Everyone trains to go faster, bigger, harder, stronger — but once you’re going warp speed — then what? The ability to stop is just as important as being able to go from zero to 60, so unless crashing and burning is part of your plan, learning to slow down — decelerate — should be on your exercise to-do list.
Deceleration is the series of movements that help you slow down, change direction or stop when playing sports. Like any skill, this needs to be trained, and teaching your body to control and dampen forces such as momentum and gravity can help prevent injury while improving overall performance.
“Improving the ability to decelerate is imperative for almost any athletic endeavor since one rarely runs in a straight line at a constant speed,” says Josh Bryant, CSCS, co-author of Jailhouse Strong Interval Training (Back Arms Publications, 2015). “And with over 200,000 ACL injuries a year, you should take advantage of the variables you can control — deceleration training being one of them.”
Bryant especially recommends deceleration training for women: We girls are actually at greater risk for knee injuries because typically our quad-to-hamstring strength ratio is imbalanced, with our quads typically being about 40 percent stronger than our hamstrings. “From a movement perspective, this means a female athlete is more likely to decelerate using the quadriceps first, resulting in greater knee instability,” Bryant says. “The good news is that this is a correctable issue.”
Use these drills and lifts one or two times per week to train for deceleration, improving muscular balance and power while helping prevent injury. “The gym moves should be blended into your routine to balance your physique and the power of your accelerating versus decelerating muscles,” Bryant says. “The drills can be implemented as part of a warm-up before a practice or game, or track workout.”
|Tempo Back Squat||3||6–8|
|Barbell Bench Hip Thrust||3||12–15|
When doing the skills workout, think about accelerating the bar or weight from the bottom-most position in an explosive manner.
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a barbell in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Your back should be straight, your shoulders down and back.
Move: Push your glutes back and bend forward from your hips while maintaining the arch in your back as you lower the bar down along the front of your legs until it comes to about midshin. Extend your hips and slide the bar back up along your legs to return to the start.
Tip: Unlike a stiff-legged deadlift, this version works more of the hamstrings and glutes while minimizing the activation of the lower-back muscles. Your knees should be semi-bent for the entirety of the move.
Tempo Back Squat
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a barbell across your upper back and traps, chest lifted, shoulders down and back.
Move: Kick your hips back and bend your knees, taking five full seconds to squat to the bottom, going as low as you can. Pause for a count of two, then drive up out of the hole, explosively extending your knees and hips to come to the start.
Tip: Keep your chest lifted and your weight back toward your heels to focus the majority of the work on your posterior chain — glutes and hamstrings.
Setup: Stand on top of a box that is at least 18 inches high.
Move: Step off the box with one foot, landing with both feet and bending your knees and hips into a half-squat to absorb the impact, arms in the ready position. Hold the landing for a count of two, then repeat.
Tip: Make your landing active versus passive. Think about “sticking” it like a gymnast — muscles and core tight, body ready for anything.
Barbell Bench Hip Thrust
Setup: Sit with your upper back and shoulders against a flat bench and position a barbell across your hipbones, holding it steady with both hands. Your knees should be bent and your feet should be wider than hip-width apart.
Move: Press your shoulders and upper back into the bench as you drive your hips upward until they come level with your knees and shoulders. Hold for a count of two, then slowly lower to the start for a count of five.
Tip: Vary the position of your feet to change the exercise emphasis slightly — wider, narrower, toes out.
|Forward/Backward One-Legged Hop and Stick||3||6|
|Vertical Two-To-One Jump||3||5|
|Lateral Cone Freeze||3||8|
Find a long length of straight track or large open field and mark it off in 30-meter intervals with a cone or a small rock.
Meters 0 to 30: Run, gradually building toward top speed while maintaining perfect running form.
Meters 30 to 60: Maintain this top speed.
Meters 60 to 90: Decelerate gradually, keeping your knees flexed, taking short steps, and keeping your center of gravity in front of your knees.
Forward/Backward One-Legged Hop and Stick
Stand on your left foot with your arms at your sides. Hop forward several feet and land, absorbing the impact, then freezing in the down position, holding the landing for one count. Then hop rearward on the same leg and again stick the landing. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tips: Use your arms to help generate momentum forward and back. Keep your nonworking leg in tight to you for better balance.
Vertical Two-To-One Jump
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees and hips and load up, then explode into the air as high as you can, reaching your arms overhead. Land on one leg, absorbing the impact and holding the landing for one count. Replace your other foot and repeat, alternating landing legs with each repetition.
Tips: Make sure you land softly, knee slightly bent and muscles and core tight. Also, look forward, not straight down, because this will help you balance.
Lateral Cone Freeze
Line up a series of three to four cones with about a foot in between and stand sideways to the lineup at one end. Move laterally through the cones, performing high knees across and over each one, using your arms to help keep tempo. When you get to the end, stick the landing and freeze. Hold for one count, then repeat in the opposite direction to complete one rep.
Josh Bryant, CSCS, is the CEO and master trainer at JoshStrength.com, and he has written or co-written four Amazon.com No. 1 bestsellers, including Jailhouse Strong Interval Training.