Lateral Speed and Agility: It Starts in The Gym

Lateral speed and agility is a concept that can easily (and mistakenly) be overlooked when developing a sports performance program for an individual or team. It’s easy to get caught up in dropping an athlete’s 40 yard time and shuttle times. It can be harder to step back and notice that many sports are played in side moving patterns and at various angles requiring athletes to turn and change direction multiple quickly and frequently. The first portion of this post will focus on the strength training techniques to help the lateral athlete. Because we expect the body to move in a variety of planes on the field or court is important that we train the athlete in a manner that supports this. The basis of lateral speed and agility will be strength. Just like straight-ahead speed, the greater the amount of force one can apply to the ground the faster he or she will move. Here at SAPT we use a variety of tools and exercises to enhance an athlete’s ability to apply force and change directions. Below I’ve listed a few of the simple exercises that could add value to your program with videos courtesy of the crew at Concentric Brain.

Abductor Wall Slides

This is probably my favorite exercise to program for beginners. It takes minimal equipment, works like a charm, and is novice friendly. The range of motion for this exercise may start small and increase over time but it is important extremely important the athlete does not rotate away from the wall with their low back or hike up their hip to find additional range.

Lateral Lunges

Lateral lunges are a fantastic exercise to build strength in the quads, hips, and hamstrings. These are all key players in getting players to effectively move side to side.

Lateral Sled Drags

Sled drags are a beginner friendly exercise that allows for many different training outcome based on the loading. For strength days a heavier load could be pulled with a crossover step shown in the video while lighter loads can be reserved for technique days.

Mini Band Lateral Walks

Mini bands walks are a fun way to train the muscles of the hip while also challenging torso strength and stability.  Two cues I like to hammer home when having athletes perform this exercise is to keep tension on the band throughout the entire set and keep the torso tall and limit rocking.

Check back next week as we take a closer look into some of the drills and exercises we use outside of gym to help lateral athletes get better.