Importance of Deceleration in Athletics

This is an excerpt from the recordings I do regularly to capture and share my ideas around performance, nutrition, and strength. It sounds conversational because it is. Enjoy!

Importance of Deceleration

I’m really excited about the conditioning that we will be implementing this season, the heart rate monitors we are using are very advanced, giving me a lot of information during practice and weight training sessions. Outside of heart rate (HR) and different zones that we’re targeting I can see speed (mph), accelerations, decelerations, and time in each HR zone. Our goal for this season is to be as fit as possible, so having this information at my disposal is invaluable.

Having this data allows me to better mimic the demands of the sport in our conditioning sessions, without actually playing more basketball. I know what heart rate zones each player stays within during games, so I can adjust our training for that.

One of the really interesting things I’ve seen lately is looking at accelerations and decelerations. The acceleration and decelerations values fit into 4 categories based on if they are high or low threshold. I thought this was super telling, as none of my players went into the highest threshold of acceleration, which was 3 meters per second squared. On the other hand, everyone was decelerating at three meters per second squared or faster. This is so important and so fascinating.

This is not new information, just not a mainstream topic. What that means is that our players cant accelerate nearly as fast as they can decelerate. What I found last year was that one of our players with the most significant knee issues, that wasn’t necessarily the fastest, was the one that had the highest deceleration values! She was not even close to the fastest on the team in terms of acceleration, but would be able to and required to decelerate the fastest on the team.

That’s a very important information for us to know about this athlete. We have to learn to decelerate our bodies safely, and the best way to learn it is in the weight room. The best way I’ve found is with very controlled depth landings and depth drops. With these movements you are teaching the body to absorb force or decelerate in a controlled manner.

Another important point to discuss is that the majority of injuries in athletics happen during some sort of deceleration phase. These athletes have to control their body through these enormous forces, and we have to train for that. Just playing the sport doesn’t make you strong enough or fit enough to absorb these forces safely.

This is where overuse injuries come up, too. Typically when these things happen we say the glutes weren’t strong enough or the hamstrings weren’t strong enough to absorb that force. That may be true, but we also may not have given that athlete enough opportunities to practice high speed deceleration. Again the weight training is the base, but we have to give the athletes the opportunity to practice full speed deceleration in a controlled manner.

One of the easiest ways to do this is again just landing jumps. Step off of a box and stick the landing. It seems simple, but that’s usually the solution. The solution often isn’t doing lunge jumps in a sand pit, it’s the simple basic things that the athlete can work on. When looking at these kind of issues, the answer is generally a lot more simple than people think.
— Sarah Walls

Since you’re here: We have a small favor to ask! At SAPT, we are committed to sharing quality information that is both entertaining and compelling to help build better athletes. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage us authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics.

Thank you! SAPT