Does your sport require the ability to change direction? The answer is yes. No matter what sport you play, change of direction is going to be a big component of being successful. Whether it is putting your foot in the ground to cut, putting the breaks in quickly to slow down, or quick stops on the ice, you are continually decelerating and changing direction.
The bad news: the majority of non-contact injuries occur when decelerating and/or changing direction.
The good news: a well thought out strength program including the following three qualities can go a long way to improving deceleration and the ability to change direction.
Single Leg Strength
Single leg strength is huge for change of direction. When you change direction, you are doing it on one leg…every single time. If you aren’t training and pushing single leg strength hard in the weight room, don’t be surprised when you get hurt or are very slow in your change of direction in competition.
The ability to Decelerate
Eccentric strength might be the biggest key deceleration, especially single leg eccentric strength. Every time you slow down or cut to change direction it requires large amounts of eccentric strength to decelerate your body weight. Add 3-5 second eccentric lowering to your programming periodically in the weight room. A good rule of thumb would be to including some eccentric work for at least 3 weeks during every 12 week block of training. Athletes hate it because it’s hard and they become extremely sore because of it, but it’s better then the alternative; injury.
Stable Landing Technique
This is as simple as it sounds. You need to be jumping, more importantly landing, in a good stable position. Far too often we look at plyo’s as a way to develop more power but they are equally as important a tool in developing the ability to land in a stable position. I actually look at plyo’s as a way to teach athletes to land properly first, and a tool to improve power second.
Remember, if you aren’t training it in the weight room, don’t be surprised when you can’t do it competition.