IMPROVING LATERAL SPEED AND AGILITY
An excerpt from the book Functional Training for Sports
by Mike Boyle
Warm-up is used to prepare the body for workouts devoted to
improving lateral movement. The Lateral Warm-up consists of
eight minutes of Agility Ladder work followed by 5 minutes of
lateral dynamic flexibility.
The key is to stress the abductor and adductor groups to a
greater degree than would be possible in the linear warm-up.
Obviously warm-up should be specific to the demands of the
activity. The "linear only" influence of track and field has
caused warm-up to often be one dimensional, or uniplanar.
The lateral warm-up prepares the athlete for the lateral
movement and lateral speed progressions to follow.
Lateral Agility Progression
The old adage that you can’t teach speed has been disproved
for years. However, many coaches still believe that agility
and coordination cannot be taught. In truth, change of
direction, the essence of lateral movement, can be taught and
comes down to three simple things.
1. Do you
have the single leg strength necessary to not only stop
movement, but to restart movement after a stop? Single leg
strength is the major key to developing agility. Without
single leg strength no amount of agility will allow athletes
to make cuts at top speed.
2. Can you
decelerate? Eccentric strength is the real key. Think of
eccentric strength not as the ability to lower a weight, but
instead as the ability to bring the body to a rapid stop.
Eccentric strength is the ability to put on the brakes.
3. Can you
land with stability? Is the proprioceptive system prepared
to create a stable landing?
Athletes need to understand the most
basic concept of agility:
In order to move to the left,
the athlete must push off with the right foot.
You never get anywhere fast by stepping in the direction that
you are going; you have to literally push yourself in the
direction you want to go with the foot that is furthest away.
However before you can apply the push so necessary in change
of direction, you need to decelerate and land with stability.
Most of what coaches pass off as agility training is simply
timing movement. Our philosophy is to teach movement, not time
movement. We will not just ask athletes to run around cones
and attempt to lower their time. We will teach athletes the
proper way to execute a right turn, a left turn, or a
45-degree cut. To do this we begin with a simple drill we call
The essence of this drill is the "stutter step." A stutter
step is the basic component of most offensive evasive
maneuvers in sport. The crossover dribble in basketball and
the wide dribble in field or ice hockey are just a few
examples of athletes executing a stutter step to elude an
All of our lateral movement drills are taught using Flat
Fitness Rings to teach foot placement. We will not run
laterally over mini-hurdles as we feel that lateral movement
is generally more of a shuffle action than a step-over action.
We want the feet moving quickly, accurately, and low to the
information on Mike Boyle’s book Functional Training for
Sports, Agility Ladders, or Flat Fitness Rings visit