Landing is the most important part of a jump. At least that’s the part of the jump where the injuries tend to happen, and when we’re talking about jumping down from a height, we need to have a few options regarding how to land.
By Alex Schenker, MovNat Expert Trainer & Team Instructor
3 Tiers to Jump Height
In my eyes, there are three tiers to jump-height, and a suitable technique for each: a half-squat landing is most appropriate for a low height; a medium height necessitates some kind of foot hand landing; and a maximum height jump requires a roll to disperse the impact forces. The actual height of each of those tiers is largely subjective, and depends on what an individual is capable of.
Jumping off of something that isn’t very high for you will probably only require a half-squat to disperse the impact forces, but a little bit higher and your lower limbs may not be enough to neutralize the impact. In that case, transferring the force to your hands momentarily prevents the excess force from negatively impacting the lower limbs. Descending into a deep knee bend, contacting the hands to the ground, and “bounding” the hands back to push yourself up to standing is called a foot hand landing, and it kind of feels like a ground vault without any horizontality to it. And it should, the ground vault is a progression for this!
I don’t recommend descending into a deep squat for landings, but rather a deep knee bend. A deep squat involves squatting with the heels flat, and a deep knee bend involves the heels being elevated. The deep knee bend directs any excess momentum forward, naturally leaning you into a foothand landing or roll if needed. A deep squat rocks you back onto your heels, and any excess momentum will push you backward, and you either end up laying on your back, or doing a back roll.
Prerequisite Skills for this Tutorial
Everything up until this point has been covered in a previous tutorial, and this is essentially where we left off. Today’s video is a bit advanced, and there are some skills that you should get confident and capable with before getting into this:
Both the squat landing and the foot hand landing were covered in my previous video that I would consider a prerequisite for this new one. That video is a beginner’s guide to landing from a height, and I’d definitely recommend reviewing it before proceeding.
Another prerequisite for this video would be my rolling tutorial video. If you’re not already comfortable with the rolling technique, we won’t be getting into detail about it in today’s video, and that one is an absolute beginner’s guide with some good drills that you can practice daily to level up that skill. Be sure to review and practice those other two videos before diving into this one.
Today’s video is about jumping from a higher height, and/or jumping from a height with a horizontal distance element as well. I’m going to use some MovNat terms in this article that I just first want to introduce you to before we proceed:
Your Points of Support (PoS) are the parts of your body that are firmly touching the surface that is supporting you. If you’re standing, your PoS are your feet, if you’re hanging from a bar, your hands are your PoS. If I’m squatting and I place my hand on the ground, but it’s not bearing any weight, that’s a point of contact, but not a point of support.
One of the drills we cover in this video is ground vaulting. Vaulting generally involves transitioning between using your legs and using your arms as points of support. The most obvious application of this would be running up to a hip-height obstacle, placing your hands on it, and jumping over while leaning your weight onto your hands.
Ground vaulting is a great progression for vaulting over an obstacle, but also an important variation for the foot hand landing. When jumping from a height, the jump may also involve some horizontal distance and momentum that you need to reconcile as you land, a foot hand landing will probably look more like a ground vault in this context. This is appropriate for jumping from medium heights.
Landing and Rolling
Jumping from a higher height will necessitate a roll landing. If I land in my half squat and that’s not enough to absorb the force of impact, I descend to my deep knee bend and place my hands in the ground, but if the force is still too strong for a foot hand landing, I continue the motion, tilting my head to avoid ground contact and lowering my back to the ground to roll. The force is going into my legs, transferring into my arms, and then passing across my back as I roll. The point here is to maximally redirect that vertical momentum into horizontal energy, mitigating the impact.
Dive Roll Variation & Drills
If there is a significant element of horizontality, a dive roll will be more appropriate after the initial landing, where a regular roll would feel too fast and difficult to control during the exit. This kind of dive roll involves landing in a deep knee bend and diving forward onto your hands to get into the roll. The difference between a dive roll and a regular roll landing is that with a dive roll, I’m covering a greater distance, and there is a jump between the landing and the roll, meaning my feet come up off the ground before my hands touch to lead me into the roll.
Before attempting the dive roll, you should really have a good sense of supporting your bodyweight with your arms. Ground vaulting, especially the drill where I raise my hips high and try to hold them there for a moment, is a great way to condition this.
Another drill that I like for conditioning for dive rolls involves standing without a significant bend in the knees, and letting one leg swing back as you hinge at the hips and reach for the ground. Rolling from that point without bending the knees and lowering the hips is a great introduction to the concept of dive rolling, where your feet have to come off the ground before your back touches. This drill reminds me of the sipping bird toy, if you remember that.
Another similar drill, involves getting into that same position just before committing to the roll, and doing a variation of pike push ups. Strengthening your ability to control your descent makes it easier to control your dive roll landing and less likely to crash down on your shoulder.
These are drills that you should spend a few weeks or months reinforcing before really sending it with the dive roll. Dive rolls, especially over tall objects are risky, and I have injured each of my AC joints taking unnecessary risks, so really taking your time improving the technique before pressure testing it, and not overdoing it when training is important.
Dive rolls are useful for clearing a horizontal distance, clearing a vertical obstacle that might not be vaultable, like a flimsy fence, or dive rolling after landing from a jump. Out of those three, dive rolling when landing from a jump is the safest application, as there isn’t the demand to push yourself to clear a height or distance with the roll.
Once you’re confident with the dive roll, you can try the dive roll out of a jump landing when you have a little horizontal distance to the jump as well as the height.
Cultivate the Capability
After training the drills and skills in this video and the prerequisite videos, you should be comfortable landing from a jump from a height and depending on the height, land in a half-squat, foot hand landing, or roll landing. If you’re jumping from a height with some verticality involved, you should be comfortable landing in a ground vault or dive roll, depending on the height of the obstacle.
Jumping from a height is a skill that I have always felt pretty comfortable with, and one that I find very important. I would consider this a vital life skill, up there with breakfalls, and way more important than how high you can box jump! What other skills are top-priority skills to you?
About the Author
Alex’s dream has always been to understand the subtleties of what it means to move naturally and efficiently. He has devoted his life to understanding the meaning of freedom of movement and what it takes to maintain vibrant health. For nearly two decades, everything he has done with his life has been in concert with this ambition and deep interest.
Alex is a MovNat Team Instructor and Expert Trainer (MovNat Level 1, 2, 3 and Aquatics & Combatives Certified). As the founder of Natural Mobility, and an active content creator on YouTube and other platforms, Alex strives to share his experience with anyone who is open to learning. Read Alex’s Full Bio on the MovNat Team page.
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