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The Key to Lateral Speed and Quickness

No doubt about it, if you play a sport that requires you to be fast laterally (side to side) you can set yourself apart, or behind, by your ability, or lack thereof, to move quickly and efficiently from side to side.

So, what separates athletes when it comes to moving fast from side to side? Honestly, there are 3 main areas to focus on when trying to take this part of your athleticism to the next level:

1. Work on the movement pattern you are trying to improve.

If you are trying to get better at lateral movement, you need to work on moving laterally. And don't just do it to do it, you need to do it intentionally. Like anything else, practice, work on being more efficient, work on cutting and changing direction faster, time yourself and work to beat that time every time.

To incorporate this into your training think of working for reps or time. If reps, work on 4-6 cuts on each side on every set with 60 seconds between attempts. If for time, think in the 10-15 second range and take a similar amount of rest between attempts. Think 4-8 sets depending on what the rest of your training session looks like.

Once you have yourself to a point of efficiency and movement quality that you feel confident in, add some resistance/assistance to your movement to increase difficulty and adaptation. Here is a good example of how to do this, add a band which will resist you in one direction and assist you in the other while loading your change of direction. Use this for a similar rep and rest routine as suggested above for the lateral shuffles.

2. Build Strength

I think it's pretty well known that increasing strength can help improve speed but how often do you build strength in the frontal plane? This is the plane of motion associated with lateral movement. I would say it's pretty rare for the average athlete who is going to the gym and figuring it out on their own. So here are some tips.

Lateral lunges are great for increasing strength in the frontal plane. If you are going to add these into your training program, here is a good progression for anyone just getting started on lateral lunges to those who may be more experienced:

Cossack Squat:

Goblet Lateral Lunge:

Goblet Lateral Lunge w/ Slider:

When incorporating these into your training program look to do rep ranges between 6-12/side and increase intensity by increasing weight. You can load the cossack squats the same way as the lateral lunges if needed. Generally you will want to perform 3-4 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between sets.

3. Improve Reaction Speed

The first 2 are very important for improving lateral speed but they will only get you so far if your reaction speed is equivalent to that of a slug. I joke, but seriously, if you can't react quickly you will be great at drills but perform sub par when it comes to gametime situations.

Here is one example of a reaction drill that incorporates lateral movement and a couple different reactional components. Get creative with reaction drills and remember that the more random and unpredictable the better. Anticipation is cool but quick reaction speeds will take you to the next level!

There it is, work on these 3 areas and you will start to see a noticeable difference in your lateral speed and quickness!

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