Even without training, anytime you find yourself in nature or the urban jungle, you’ll likely perform variations of the Leg Swing Jump to get over small gaps or obstacles in your path – perhaps without thinking about it. This could be hopping over a puddle, mud, ice, river rocks, or any other number of obstacles. While this technique from our Level 1 curriculum is fairly rudimentary, it’s also really important to become adept in these fundamental jumping skills because they are used so often, especially in nature.
Not only is the ability to jump and land safely important for preventing a fall or injury, but your ability to do so with efficiency over a long journey and even a lifetime really matters. Being mindful of using efficient technique can mean the difference between being able to complete a long journey on foot (e.g. hiking) without aches and pains by the end. All those little hops and jumps add up, and how you perform them will either build you up or break you down, especially over the long haul.
Why use the Leg Swing jump
Before we share with you some insights on how to properly perform this jump, let’s briefly explain why you would perform this movement. That is, the practical reason for choosing this particular jumping technique over another. The Leg Swing Jump is the technique of choice when dealing with a gap which you could not pass, or not safely enough, by simply stepping out, but when the distance is too short for actually necessitating a more powerful technique such as a Forward Jump. In other words, this is a great middle-distance jump, just outside of your normal “stepping range.”
It will also allow you to land with more precision, lightness, and while preserving more energy. That’s especially useful if the landing surface is narrow or unstable. The Leg Swing Jump is a low impact jump that doesn’t need a lot of energy to produce or for dissipating impact forces upon landing.
Here’s a video demonstration of the basic technique.
How to perform the Leg Swing jump
Start with a tall posture. Remember, it gives you a mechanical advantage that will allow you optimize the energy of motion produced by your body, and overall, a better control of your balance, especially as you will stand on one foot only. Now, a tall posture or “straight back” doesn’t necessarily mean standing vertically straight. You actually want to lean sightly forward while of course maintaining that tall or “lengthened” posture.
Sequence and timing: you are going to shift your bodyweight onto one foot, standing on a single leg only. Instead of pushing from that one leg only, swing the opposite leg up, and forward to generate some momentum in the direction you want to travel. This is a movement efficiency principle we call “Body Weight Transfer” (BWT), which consists of increasing whole body momentum by creating segmental momentum (for instance the swift motion of a single leg) from a body part that is not supporting bodyweight and that is therefore free to move, and then transferring it to the whole body.
BWT allows the individual to generate a significant amount of kinetic energy, resulting in a decrease in the amount of raw muscular strength that would otherwise be required to achieve the same movement without employing BWT. To be effective, the generation of momentum must always precede the action of the muscles that are predominantly involved in the technique, even by a split second. In this case, you will start swinging one leg before the supporting leg itself starts pushing off. For optimum effect, BWT must be applied with the right timing, direction (vector), speed and amplitude. If the application of those variables is not adequate, you might not end up landing exactly where you wanted, or might find yourself in trouble “sticking” the landing.
Note: If all that technical mumbo-jumbo sounds like Pig Latin to you, and you want to learn more, check out the MovNat Level 1 Certification to learn our unique method of Natural Movement® Fitness.
You won’t stay airborne very long, yet you want your landing to be precise, light, producing minimal shock or noise, and of course to stay balanced after reaching your target. That’s why you want to land with one foot first and the second immediately after, and to always connect the forefoot with the ground first, not the heel, and not a flat foot. This will make the landing very smooth and controlled. Again, keeping your posture solid will help you better control your balance upon landing.
Breathing. The main thing is to keep doing it! Ample yet relaxed breathing from the abdomen should be constantly maintained. Breath control will support good posture, relaxation, and focus, the same way good posture will support effective breathing. Breathing may be more of an internal movement, but breathing efficiently is certainly a fundamental skill that must be mastered just like other movement skills.
Relax, especially throughout the arms and shoulders. Unless you need to swing them forward for extra momentum, depending on the distance you want to cover, just keep them relaxed. Be mindful of removing unnecessary tensions from your body. That’s good advice for any natural movement, but especially when doing powerful movements like jumping. If you want to be relaxed, make sure you keep breathing from the abdomen in an ample and relaxed manner.
Again, here is a basic, simple jump performed at a low level of environmental complexity. While this move may look very easy because it is done in the video at ground level with no danger involved, it is important to understand that the exact same movement pattern could be executed at a height between two tree branches, or two walls in a city, or between two rocks in the middle of a river with the risk of falling and hurting yourself.
This perspective can help you understand that one of the benefits of practicing this particular movement is not just primarily for “general conditioning.” It’s also to acquire, and improve your technique, and diminish risk in the presence of an actual danger when you will have to perform the same movement in a more challenging environment.
The point is that your real world physical competence, and your ability to both perform effectively, and efficiently while remaining safe is the goal. Of course, you don’t want to start training a movement you are not familiar or comfortable with in a complex environment. Start at ground level, perhaps with simple targets, and progress to more challenging environmental demands such as more narrow, rounded, smoother, less stable or higher surfaces.
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