To help take your on-field performance to the next level, we are going to focus on the secret to change of direction quickness. You are probably thinking to yourself right now that you know the answer. The secret however, is actually the opposite of what would seem to be conventional…good deceleration technique.
For instance, when performing a standing vertical jump, most athletes will not correctly bend at the body’s hip, knee and ankle joints, correctly during the landing phase to absorb the ground gracefully. They usually come down making a loud thump noise under their feet upon landing. By doing so, the joints are taking the brunt of the force, as opposed to the muscles. Athletes tend to land way too stiff causing inefficient and unsafe ground contact. So when I am coaching someone on the deceleration of a jump or deceleration in general, I want to make sure that the athlete is displaying the correct form to absorb the ground quickly and gracefully by using the whole body. This ensures that the muscles are taking on the force of the impact, not the ligaments or joints.
So during the point of deceleration, make sure you are bending at the ankle, knee, and the hip joint, and that you have a flat strong spine. This will aid you in absorbing the ground and not the other way around. Also, make sure that your knees are in line with your toes and your hips. This will also cause less stress on your joints and make sure that your muscles are taking the hits.
So now at this point you are probably thinking to yourself, “Bill gave me the secret and he gave me the correct technique, but how is learning how to slow down properly going to make me quicker?” The answer. Now that your muscles are absorbing the contact force correctly, you are training the eccentric phase of those muscle groups. It is like stretching a rubber band. As you land from a jump, or about to change direction, you are putting a pre-stretch on your muscles that allows them to be more explosive upon the next contraction. This is crucial to understand for an athlete to maximize his or her performance. Knowing how to slow down to suddenly re- accelerate or change direction, improves quickness. By becoming more efficient and stronger in your ability to decelerate, the quicker you will re-accelerate. In a nutshell, learn how to slow down, if you want to become quicker.