Teaching clients to decelerate in the frontal plane without utilizing a trunk dominant strategy is something I am always working on in the rehab and performance setting. Often, clients will remain too vertical when changing directions, and this can increase knee injury risk. This particular drill will help teach proper lateral deceleration mechanics as well as improve agility/performance.
Execution: Place three small field cones in a line on the floor about 12 inches apart. Stand outside of the row of cones. Next, step quickly over the cones (weight on the balls of the feet) until reaching the far outside right, allowing the right hip and knee to flex and decelerate the motion. Focus on keeping the trunk inside the body and sink into the hip. Pause for a second and repeat the pattern moving back to the left, allowing the left leg to decelerate the movement in the same manner. Repeat this sequence down and back for 30 seconds or the desired number of repetitions. Perform 2-3 sets while providing appropriate cues to maintain proper form.
Application: This exercise is an effective tool to improve deceleration, body control and lateral change of direction. It is best to begin in a slow controlled manner to prevent compensatory movements and minimize loss of body control. The focus should be on staying low on the stop and avoiding being too vertical, while not allowing the shoulders to get outside the base of support. It will probably be necessary to use tactile, audio and visual cues for clients to reinforce proper technique.
Once the client masters the form, you may consider increasing the speed of movement between the stops to increase the work rate and shift the focus to performance versus deceleration mechanics. Another progression includes increasing the distance between the cones, which elevates the intensity of the exercise and requires more control during the deceleration phase. To regress the exercise, begin with two cones.