One of the most common phrases said in athletics in Bend Your Knees. It is an important phrase with good reason. When an athlete bends her knees correctly she is in a better position to move quicker in any direction. Of course there is more involved, but you get the point. There is another reason bending the knees is so important …
If we look head-to-toe or toe-to-head the body is linked together by interconnecting muscle, tendons, and fascia (envelopes the soft tissues). So, if you have an issue with your right foot, then over time you could possible have an issue with your neck. It is all because the body compensates for each movement that occurs at different joints. If your feet pronate, then it sets off a chain reaction throughout the rest of the body. The knees and hips are affected, thus the low pelvis changes its position and this affects the spine which can affect the shoulders and how the head sits on the skeletal system. Wow! All this from the feet not being correct….
Why Bend Your Knees?
Let’s move into why bending the knees are so important. Keep in mind, when I mention bending the knees I also mean having the ankles and hips in the correct position as well. If the knees were bent but the hips are not pushed back and the ankles are not properly flexed, then bending the knees might not be a good thing.
One area I have my athletes routinely do is what I call “stability landings”. The stability landings are done with both one and two feet, but I primarily focus on one foot. When an athlete lands on one leg and the knees are properly bent and the hips are pushed back, then the muscles that stabilize the knee position are much more active and able to do there job. But when an athlete lands and barely bends the knees or pushes the hips back, the muscles of the hips can’t really do their job of stabilizing knees position well. It has been studied that if the hips are bent at a 20 degree bend the IT band will become tighten due to its connection into the glutes. This action helps to stabilize the knees because of the IT bands attachment around the knee joint.
When the athletes I train finish there warm up routine they continue into an extended warm up called stability landings. This is when they perform jumps, leaps, and hops hold the landing for a second or two. This allows me to make corrections and the athletes to feel the correct positions. Eventually the correct landings become the default movement pattern of the athlete.
To recap, when I speak or write about why bending the knees are so important it is because of the stability factor plus the advantage of moving quicker as an athlete.
Stability Landings Exercises
Here are a few exercises I like to do to work on stability landings:
- Forward, angular, and lateral leap and holds. The athlete will perform 1-2 sets of 6-10 on each leg.
- Drop and hold- the athlete starts tall on their toes and drops down into a one leg squat and hold.
- Low box stability– the athlete leaps or hops up onto a 4-6 inch box and holds the landing under control. We than add side leaps or hops.
- Split squat and hold- even though the back leg is on the ground on the split squat landing the lead leg is supporting most of the weight and must stabilize. We start tall and drop to a split (lunge) squat position.
There are many more exercises I use but these are staples. These main stability landing exercises will go a long way to improving your athletes ability to control their body.
What even more great insight as to how these exercises should be performed? In the highly acclaimed Ground Breaking 2 I go into great details on stability training….check it out, Ground Breaking 2 now.