Developing foot speed, lateral agility change of direction is an important part of athletic development. Having the ability to effectively position the lower body and rapidly change directions is critical for success in field and court sports. These exercises involve using a BOSU® NexGen™ Pro Balance Trainer to improve agility, quickness and cardiovascular fitness and conditioning. I will review three different movements below. This new version of the BOSU® offers textured quadrants which provide better grip and reduce the chance for slipping.
Anterior rapid step-ups: Begin standing behind the BOSU® NexGen™ Pro Balance Trainer (dome side up). Next, quickly step-up onto the front left quadrant with the left foot and the front right quadrant with the right foot. As quickly as possible step off in a left/right fashion. Repeat this alternating rapid step-up sequence for 15-30 seconds. You can opt to switch the lead leg half way through or choose to lead with the right leg during the second set. Initially, the work to rest ratio should be 1:2 or 1:3 and then reduced depending on the fitness level of the client.
Lateral step-over repeats: Begin standing off to the left side of the BOSU® NexGen™ Pro Balance Trainer (dome side up). Next, quickly step-up onto it placing the balls of the feet (right then left) on the top portion of the BOSU® NexGen™ Pro Balance Trainer and then off to the other side. The right foot should contact the ground while there is triple flexion at the ankle, knee and hip to decelerate the body. Avoid lateral trunk flexion. Pause and then rapidly drive off the right leg and repeat the same sequence moving back to the start position, now absorbing force with he left leg. Perform the exercise for 15 - 30 seconds. Repeat for 2-3 sets again using a 1:2 or 1:3 work to rest ratio.
Crossover step repeats: Begin standing off to the left side of the BOSU® NexGen™ Pro Balance Trainer (dome side up). Next, drive off the right (inside) leg and place the left foot on the top portion of the BOSU® NexGen™ Pro Balance Trainer to propel the body off to the other side. The right foot should contact the ground first to decelerate the body, but the left foot will quickly follow. Next, there will be an inside leg load as the athlete drives off the left leg to change directions. The right foot will now land on the top of the BOSU® NexGen™ Pro Balance Trainer to propel the body back to the other side. Again, avoid lateral trunk flexion. Perform the exercise for 15 - 30 seconds. Repeat for 2-3 sets again using a 1:2 or 1:3 work to rest ratio.
Application: These exercises are safe and efficient ways to increase linear and lateral foot speed, body awareness, change of direction and agility. In addition, it allows you to introduce energy system training, improve proprioception and enhance dynamic lower limb stability. It is also a great way to train body control and deceleration - two key things necessary for injury prevention in jumping and cutting athletes. Athletes may tend to stand upright once they come back down to the ground, so coaching and cuing them to stay low and not allow their shoulders to move outside the outside leg may be necessary.
Regressions: If balance and control are an issue, slow the movement down. For the lateral and crossover step patterns, considering using a longer pause or “stick” to the movement emphasizing the deceleration control. For clientele with a history of ankle instability or recurrent sprains, I would advise beginning in this fashion prior to moving to a more rapid pattern to ensure proper foot placement and proprioceptive awareness.