your lower legs and enough strength down there to control how your foot contacts the ground. Additionally, single leg jumping is the perfect antidote for weak feet and ankles, as well as a quality way to warm-up before you run.
Jump from your hips and minimize your knee bend
Keep neutral position from head to toe, including a straight back
Land on your forefoot and let your heel kiss the ground before hopping up again. Each landing should be performed with the foot straight and knee in a neutral position.
To pass this test, you should be able to perform 50 hops on your right foot, and 50 hops on your left foot without losing good position.
If you are struggling to meet these standards, I suggest two things. First, re-visit your squat form and begin a daily routine of squatting to ingrain good alignment for your lower body and trunk. When you can pass the Tabata squatting protocol we outlined, you should be ready to start training your jumping and landing mechanics.
If you passed this standard, as mentioned above, both of these variations are great exercises to practice on a weekly basis. Maintaining good jumping and landing mechanics is a sure-fire method to help you run your best. And plugging in 30 squats and 30 single-leg jumps for each leg is an awesome way to prime the pump of your lower body muscles before you head out for your next run.
NEED MORE HELP?
That's where we come in. You can contact us via e-mail or phone and set up a free 15-minute phone consult if you're a runner who's tired of getting hurt and you want to run pain-free again. We've helped countless runners restore their bodies and run better than they ever had even before injuries. Don't hesitate to give us a shout, we're ready to help you!