Want quicker feet, better moves, faster speed and a stronger performance? Then improve the strength and balance of your hip stabilizers. "Your hips are the base through which you transfer all your power to the ground. The stronger your hips, the more force you can apply," says Jeff Howser, speed coach for Duke University athletic programs, including their nationally ranked men's and women's soccer teams.
Heads up, though. The strength and balance you're looking for come from developing the lateral muscles of your hips, which is a hard task to accomplish in the weight room. "Other than something like a lateral lunge, you really don't load your hips [in any weight-room exercise] like you do in a game," Howser says.
Howser suggests using the Lunge Balance and Squat Balance—two drills that can be performed anywhere and require no equipment. They are not difficult to understand, but these drills are difficult to do and will leave your legs burning.
With the pain will come some serious gain. In just seven weeks of performing these drills, one of Howser's soccer teams dropped their average pro agility time by .3 seconds.
Howser implements these drills twice a week on agility days. If his training plan for the day includes a lot of movement agility drills, he schedules these exercises for the end of the workout. They take so much out of his athletes' legs, it's hard for them to run well later. However, if it's a day of plyos, Howser uses these immediately following the warm-up. The key is to perform the drills slowly and in control, maintaining proper posture throughout. When done right, you need only 15-20 seconds to complete one rep of the Lunge Balance and 25-30 seconds for one rep of the Squat Balance.
• Stand in lunge position, with back knee resting on ground and arms extended out to sides
• Raise hips until back knee is 2-3 inches off ground; hold position for 3-4 seconds
• Slowly rotate torso left; hold for 3-4 seconds
• Slowly rotate torso right; hold for 3-4 seconds
• Perform 2-4 reps for each leg with 15-20 seconds rest
Coaching Point: Keep your chest up and center of gravity upright—not over your front leg. When you first get into the Lunge Balance, place your feet close together. As you get used to it, spread your legs further apart.
• Get in athletic stance with arms extended overhead
• Slowly drop hips into squat position; hold
• Slowly rotate torso left; hold 3-4 seconds
• Slowly rotate torso right; hold 3-4 seconds
• Perform 2-4 reps with 25-30 seconds rest
Coaching Point: You can change the load on your legs by adjusting the space between your feet. If you really want to load up your legs, widen your stance and go down; it's an incredible burn.
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