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Lateral Jumps Are an Explosive Addition to Your Workout

Woman jumping to the side outdoors

Most of us think of jumping as a movement that goes up or forward, but there are also benefits to jumping laterally or side to side. The lateral jump is a lower-body move that doesn’t require any equipment, incorporates multiple muscle groups, and has benefits beyond just strengthening your legs. While they seem relatively easy in theory, lateral jumps require power, balance, and agility, and having proper form is key to doing them effectively and preventing possible injury.

Curious to get some hops in? Here, fitness experts Bree Koegel and Jaime Rodriguez tell us how to perform lateral jumps properly, what you should look out for, and how to make a few modifications.


What Are Lateral Jumps?

Lateral jumps, also known as lateral bounds, explains Koegel, are explosive jumping patterns from side to side. One way to visualize the movement is to imagine trying to jump over a puddle from left to right, or vice versa. They’re a variation of plyometric movements used to develop power in the frontal plane and can be performed with double or single leg actions, adds Rodriguez.

Lateral jumps use similar muscles to those used in a squat, including quads, core hamstrings, calves, and glutes, as well as abductors and adductors.

What Are the Benefits of Lateral Jumps?

Koegel says that like all single-leg jumping and landing, lateral jumps require great strength, coordination, stabilization, and the ability to absorb force. If done properly, they will also benefit your bilateral exercises, like squats, as one side will not be overly dependent on the other.

As a plyometric movement, lateral jumps can help build strength and help with bone density and lower the risk of osteoporosis, says Rodriguez. They will generate power and stability in the lower body, while other benefits include frontal and sagittal plane power development, increased heart rate, and lower-body muscle recruitment. They also help improve balance, muscle reaction, landing mechanics, lower-body mobility, joint health, and more.

How Do You Do a Lateral Jump?

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  2. Shift to standing on one leg, and slightly squat to gain power.
  3. Push off your standing foot while engaging the core and leg muscles, and use momentum with the arms to jump laterally toward the opposite leg.
  4. Land softly on the opposite foot in a slightly squatted stance with your hip, knee, and ankle in alignment over the foot.
  5. Alternate sides.

Alignment is key for form and safety when doing lateral jumps. “Many of us have a tendency to allow the knee of the landing leg to fall inwards of the midline, rather than aligning with the toes,” says Koegel. “Similarly, the toes should be pointing mostly forward on both feet, allowing for some anatomical discretion in the hips. Be sure to bend those knees and use your arms to increase power.”

Lateral Jump Modifications

Lateral Lunge

Lateral lunges are a great way to build on the strength and movement pattern of a lateral jump, says Koegel. They increase the difficulty by adding load.

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big step to the right.
  3. Bend your right knee, and push your glutes and hips back into a lunge. Keep your knee aligned with your toes.
  4. Push off your right leg and return to a standing position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Double-Leg Lateral Jump

Double-leg lateral jumps with a stick-landing over a jump rope are a great way to start trying lateral jumps, says Rodriguez.

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  2. Squat down and push off both feet as you jump to one side.
  3. Land softly on both feet in a squat position.
  4. Repeat, jumping to the other side.

Single-Leg Lateral Jumps

Single-leg lateral jumps are a solid way to improve eccentric load and stiffness, says Rodriguez. They focus on ankle, knee, and hip stability.

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  2. Shift your weight to one leg and bend your knees into a slight squat.
  3. Push off your standing foot and jump laterally toward one side.
  4. Land softly on the same foot in a slightly squatted stance with your hip, knee, and ankle in alignment over the foot.
  5. Jump back toward the other side.
  6. Repeat on the other leg.

Safety and Precautions

If you are jumping without pain, you should be fine doing lateral jumps, says Koegel. However, due to progressions and the potential difficulty of doing lateral jumps, it’s important to determine individual fitness levels before starting. Rodriguez adds that most people are able to incorporate lateral jumps into their workout routine at a beginner level and progress from there once their stability, proprioception (awareness of the position and movement of your body), and landing efficiency improve.

If you have issues with jumping or any lower-body injuries, speak to a fitness coach or physical therapist to work on movement patterns or rehab, as well as to determine if lateral jumps can be safely performed during your workouts. If you are untrained, talk to a performance coach first to build up to lateral jumps or learn proper form to help prevent possible injury.

The Final Takeaway

Lateral jumps are plyometric exercises that use your lower-body muscles via an explosive movement. If you are able to do them safely, they can be a beneficial addition to your workout routine, as they can help improve balance and proprioception, increase muscular strength without external load, and develop stability to reduce lower-body injuries.

Another reason to incorporate them into your program, says Rodriguez, is if you’re trying to raise athletic development in competition. A lateral jump may improve power productivity, which helps an athlete become more explosive and agile. But athlete or not, lateral jumps can help develop power and stability in your lower body.


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