Self-Assessments for Athletes: Improving Lateral Power

This edition of self-assessments looks at programming to improve lateral power and the good things that come with that- such as more strength when pushing & dragging; and better direction-changing and lateral shuffling.

Alexander Nurse Bey
August 17, 2021

This self-assessment is called the Normalized Lateral Bound and is a measure of the power of your hip muscles.

1. The Assessment: Normalized Lateral Bound

Set down some measuring tape and measure the farthest distance you can perform the splits with the feet flat and facing ahead, and the torso comfortably upright. It shouldn’t feel like much of a stretch or be difficult to maintain. With the distance recorded, stand at the line and perform a sideways jump off of the opposite foot (we call this a Lateral Bound), sticking the landing on either the opposite foot or on both feet. If you choose to land on two feet, remember that you always measure the distance of the jump as one that begins at the starting line and ends at the opposite foot you jumped from. Each jump gets a practice rep and then two official attempts.

The test is scored for each leg by either taking the best of the two attempts; or averaging them by adding the numbers together and dividing the sum by two. For example, if you have a bad attempt for some reason and know that it wasn’t an accurate effort, then you might just take the best jump of the two attempts. You then divide the jump distance you have chosen by the distance of your splits. If the value is above 1, then it means that you can jump farther than you can perform the splits. If it is less than 1, than your splits distance is greater than your jump.

2. Solutions

The goal is for your lateral bound to cover at least as much distance as the splits stance. If it does not, or just matches it, consider planning more lateral movement in your lower body training including any work that you do outside of the weight room. Inside the weight room, variations of lateral squats, jumps, and speed work are good choices.

A. COD  (change of direction) Rows: Use this exercise to simulate a direction change by rotating the hips and torso as you shift your weight toward the floor and then using your legs to push the ground away. To start, take the cable in your hand and stand with your feet parallel to the cable rack. Then reach down toward the foot nearest the pulley with the cable in the opposite hand, keeping your low back as flat as possible. Use the foot and leg closest to the cable to push yourself back to the starting position while pulling the cable toward the ribcage, being sure to keep your elbow slightly off of your body.

B: Side Squat Variations: Use this exercise and its variations as more of a strength-type exercise where the focus in increasing the weight used overtime, as ultimately, more weight can be used in this exercise than the Cable CODs. Shift your weight toward the working leg keeping a flat back, and then use the same leg to push yourself back to the starting position.

C. Various other lateral speed and strength exercises.

Here are examples of different types of exercises at different speeds and loads for developing lateral power. Get creative and make your own!

This test is a simple pass or fail and has good applications for improving sports skills such as dragging and pushing or changing direction. It is also completely objective and easy to improve over time to establish or change a baseline score. Scoring well on the test means working to maintain the same score on days when your bodyweight has increased; or improving your score on days when your bodyweight has decreased. Whenever you repeat a score on consecutive re-assessments, you can establish that number as a new baseline score to design your program around.

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