Force Absorption vs. Force Production

Blake_Griffin“.2 off your 40 in 8 weeks!”

“2 inches on your vertical in 6 weeks. Guaranteed!”

If you’ve been in the athletic development industry for any period of time, claims and guarantees like the above aren’t anything new.

In fact, especially when it comes to young athletes, it seems as though if you’re not making bold claims like this, you’re going to struggle to get business.

Here’s the issue:

We’re so focused as an industry on increasing force production (i.e. a bigger squat, faster 40, or improved vertical jump), we’re totally missing the mark on force absorption.

Want to know one of the major reasons are athletes are breaking down at record pace?

This is why.

At the risk of getting technical on this post, force production is loosely comprised of three movements:

  1. Extension,
  2. Abduction and
  3. External rotation.

On the other hand, force absorption is comprised of three movements as well:

  1. Flexion,
  2. Adduction, and
  3. Internal Rotation.

(Specific activities like throwing are a bit different, but focus more on the message than the movements. We’ll dial into that more down the line).

I’m quickly reminded of my first “off-season” basketball workout my junior year of high school.

We hadn’t learned any movements in the weight room, or been taught the basics such as how to land, yet we went out and did close to 100 box and depth jumps to improve our vertical jump!

The best athletes in the world aren’t just the ones who are super fast, or jump super high.

Instead, think about a guy like Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson. What really separates these guys is their ability to absorb force quickly, and then pop out and change directions.

Lee Taft likes to use the term “load to explode.” If you cant’ flex, adduct and internally rotate, you can’t effectively load your system.

It would be akin to barely pulling a rubber band back before you snap it. Quite simply, there’s no stretch or no snap.

The same thing happens when it comes to landing from vertical jumps. We see athletes now that have the horsepower to produce pretty serious vertical jumps, but when you watch them land, it’s a nightmare.

The spine flexes, the knees cave, and they stop very abruptly.

And while I don’t have any research or scientific evidence to back this up, I do have a very strong belief that this is why so many of our athletes are breaking down and suffering massive injuries at what appears to be a record pace.

Quite simply, when all you do is train yourself to extend, you lose your ability to bend.

To soften a blow.

To absorb force safely and efficiently.

The point of this post is simple: Before we get into “Power” month here at RTS, I would feel remiss if I didn’t talk about force absorption, because it’s the starting point for everything I do with my athletes.

Here are some of my “Rules” when it comes to writing an athletic development program:

  • Build a better set of brakes, before you tweak out the engine of your car.
  • Load to explode.
  • Slow down before you speed up.
  • Learn how to land, before you learn how to jump.
  • Stability before strength and power.

This is my overarching philosophy. If you can see the big picture and teach athletes how to absorb force effectively, not only will they have better potential to produce force, but they’ll likely stay healthier to boot.

Stay strong





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  1. Love this Mike.
    Was having this conversation with one of our athletes the other day.
    Timely post.

  2. Great post Mike. A few years ago I asked the head S & C Coach of an NFL team at a seminar how much eccentric lifting they did. I got the answer I was expecting. The only EC they used was on leg curls for the hamstrings. I feel that is one of the main reasons for all the injures.

    • Yeah I often find some of the best athletes need the most initial work with deceleration. Even if it’s only a short period of time it can make a world of difference.

  3. Sorry if i’m jumping the gun but what are some of the top ways your teach kids force absorption?

    • Shane – Think about the braking/absorption for the different moves you do in sports. It may look like this:

      – Vertical jump
      – Broad jump
      – Linear running
      – Lateral running/agility


      Hope that helps!

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