By Jenessa Connor
“Lateral quickness" sounds like a skill that's exclusive to professional athletes like Lebron James or Bobby Wagner. Most of us mere mortals are just trying to balance a healthy mix of cardio, strength training, and mobility work. Who has the time for specialized training?
But, athlete or not, lateral quickness is relevant to your ability to move efficiently, and it's not all that difficult or time-consuming to incorporate lateral quickness exercises into your current routine.
Plus, isn't it kind of fun to work out like a pro?
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Lateral quickness is the ability to move your body from side to side quickly. It's less about speed — accelerating in one direction — and more about being able to move left to right and rapidly change directions while maintaining balance and control of your body.
Depending on the sport, lateral quickness can mean the difference between a win or a loss. “Many sports require athletes to change direction quickly in a side-to-side manner. This could be a shortstop fielding a ground ball hit up the middle, a running back avoiding a linebacker who is trying to make a tackle, or a tennis player moving to the opposite sideline to return a shot," explains Dr. Jordan Duncan, DC, owner of Silverdale Sport & Spine in Silverdale, Washington.
Beyond the court or playing field, lateral quickness can also have an impact on how you move in your everyday life. “You don't have to play a sport. Avoiding someone on a sidewalk, navigating a busy concourse at the airport — we need to be able to have that ability to step to the side to get out of the way," says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., master trainer and host of the All About Fitness podcast.
Yet, side-to-side movement is often absent from a typical fitness routine. Common physical activities like running, cycling, rowing, and even biceps curls all occur along the sagittal plane and move the body in a forward and backward motion. This training deficit can make us vulnerable, explains Duncan.
“We are often injured in areas where we lack strength, coordination, and mobility," he says. “Many of us are able to walk and run pretty well but struggle when moving side-to-side. Training with movements in the lateral plane, even progressing to quick movements, can be beneficial for muscle and joint health, as well as overall conditioning."
To improve lateral quickness, you must train in a side-to-side movement pattern. Both Duncan and McCall recommend a combination of speed drills and plyometric training.
“By doing this, you will strengthen type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers and enhance the efficiency of the nervous system," Duncan says. "This will lead to better speed and force of lower extremity muscle contraction, resulting in improved lateral quickness."
Lateral quickness isn't the only benefit to doing these movements. Incorporating speed drills into your routine is an excellent way to shake up your cardio workouts, and exercises like skater jumps and banded lateral walks will strengthen the muscles of the glutes, hips, and legs.
1. Lateral Shuffle
2. Lateral Band Walk
3. Side Jump Over Mini Hurdle
4. Skater Jump
5. Jumping Rope, Skier Variation