Learn To Absorb Your Jumps And Cuts Better And Avoid Injury

Learning to absorb force from jumping and cutting can help to significantly reduce your risk of injury.

GOAT's Jeff Lindquist gets into the endzone
GOAT’s Jeff Lindquist gets into the endzone. Photo by Brian Canniff — UltiPhotos.com.

With winter at full tilt and little ultimate being played, it is time to start thinking about injury prevention for next season. Along with building a strength base, we need to develop neurological skill in order to perform injury free. One of the primary skills that is critical to avoiding injury is force absorption.

When absorbing the force of our body weight (when we’re jumping and cutting), we need to do two things: use big muscles (glutes and hamstrings) and express mobility, especially at the ankle joint and hip joint. These two keys will help protect the joint that is most at risk during ground force absorption events: the knee.

The research on injury prevention training says that up to 50% of force absorption occurs at the ankle, and utilizing more muscle in the hamstring places less strain on the ACL when knee angle is greater than 30 degrees on landing. What does all this mean? It means technique is paramount.

You can learn to better absorb force with some simple cues and exercises involving jumping. I’m a big fan of using 3 cues per movement and repeating them mentally as needed, especially between technique-oriented reps like these. So before you land each time, think to yourself:

– Ball of foot to heel
– Hips bent
– Squeeze landing leg tight

There are a few different ways you can progress these landing movements and mixing different aspects will give you a lot of variations. How do you know if you’re ready to progress? Things like severe leg imbalance, quad dominance (landing into a “sit” or squat), and any knee collapsing inward should be completely eliminated before progressing, so these should ideally be done with a mirror, spotter, or video.

If you feel like you’ve eliminated these from your landing try adding height, rotation, minibands abound the knees, moving to single leg, or adding reaction movements (springing into a second jump). From these progressions we get a number of different exercises including:

Depth Landing
Single Leg Depth Landing
Depth Landing with Rotation
Depth Jumps
Depth Jumps With Rotation

Jump Stick
Single Leg Stick
Ice Skaters
Single Leg Stick with Rotation

These may feel a little artificial at first and probably won’t seem all that similar to cutting technique, but if we cue our bodies and brains to absorb force correctly now, these good habits will carry over into our season. The closer we get to actual gameplay, the more ultimate specific we can make them, but don’t wait to start with a few simple landings now.

Put 1-2 sets of about 8 repetitions of a force absorption exercise at the beginning of your workouts this month (post warmup) and really focus on technique for a safer season. This isn’t the type of exercise you want to progress too quickly; it’s the type you really want to stick (literally!) each time.


Here’s video of Tufts University/Big Wrench captain Tyler Chan performing some force absorption movements (those listed in bold above). Tyler has a little valgus (collapsing) movement on his knee and should be coached to absorb more force through his ankle range of motion.

Video: Depth Landing

Video: Depth Landing with Rotation

Video: Single Leg Stick with Rotation

  1. Patrick Kelsey

    Pat Kelsey is a head strength coach at Breakside Strength and Conditioning and PK Performance, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and a Functional Movement Specialist. He has a degree in Applied Psychology from Skidmore College, where he played and captained. He is the Strength & Conditioning coach for several club and college teams and athletes in the Northeast.

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