Building Lateral Speed and Change of Direction for Soccer

Building Lateral Speed and Change of Direction for Soccer

There are a handful of things soccer players do too much of:

– Quick feet tap dancing drills
– Ladder drills with the ball
– Stupidity

Excuse my harsh tone off the bat, but I genuinely want to help soccer players actually develop rapid speed and change of direction ability – two skills that take learning the proper neural patterns, as well as developing strength and power to be able pump the brakes to decelerate, as well as put the foot on the gas pedal to re-accelerate.

Rarely, are players tap dancing on the field like you see on sensationalist Instagram accounts.

Rather, they are performing hundreds of dynamic actions, from shuffling, to back pedaling, to turning, to rotating and sprinting. They need to have the athleticism to be able to handle various environments, spontaneous movements in all directions, and be comfortable with their bodies to handle this all under duress against an opponent.

Instead of wasting an hour of a training session that isn’t training proper mechanics, why not spend time working on ankle, knee and hip angles, core stability, stance and posture so players can move as well as react multi-directionally with lightning pace?

According to a study done by Dos’Santos, Thomas, Comfort and Jones, previous research indicate the biomechanical demands of CODs are ‘angle’ and ‘velocity’ dependent and are both critical factors that affect the technical execution of directional changes, deceleration and reacceleration requirements, knee joint loading, and lower limb muscle activity (Dos’Santos, T., Thomas, C., Comfort, P., & Jones, P. A. 2018).

With that said, lateral speed and change of direction are skills that the nervous system must learn.

Are players able to control in their trunks, recruit their glutes, hamstrings and quads to decelerate without loading the patellar tendon too much?

Another study concluded that eccentric muscle strength is especially needed to decelerate and stabilize the body during change of direction tasks for injury reduction. Additionally, it helps athletes during running to decelerate in the shortest possible time and to re-accelerate quickly in a new direction for improved performance (Chaabene, H., Prieske, O., Negra, Y. et al 2018).

Do they have the strength in their legs to be able to create force when an opponent fakes them out and they have to recover and retreat?

Have they trained movement patterns to be able to get in good positioning without blowing a knee?

Have they addressed and adjusted their own unique kinematics to help them re-position faster when changing direction and re-accelerating?

There’s a lot of physics at play when teaching kids how to transfer force from their lower to upper extremity (ankle —> hip —> core —> shoulder positioning matters).

It's not slow feet don't eat, it's rather, slow lower and upper extremity linking don't eat. Click To Tweet

Here is a video explaining into detail all of this:

Now that you see why lateral speed is critical to train both from a neural and strength standpoint, let’s give a sample workout that addresses all components – stability, coordination, positioning (athletic stance), high intensity drills and variations.

 Here is a sample lateral speed day workout:

  • Lateral Crawl 2×10 each
  • Lateral Skip 2×20 each
  • Lateral Explosive Push-Off to Stick 1×5 each
  • Lateral Lunge Rotation Stretch 1×5 each
  • Side Shuffle with Hold 4×10 seconds each
  • Side Shuffle to Sprint 4x10yd,10yd,20yd,20yd
  • Lateral Footwork to Sprint 2x30yd <5 seconds time

And this is just glossing over the tip of the iceberg. I like to kick off my lateral speed and change of direction days with a frontal plane core stabilization and central nervous system “wake-up” exercise like crawling. Then, I like to sprinkle in coordination and rhythm with a skipping variation. Then, hip and thoracic mobility for improved change of direction and being able to feel supple.

Good luck and let me know how you do.

Oh, and no more tap dancing for an hour straight. ;-O

Train for the game, and last I looked, the game is explosive, high force and more dynamic than a dance drill.


If you enjoyed this article and found it valuable, inspirational, and impactful, you can leave a creative tip HERE


For more speed, change of direction and agility days with specific sets and reps, progressions, and progress tracking, get the Total Youth Soccer Fitness 365 program HERE.


To work with me online through high level coaching and customized programming, book a 15-minute call HERE.



Chaabene, H., Prieske, O., Negra, Y. et al. Change of Direction Speed: Toward a Strength Training Approach with Accentuated Eccentric Muscle Actions. Sports Med 48, 1773–1779 (2018).

Dos’Santos, T., Thomas, C., Comfort, P., & Jones, P. A. (2018). The Effect of Angle and Velocity on Change of Direction Biomechanics: An Angle-Velocity Trade-Off. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)48(10), 2235–2253.

No Comments

Post A Comment