What is deceleration? Slowing down, cutting or stopping completely: all three actions are examples of deceleration.
For being such a crucial skill, many athletes don't pay much attention to deceleration.
How efficiently muscles absorb force is what determines an athlete's ability to stop or change direction. Efficient deceleration is something all athletes can benefit from. It decreases the risk of injury and improves performance in sports. Getting stronger eccentrically and isometrically while also improving landing technique are some surefire ways to make you a better decelerator. Now, let's breakdown how an athlete can go about doing that.
1. Eccentric Lower-Body Strength Improves Deceleration
The eccentric phase is the lowering part of a movement, which often gets neglected. Think of lowering yourself to parallel on a Squat, or bringing your back knee toward the ground on a Lunge. How much attention do we put on these movements? Not a whole lot. However, they play a crucial role when an athlete decides to slow down. The Skater Squat is a perfect exercise that can teach how to lower the body under control while maintaining a good stable single-leg base.
This movement naturally forces an athlete to concentrate more on the eccentric part of the movement, which makes it so different than many other lower-body strength exercises.
2. Build Better Lower-Body Isometric Strength
An isometric phase of an exercise refers to holding one position for a particular period of time. During this phase, muscle length remains the same, and so does the joint angle. Simply adding a two-second hold at the bottom of a Forward Lunge will help you focus on isometric strength and make your stop more controlled.
The reason why I have a resistance band around my upper back is to put more pressure on the torso when getting into a lunge position. In basketball, when you are sprinting with the ball and decide to stop for a shot, step back or change direction, your upper body is the first part that tends to fall forward due to momentum. To keep your risk of injury to a minimum and stop with efficiency, this skill must be trained and stabilized. Kemba Walker's famous step-back when he played for UConn is a perfect example.
Pay attention to his posture. Maintaining an upright position allows Kemba to stay aggressive and efficient during all three phases of the play: attacking the defender, pushing off for a step-back and going up for a shot.
3. Learn How to Land Correctly
Most injuries occur when an athlete lands or stops; this is why learning how to make contact with the ground is crucial for athletes of all sports. It's a skill that should be taught from an early age. Box Step-Offs are great if you want to teach proper landing mechanics. The height of the box will vary depending on the athlete's training level. Here we show the single-leg landing, which is a progression that should be used only after mastering two-feet landing.
Try adding these three exercises to your lower-body strength training routine or perform them as an independent workout 2-3 times per week. Aim for 3 sets of 5-6 repetitions per each leg. Remember to maintain a vertical spine and use your glutes more than your spine to absorb force. Start by using nothing more than your own body weight, and as you progress, you can load the Skater Squats and Forward Lunges. However, if the form gets worse or you cannot control the movement, decrease the load. Technique is more important than the weight!