Lateral Plyometric Jumps to Build Dynamic Power and Balance

Soccer player doing a lateral jump
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Lateral plyometric jumps are advanced exercises that can be used to develop power and agility. While most people focus on forward motion, it's important to include exercises that generate power and stability during lateral motion exercises as well.

Why Move Laterally

Adding any sort of side-to-side movements to your training is crucial. Lateral movements not only improve strength, stability, and coordination, they also help reduce the risk for sports injuries by enhancing balance and proprioception through the whole body and improving 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.

Athletes who frequently, or abruptly, change direction, cut or pivot, lateral drills will improve sports performance. Specifically, those who play field and court sports—such as soccer, basketball, football, rugby, and tennis—as well as skiers, skaters, gymnasts, and even rock climbers, can benefit from adding side-to-side agility drills to their training routine.

The Reason for Plyometrics

Athletes need to maintain power, control, and balance during fast side-to-side lateral motion and transitions. 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 Jumps

This is an advanced plyometric exercise that should only be practiced after someone 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.

The Ready: Only perform this exercise after a thorough warm up. You will want to begin with nothing more than a line on the floor until you are comfortable with side-to-side jumping. Avoid doing this exercise on a hard surface (such as concrete) which is tough on the joints. Practice on carpet, grass, sand, hardwoods, or a gym floor for best results.

The Set: With feet no more than hip-width apart, bend your knees to squat straight down.

The Go: Pushing through your heels quickly push upward and sideways toward the other side of the line. Land softly and absorb the shock by squatting deeply. Repeat jumping back and forth over the line while keeping your shoulders and hips square and facing forward.

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.

How Many? Perform for 30- to 60-second intervals, rest for 60 to 90 seconds then repeat for 3 sets or add them to a circuit training routine.

The Progression: Vary the speed and height of the jumps. Practice clearing the line with your feet higher and higher, land softly and spring back quickly. 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.

Increase the difficulty: 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.

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