All too often, athletes ignore lateral movement in their training.
Why? Well, with literally thousands of exercises and drills at their disposal, athletes often ignore lateral movements for other, more popular options. After all, the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift aren't lateral movements, neither are Sprints or Box Jumps.
But when it's time to compete in practices and games, there's no avoiding lateral movement. That's why the athletes who do train in the lateral plane are at an advantage. To meet the deliberate demands of one's sport, young athletes must perform lateral movements/exercises that demand stability and coordination, develop strength and power, and build better body awareness.
The Lateral Plyometric Side Jump is a simple exercise that can help young athletes accomplish many of these goals. The move itself is quite simple, making it a nice option for any young athlete (particularly those 8 years old and up) who's just starting out with plyometrics.
Before utilizing the Lateral Plyometric Side Jumps, I would suggest implementing an in-depth sport-specific warm-up. Once you've guided your athletes through the warm-up of your choice, which ideally would include a few low-level, low-impact jumps to help prime good landing mechanics, you're ready for the exercise.
How to Perform the Lateral Plyometric Side Jump
- Place a Lateral Plyo Box against a wall.
- Have the athlete stand with one foot firmly on the lateral box in an athletic position with a minimal 90-degree knee bend on the outside leg.
- On command, the athlete should explode laterally.
- Once the athlete lands, there should again be a 90-degree knee bend, which is needed to absorb the landing. The athlete's landing position should be as if their body is primed to perform a single-leg jump. They're balanced and ready to explode again into another movement.
- Sets/Reps: 2-3 sets of 4-8 reps in each direction is a sensible starting point.
With this Lateral Plyometric Side Jump, the goal is not to achieve height or lateral distance. Rather, the goal is to focus on producing maximum force into the box to create lateral explosion, and then landing softly and efficiently.
If the young athlete does not stick the landing, that's OK. It may take some time for them to master the technique. Cueing them to drop their hips upon landing and to try to "land quietly" can help them get the hang of it. The coach or trainer should also be vigilant for excessive valgus collapse during the exercise.
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