Train to improve change of direction in sports
When we look at athletic performance both within a team sport or individual sport we often see that we do not just move in one direction or plane. Instead, we move in multiple directions. Think about team sports such as football, rugby or volleyball where athletes react to the opposition’s movement, shot, pass or perhaps where they attack to beat and get around the opposition. With these sports, it’s not just speed that’s important but the ability to decelerate and then rapidly accelerate in another direction. Your body repeats these series so many times during a match and it’s the decelerating part where technique most often breaks down. It’s also the part that’s the most demanding on your body.
This can also be applied to individual sports like tennis for example, where lots of changes in direction occur. Therefore, it is important to work on exercises that improve your ability to decelerate and change direction quickly, as well as improve balance, because regardless of skill level, if your balance is poor then you won’t be able to move efficiently and with power.
Movement based exercises help you improve quickness, agility, speed and power, while reducing your injury potential. Movement exercises will also then encore the element of ground reaction force which relates to how force in one direction results in an equal and opposite amount of force in the opposite direction for example jumping and landing on the ground whereby an amount of force is exerted downwards and then the force will be transferred back into the legs and must be either shifted or absorbed by the body. This relates to the point made earlier about the athletes’ ability to decelerate and absorb that force or use it to then push off in another direction often seen in sporting performance.
Build multi-planar strength
There are numerous ways in which you can improve your ability to change direction but one way could be to firstly strengthen your legs within the different planes through the use of a lunge matrix. The term of different planes refers to planes of motion. The sagittal plane divides the body down the middle into left and right halves and one moves in it when performing squats, forward lunges or deadlifts for example, which train the hips, hamstrings, quads and then single leg strength in the use of a lunge. The frontal plane divides the body into front and back. This involves exercises with lateral movements such as a side lunge, which is a great exercise to teach change of direction, training proper lateral hip loading, positive shin angles, and core stability. The last plane is the transverse and divides the body at the waist into upper and lower body sections. This deals with rotational types of movements and builds core strength. During sporting performance we move in all different ways so it makes sense to perform exercises in all three planes through the use of a lunge matrix which involves a forward, back, side (lateral) and curtsy lunge in a cluster to build and strengthen these areas.
Improve your movement skills
From here we can then move into more movement based exercises such as bounding exercises where you will for example, jump explosively diagonally landing onto one foot to a marker and hold for 2 seconds before continuing bounding down in a zigzag formation following the same set up. As you feel more comfortable you can begin to include short sprints before the jump to change direction. Another example could be the use of lateral shuffles which are good forglute activation, hip abduction and adduction and core stability, which can be performed through lateral movement between two markers or could be used with resistance through the use of resistance bands for example. You could then begin to include a further change of direction with a sprint forward or behind or an angle to mimic game situations you could find yourself in.