If you play a sport that incorporates any sort of side-to-side movements, practicing these moves during training is crucial. Lateral movements not only improve strength, stability and coordination, they also help reduce the risk of injuries by enhancing balance and proprioception through the whole body.
Not all athletes perform powerful lateral moves during their primary sport. Cyclists, for example, rarely use lateral movements during cycling. But even though lateral drills don't simulate the cycling motion, they do improve overall hip, knee and ankle joint stability. Lateral drills also help build more balanced strength in the muscles of the lower body, including the hip abductors and adductors.
These lateral drills will improve sports performance, and reduce the risk for sports injuries, particularly for athletes who frequently, or abruptly, change direction, cut or pivot. Athletes who benefit the most from side-to-side agility drills are those who play field and court sports (soccer, basketball, football, rugby and tennis), as well as skiers, skaters, gymnasts, and even rock climbers.
Athletes need to maintain power, control and balance during fast side-to-side lateral motion and transitions. If you watch accomplished skiers and speed skaters, you will see how skilled they are in accurately and dynamically launching themselves (and their power) from one foot to the other, while staying in perfect balance and maintaining forward momentum.
In general, an athlete can generate power in two ways: (1) using his own body weight, or (2) pushing or throwing something heavy. Plyometric movements are one of the easiest and most effective ways for athletes to generate and increase power. The lateral plyometric jump is one exercise that primarily uses an athlete's body weight to generate power.
Before doing the lateral plyometric jumps, a good place for athletes to begin building lower body power is by doing simple agility drills (such as ladder drills and dot drills) then slowly build up to tuck jumps. Other good additions to the plyometric routine include: all-out sprints, stair running/bounding, and burpees.
How to Do Lateral Plyometric JumpsThis is an advanced plyometric exercise that should only be practiced after an athlete has a good level of strength and coordination. Prior to doing lateral plyometric jumps, athletes should easily be able to complete ladder drills (jumping forward/backward and side/side over low barriers). Next, they should be able to easily complete forward plyometric jumps, such as tuck jumps.
Only perform this exercise after a thorough warm up.
- Begin with nothing more than a line on the floor until you are comfortable with side-to-side jumping.
- Get into a squat position and quickly push upward and sideways to land gentle on the other side of the line.
- Repeat this back and forth jumping.
- Keep your shoulders and hips square and facing forward.
- Practice clearing the line with your feet higher and higher, land softly and spring back quickly.
- Vary the speed and height of the jumps.
- Once you are comfortable, increase the size and height of the obstacle you are jumping over.
- Add a few inches at a time as you improve.
- You can vary your landing so that you land and rebound on both feet at once, or land on one foot first and rebound with a short double-step.
- Perform 30-60 second intervals, rest and repeat.
- Do this exercise in sets of 3 or add them to a circuit training routine.
- ** Note be sure to land softly and absorb the shock by squatting deeply.
- ** Avoid doing this exercise on a hard surface (such as concrete) which is tough on the joints. Practice on carpet, grass, sand, hard woods or a gym floor for best results.
Increase the difficulty
To add difficulty to this exercise, perform one leg hops. This will develop power, strength and stability. Jumping, landing, standing and squatting on one leg will help build balance and stability.