training tip #008 - all about netball...
The 2018 Netball season is upon us, with many young girls deep into their preseason training, playing with rep sides, and awaiting that first official game of the season
There's been so much hard work done these past few months to set the foundation for the best season ever, and yet, unfortunately, we're hearing incredibly sad stories about injuries before the season has even begun...
Just like that, the season is already over for some young girls out there
And it's a damn shame, as with netball, we know what the most common injuries and hardships of the sport are - and therefore we are able to train to strengthen these joints and muscle to minimise the chances of injuries occurring...
When we look at the joints that take the biggest beatings in netball, it's the ankles, knees and the shoulders... all that landing, pushing off one-leg, jumping at high-speed, and not to mention the contact takes a toll on the body - and when young athletes begin to fatigue, form + function go out the window
So, what can we do to rectify these injuries, ensure you play an entire season AND that it's your best one ever?
Well, we begin with landing mechanics... they're the foundation of netball and the fundamental skill that everyone should learn from the youngest of ages. Poor landing mechanics equate for the majority of ankle and knee issues, especially when fatigue sets in
When landing, we must ensure that the knee tracks over the toe, as this will engage the glute and posterior chain meaning that the force is absorbed by these muscles with all of the joints in proper alignment. If the knee tracks in on landing then it is going to take the brunt of the force and we're going to be at severe risk of injuries. This is especially important when landing on one leg, as so often happens in netball
The second landing component we need to focus on is if we're landing on our toes or our heels, and if we're absorbing the force or we're landing stiff-legged and with rigid knees and ankles. These two go hand in hand as if we landing on our heels, we're going to promote this poor posture up the chain and have rigid ankles and stiff-legs/locked knees - meaning that the landing force is not going to be absorbed optimally and something may need to "take the slack" as a result. Landing on our toes helps to promote "soft" ankles and "soft knees", allowing them to bend and take the force with them
We love to get the mindset of our young netballers that they should try and land like a cat - soft and quiet. Why? Well this means that they're absorbing the force and their fascia is doing it's job. Couple this with keeping the knee out over the toe on both unilateral and bilateral jumps and you have a winning combination! To add technique under fatigue into the mix, we simply throw landing mechanics into some conditioning work or have them answer maths questions whilst performing them - as this helps build neural pathways that will become automatic to them during games
To help, Netball Australia has an amazing KNEE PROGRAM that they've put together specifically for either juniors, adults or elite netballers... and they extensively cover SAFE LANDING MECHANICS here
Secondly, now that we have proper landing mechanics we need to strengthen the muscles around these joints both unilaterally (single) and bilaterally so that they can absorb more force and produce more force as well
When it comes to bilateral exercises we cannot look past the squat or hip-hinge. Both will predominantly help the quads, hamstrings, and glutes develop to absorb and produce more force - think jumping...
When it comes to unilateral exercises, we love our bulgarian split squats, step ups and lunges of all kinds. Our intention with unilateral exercises is to place the netballers in a "landing" position and then strengthen them whilst there. For instance, the toes MUST be forward and the knees will ALWAYS track over the toe. This is helping the ankle and knee work in unison, ingrain the most efficient neural pathways into the girls, and both strengthen + conditioning their knees and ankles through this range of motion
If you'd like to see how we teach setup and technique for all lower body exercises, see here :)
And that's it ladies and gents, simple! When it comes to netball, landing mechanics are the foundation that we need to build upon - as, without them, it doesn't matter what else we do as everything else will fall apart
Once the landing mechanics are efficient, we can begin to work them under fatigue to help ingrain the correct neural pathways and use bilateral and unilateral exercises to help strengthen the muscles around the joints by placing them in proper positions and adding load
Do this, and you're on your way for a safe, strong, and brilliant netball season!