Building the Brakes

“A Review of Matt Ibrahim’s Presentation on Deceleration Training”

      This blog is a brief recap from our recent ProForm workshop where we hosted a presentation by Matthew Ibrahim about the importance of training humans for the deceleration (aka ability to slow down) requirements of life and sport. Our guy Matt is a strength and conditioning coach from the Boston area, a professor at Endicott College, and is currently studying for his PhD. He’s an extremely animated and articulate speaker, and vastly knowledgable about all things strength and conditioning, so this blog will not do his presentation complete justice. If you ever have chance to attend one of Matt’s presentations, we highly recommend you drop what you’re doing and go!

Last week, Matt presented on the topic of training for optimal deceleration and landing capacity, or what Matt refers to as “building the brakes.” Just as your car needs the ability to generate power in order to speed up, it also requires the capacity to slow down no matter the speed. This is a safety mechanism. The same goes for human movement. Our body’s ability to absorb force or impact by accepting both external (from outside the body) and internal (from within the body) loads is paramount to maintaining efficiency in our movement, optimizing athletic and daily life performance, and reducing the risk of injuries.

As force absorption is often considered less glamorous than its counterpart of force production (think vertical jump), training for deceleration in the world of strength and conditioning is often put on the back burner. In the rehab world, it is unfortunately completely forgotten about many times. This is obviously detrimental for an athlete attempting to return to sport, as the need for deceleration in sport is very apparent to even the novice eye. Furthermore, failing to address one’s ability to slow down is also very devastating to the everyday individual returning from an injury. While living on earth, we are combatting the downward forces of gravity all day. We are also dealing with the upward forces from the ground. Sandwiched in between, we as humans need to possess an adequate ability to efficiently manage these forces. If we do not train the ability to decelerate and accept load in all individuals, we are leaving gains on the table!

Many common orthopedic injuries are related to an individual’s decreased ability to absorb force. If the demand placed on our body continually surpasses its capacity, something is bound to give way over time. Therefore, we must strive to increase capacity in this regard. If we are not addressing force absorption in the weight room or clinic, we are not making the necessary changes to reduce the likelihood of injury in the first place, and even occurring again down the road. Hence why re-injury rates are so high for most common orthopedic injuries. Rates for much of these injuries, like achilles strains and tears, are increasing in general. Of course, there are many factors at play here, but training individuals for improved deceleration potential is only going to help tackle these worsening trends, and ultimately allow us to enhance our body’s capacity to be ready for the demands of everyday life and sport. In his lecture, Matt identifies five main areas of the lower body to focus on when training deceleration. The regions include: calf, knee, groin, hamstring, and hip flexor. In order to optimally address these areas in a training or rehab program, we must first directly load them. That way, we can begin to improve tissue tolerance to stress and load. Then, we can introduce higher speed movements, in which the body has to slow down or land from a jump with emphasis on control in these regions.

One interesting takeaway from Matt’s presentation is that humans need to be able to slow down fast! Sounds funny doesn’t it. Speeding up fast makes clear sense. However, when it comes to slowing down, the phrase may lead you to believe that this process occurs slowly. On the contrary, if you cannot self-organize your body and slow down quickly, you are not in control. And if you are not in control of your own movements, crashes are bound to happen. For examples of exercise options, check out Matt on Instagram (@matthewibrahim_). You can also find some good content on deceleration training on our clinic’s page (@proformptma). If you still have questions, feel free to slide into our DM’s or reach out via phone or email!