Most people think in a linear mind set when it comes to exercises, movements, and overall how they look in a mirror.
In certain sports, and most team sports in general, it could be argued that lateral quickness, lateral movements, and change of direction (which is heavily based on lateral movement) is the most important quality in an athletes success.
Sports like football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball are full of athletes having to perform lateral movements in order to be successful.
In basketball, if you cannot move laterally, if you cannot turn from a squared up position to an acceleration, if you cannot stop and change directions - you cannot play. So while we usually train in a linear or vertical manner, the reality is there is a great need to do things to help train and improve lateral movement qualities.
If you listen to just about every strength coach out there who is after athletic results, not just weight room heroes, they will tell you to train movements, not muscle groups. Everything we do on field occurs through a conjunction of many muscles working in unison, timing, and rhythm.
So today I'm going to give some ideas to help train lateral movements. The movements I am choosing are ones you can perform in the weight room. These of course do not replace actual lateral speed, agility drills that should be incorporated during all phases of the year. Drills such as agility and COD drills that challenge athletes via reactions drills to a stimuli, force absorption and re-application, etc.
So I'm just giving you tools you can use in your strength training protocols, but remember not to forget about lateral agility/movement days as part of your speed/conditioning training.
Lateral Sled Pulls
First on the list is lateral sled pulls. Just like a linear sled pull forces the acceleration phase to be challenged by resistance, this forces the lateral movement/acceleration to also be challenged by resistance.
This forces the lower body to put more work into the movement and better simulates a cut or break an athlete would make during a game, like situation where their shoulders are squared up. The coaching point is to push hard with every step and try to gain as much distance with each step. Apply a lot of force with each step!
The way I like to peform this exercise is with a band to add extra lateral resistance to push back against to return to the starting position after every rep. Just like a squat, we want to force the hips and butt back at the bottom position and try to maintain a vertical shin.
The Cross-Over Step-Up is a great exercise to simulate an athletes movement as they would crossover thier feet in athletics. Alot of coaches try to teach an athlete not to crossover during let's say defense in basketball or blocking in football, but the reality is these crossover steps occur frequently during sport, and nothing quites trains that movement like this exercise. This exercise develops that cross-over pattern while also greatly training the glutes in a different angle/pattern than usual. The step-up by itselft is a great lower body exercise, but add in the cross-over step and it becomes a great tool to develop that cross-over step strength/power.
Heidens are included in this because just like every other movement training, there needs to be an explosive, reactive component to improve our ability to express our strength gains for better sports gains. So just like you would perform a box jump or clap push-up to work on the explosive, power of the lower body and upper body, we need to perform a explosive, powerful exercise to improve our lateral movement. The goal of this exercise is to move as far laterally as you can.
Med Ball Throws are quickly becoming a favorite exercise of many becuase again of the applications to explosion and power, while also developing great kinetic cooperation from the ground up. Lateral med ball throws involve the athlete initiating the movement from their hips and transfering that movements up through their core, through the arms and to the ball.
This movement can really reveal some weak links, or power leakages. Have the athlete turned sideways to a wall, with their feet pointing at 90 degrees to the wall they will throw at. They will lateral bound away from the wall and upon landing, then uncoiling that back leg/hip to the wall. The rest of the movement should follow the force the hips put in, and really just like a whip be snapped to the wall due to the hips powerful twist.
Often times people will say so and so has great game speed, but really is not that fast. This bascially means, that an athlete has great lateral abilites. They are able to get from a lateral position to a lineral acceleration quicker than anybody else, they have great change of direction, and they have great lateral reaction skills.
So while they might lack top-end linear speed, they have great lateral and force absorption qualites that are expressed more oftenly in sport. These exercises above will improve these lateral movement skills, and you will see improvements in your athletes if you incorporate more lateral type movements to your workout program.
Again most sports are played in a condensed area, where lateral movements and acceleration trump top-end sprinting speed. So it is important to always train the way you play, and use exercises/drills that will improve these qualities, and not just to look good in a mirror.