Single Leg Impact Control Training Overview and Key Points
- Practice these drills until you can execute consecutive repetitions without loss of balance and good control.
- Increasing the height jumped from start position will make these drills more demanding as will increasing the height of the box for the depth drop.
- Progressing these drills to execution without the versa loop will also require more control and focus. As stated earlier, these drills can be practiced anywhere and if done at the end of a hard workout instead of a separate workout, the challenge increase on a fatigued body and legs.
- It is advised to practice fresh first before executing sessions under fatigue. The sensitivity of neuromuscular control in these positions will help to translate into training descending running. Running downhill requires separate practice but these drills will help ensure a solid foundation.
Single leg stability is a concept revisited during discussion of human performance, especially for athletes. The expression of power and speed can only start with a solid foundation. In previous articles we discussed techniques on improving single leg stability but what happens when we are required to increase the demands in that position such as progressing from a single leg squat to a single leg jump?
Training the neuromuscular system to properly express the explosive energy as well as impact control is important for running and athletic performance involving jumping. In the obstacle course racing community, descending steep terrain and hills, usually the side of a mountain, is a common requirement in training and competition. Many athletes have difficulty with descending running due to poor neuromuscular control, confidence, poor foundation required for the movement or inadequate exposure to the demands, resulting in injury or falls. Low back pain, knee pain, ankle sprains, stress fractures or falls are all common injuries that can occur.
Controlling your bodyweight over a single leg is one task but then controlling it under higher impact forces, velocity and most importantly, fatigue is a whole other task that requires specific training. Before starting with some of the wild and fancy explosive movements that can be seen all over social media these days, as always, starting with basic drills first, is the most practical. It allows for the neuromuscular system to adapt appropriately through proper progression and minimize risk for injury.
This article will cover some very simple drills that can be used to help train explosive and impact control training through a single leg. These drills can be done anywhere as they only involve body weight and versa loop band. It is alarming the amount of athletes that have difficulty controlling their bodies with a simple hop just 12 inches in either direction from their start position. Before progressing to large jumps and aggressive angles, start simple and focus on control in shorter distances.
Using a mirror for visual feedback at first can be helpful but it is highly encouraged to practice without using visual feedback so the neuromuscular system can become the primary controller and not the visual system. When running down a hill you will not have the luxury of looking into a mirror but will have to learn the sensitivity of feeling each step especially on uneven terrain and adapt accordingly.
Single Leg Side Hop With Sticking the Landing
Start position and band placement with finishing position. Focus on pushing out against the band to prevent the knee from collapsing inward upon push off or landing.
Take a versaloop and put it around the top of both knees. Assume a single leg position and ensure you are stable before executing the hop. Once stable, hop to the opposite side and “stick” the landing which means landing and holding the position without having to move the foot again or regain balance. Let your hips and knees flex slightly to absorb the impact. Focus on landing softly as if you are trying to make as minimal noise as possible upon landing. While landing, focus on pushing your legs slightly out against the band to ensure that there is no valgus or inward collapse of the knee on the landing side. Practice going back forth between sides executing a smooth, controlled landing.
If your form breaks down and there is excessive lateral foot weight bearing, loss of balance or rotation at the thigh and torso when landing, slow the pace down and take more time to reset between repetitions. Start with hopping the distance equivalent to your foot length then progress to double your foot length as the technique improves.
Forward and Backward Hopping with Sticking the Landing
Forward hopping with sticking the landing side view
With this drill you are focusing on impact control with forward movement and then returning back to the rear foot. With the versa loop around the top of the knees, assume the single leg stance position. Maintain a light tension in the band by moving your leg off the ground and outwards into the band. Hop forward about one foot length and land with a soft slight bend in the knee and hip while focusing on preventing torsion or rotation upon landing. Focus on a mostly upright and prevent side bending to maintain a level pelvis. Then hop backwards to land through the opposite leg to return to the start position with the same focus of control on the landing leg.
Forward hop and sticking the landing frontal view
Forward/Lateral Hopping and Sticking the Landing
Start position with band placement and finish position of forward/ lateral hop
Assuming the same position as the forward hop exercise, start in single leg stance with one leg driving upwards and the other driving down into the ground. Hop about one foot length forward and to the side about a 30-degree angle. Land with slight knee and hip flexion to absorb the impact. Keep your torso upright. This landing technique has you focusing on an off center movement combining a forward and lateral direction. Focus on landing evenly through the foot and not landing on the outside of the foot.
12 Inch Box Forward Depth Drop to Single Leg
Start position with band placement and finish position of depth drop off a 12” stool
Start by standing on a 12” stool or box. Then drop forward onto one leg while landing softly with slight knee and hip flexion. Focus on landing as light as possible. Push out against the band upon landing and focus on landing evenly through the foot. Return back up to the start position.
Mild flexion as the torso upon landing is ok to control your center of gravity. You do not need to land with a perfectly erect torso but make sure not to flex all the way forward upon landing as this negates the core control and puts stress onto the low back.
12 Inch Box Lateral Depth Drop to Single Leg Landing
Start position with band placement and finishing position of lateral 12” box drop
Assuming the same position as the forward depth drop drill, now focus on dropping down to either side with a lateral component. Same as before, land with slight knee and hip flexion to absorb the impact. Push the opposite leg out against the band to help resist inward collapse of the knee. Focus on landing on the entire foot especially with lateral movements such as this, practice avoiding the habit of landing onto the lateral aspect of the foot.
Squat Jump to Single Leg Landing
Start and finish position of the squat jump to single leg landing
Starting in a squat position to just above parallel with your knees pushing out against the band to maintain tension, jump up about 3-4 inches off the ground. Land on one leg with a mostly upright torso, maintaining tension in the band and with a slight knee and hip flexion. Mild torso flexion upon landing is ok with this drill. As control with this drill improves, increase the depth of your squat for a more challenging start position. You also can increase the height you jump, as this will increase the demand upon landing.
About The Author:
Michael St. George PT, DPT has been practicing for 10 years primarily in the outpatient and orthopedic setting. He works for a physical therapist owned private practice based in the greater Philadelphia area and surrounding suburbs. Mike is certified through Functional Movement Systems for FMS, SFMA and FCS which consist of screens and testing used to measure movement quality and performance. Mike also has experience with working with numerous surgeons and physicians from the Rothman institute. Currently he works primarily with ACL, meniscus and post surgical recovery and sports injuries, return to sport testing and performance, running evaluation and re training and hand and upper extremity conditions