Whether played on a grass or turf field or a hard-surface court, pretty much every sport calls on athletes to turn and make quick cuts. Most people think quick changes of direction result from above-average acceleration, but in reality it’s deceleration—an athlete’s ability to quickly slow down—that sets up the movement.
The good news is that athletes are not born with the ability to change directions quickly. It’s a skill that can be taught and learned. You can improve the skill—and your ability to cut and turn—by building your leg strength with moves like Squats, Hurdle Steps, Lunges, Active Straight-Leg Raises and Seated Rotations.
Athletes can also perform the following 3 drills to improve their quickness, acceleration, and deceleration.
1. Triangle Drill
This drill is a great way to assess whether you are more adept at moving in one direction than another. Use 3 cones to create a triangle 10x10x10 yards. Sprint counterclockwise around the triangle twice while a friend or coach times you. Rest 2 to 5 minutes, then sprint around the triangle twice in the opposite direction. If there’s a difference greater than 10-15 percent in either direction, work on improving your slower side.
2. Jump Rope Drills
The jump rope is one of the most under-utilized pieces of workout equipment in the gym. It can simultaneously improve your footwork and conditioning. Good moves to practice are High Knee Jogging, Lateral Hopping, and Split-Stance Leg Jumps.
3. Resisted Running Drills
Stand with the band or tubing around your waist, maintaining slight tension. Don’t let the band (or your partner) pull you off balance. Try Stationary Running, Dynamic Bounding and 4-Way Hopping.
Although theres no substitute for practice and games, the above exercises can provide a solid foundation and a stable base for increasing your quickness when cutting and turning.