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 or allow the trunk to move outside the base of support when changing directions, and this can increase knee injury risk. This particular drill will help reinforce proper form and alignment with lateral movement and change of direction.
Execution: Place 3 small field cones in a line on the floor at least 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 base of support and sink into the hip. Pause momentarily 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 20-30 seconds or for 4-5 controlled repetitions. Perform 2-3 sets while providing appropriate cues to maintain proper form.
Progression: Increase the speed of the movement once the client demonstrates he/she can maintain body control and proper form.
Regression: For clients who struggle with control, consider using 1 or 2 cones at first focusing on allowing the hip and knee to flex softly during deceleration.
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 deceleration and transition, 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. This exercise is a good ACL prevention/rehab exercise, but can also be used to improve conditioning and lateral quickness.