Leg Exercises: Lateral Jumps for Strong Legs

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If you are a fitness buff and have not yet heard of “plyometric training,” you must have your earbuds turned up too loudly in the gym.

Plyometric training, otherwise known as jump training, is one of the most popular fitness training forms today. And all of this “jumping” is not reserved for the track and field set or those who dominate the local pickup game: every type of athlete can benefit from jumping exercises.

Whether you are into lifting, running, cycling, swimming, or yoga, you can adopt some plyometric work to strengthen muscles and enhance your abilities in any of the exercises you enjoy.

Why Lateral Jumps?

For most people, the jumping exercises that come to mind are about forward/upward motions. It is easy to forget the alternative: a side-to-side or lateral motion, which can further enhance your agility.

Plyometric exercises favored in many gyms these days include everything from the challenging tuck jump to the often dreaded burpees. These exercises are not for the faint of heart, and they are so commonplace because they yield results.

But the addition of a lateral plyometric jump will take your workout and your abilities to the next level.

The Benefits of Lateral Drill Training

Once you begin to include this kind of lateral movement into your fitness routines, you will see enhancements in the following areas:

  • Stability
  • Coordination
  • Strength
  • Reaction time

However, this is not going to happen overnight. Lateral work can be tough at first, especially for those who struggle with balance and coordination. It takes time to train the body in this way.

If performed consistently and correctly over time, lateral drills will increase your ankle, knee, and hip stability, which is incredibly important in injury prevention. Many people who consider themselves “physically fit” still struggle with hip or knee injuries without the proper conditioning and variety in workouts.

For example, if you run five miles a day, five days per week, but you do not engage in any other kind of strength training, it is highly likely that the outer muscles near your hips will eventually give you trouble.

Lateral drills are a way for you to incorporate different movements to engage your body in various ways, making you stronger and more powerful in the process.

How To Perform Lateral Jumps

The first and most important step when it comes to lateral jumps is to stretch properly and warm up. Many athletes make the mistake of jumping into a new exercise “cold,” with muscles that have not been prepped and primed. This is a recipe for injury!

Create a line on the floor to jump over: you can use chalk to mark it out, a jump rope, or any long object that can be placed in a straight line.

Standing next to the line with your feet placed hip-width apart, bend your knees into a squat.

With your heels firmly planted, push upwards in an explosive motion while also jumping sideways, across the line.

As you land, you should immediately move down into a deep squat; think of this as one fluid motion. At the squat’s base, you will then push yourself up quickly again to return to the other side.

Continue these jumps in intervals of 30 to 60 seconds, building up time as you build stamina. Rest in between sets, and you can add a few more sets each week as your ability improves.

Safety First: Mistakes to Avoid with Lateral Jumps

If you want to incorporate lateral jump drills into your fitness training to build strength, the last thing you want to do is end up with an injury that cancels your training altogether, leaving you with no choice but to watch those muscles atrophy.

Therefore, it is necessary to take the proper precautions to safely perform these jumps to avoid injury or strain. Follow the tips below as you start your jump training (and bear in mind most of these tips apply to any new exercise routine and not just lateral jump drills)

Tip #1: Walk Before You….Jump?

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to prepare with a warm-up, but we also want to point out the need to prepare and “build up” to lateral jumps if you are not already in fairly good physical shape. In other words, if you have not worked out in ten years, do not START with a lateral jump drill. Work your way up and try to tackle lateral jump drills only if you can already complete forward motion jumps with relative ease (such as tuck jumps, jump squats, or jump lunges).

Tip #2: Keep it Soft

Lateral drills on concrete are the enemy of joints everywhere. Either work on a soft gym floor, or if you want to do your lateral training outside, practice these on grass or sand. A surface as hard as concrete should be avoided if you want to avoid pain and injury.

Tip #3: Rest Before You Repeat

Most exercises are best in moderation, and this is true of lateral jump drills. Once you get the hang of them, you may be tempted to overdo it, but bear in mind your muscles need time to repair and recover. Leave room for rest days in between your plyometric training. Filling those days with yoga classes or just some good old-fashioned stretching at home will do wonders for the ways your muscles will respond to training.

Tip #4: Watch Your Landing

One of the easiest ways to injure yourself in lateral jump drills is with a poorly executed landing. Try to land softly on the toes rather than slamming your feet into the ground. Focus on avoiding any twisting motion in your knees, too.

Lateral jumps are one of our favorite ways to build strong legs, but they should only be incorporated into training when an individual is already fit and injury-free. Your physician or a certified trainer will be best able to assess when you are ready for plyometric work, including lateral jumps.