The Need for Speed… Lateral Acceleration – Part 4

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

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In Part 4 of this series on Need for Speed (click here for Part 3, Part 2, Part 1), we’re going to talk about lateral acceleration. As far as court and field sports go, lateral acceleration is where the athlete can separate himself among the pack. The ability to accelerate or change direction quickly while maintaining an athletic posture sets an athlete up, not only from a performance standpoint, but also visually speaks volumes about their athleticism during any recruiting process as well.

Today, we’re going to touch on a few techniques we teach in our Speed Development Program to make athletes more efficient when getting into successful positions on the field, whether it be fielding, catching or running bases.

Lateral Shuffle

Let’s start by breaking it down the lateral shuffle into three phases by first explaining why we use ithow to do it and what to look for when moving laterally.

Why We Use It – We use it to stay in an athletic position while keeping our “eyes on the prize” when moving laterally. This can go a long way when getting a jump on a ground ball or an outside and/or wild pitch for a catcher.

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How to Do it

Performance Technique / Back Leg – The leg opposite to the way we are trying to move becomes our back or “power” leg. We like to cue “down and away” to help the athlete feel the initial push.

Performance Technique / Front Leg – The front leg’s job is to continue creating momentum by “pulling” while digging into the ground with the front heel. Using the heel to pull helps us activate the powerful glutes and the hamstrings, rather than the adductors (groin) which are much smaller and weaker muscles.

Sometimes there can be a “lag” in the initial down and away movement setting the athlete back from the start. Marist’s Joey Aiola demonstrates.

(Lateral Shuttle)

One way to help correct this can be to use a band to pull the athlete away from the direction of force production, forcing them to initiate a more powerful push with the back leg.

(Band Resisted Shuttle Run)

What to Look For

Staying Low or in the Tunnel – Many young athletes use a vertical “bobbing up and down” while moving which causes the athlete to create an energy leak in the opposite direction, slowing down any lateral movement.

Knee Over the Toe / Shoulder Over the Knee – This helps create a more stable base of support giving the athlete a better and more powerful starting position as well as during deceleration while changing direction (we’ll get into change of direction more in the next blog).

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This is just a sample of some of the things we touch upon in our Speed Development Program.  Stay tuned for next time when we’ll talk about linear and lateral “change-of-direction”.

See ya’ in the gym…

 

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