Teaching lateral movement with proper shin angles

Below is a video by Brijesh Patel, the strength & conditioning coach at Quinnipiac University. This is exactly how I teach lateral movement with basketball players.

Somehow, some have taken issue with the video. Once concern is the hip internal rotation, as we spend so much time attempting to reduce or eliminate hip internal rotation and knee-valgus on jump landings. This should not be a concern, as we want to produce a lateral force, not a vertical force with the push-off. The magnitude of forces will be much greater when landing from a jump than when pushing off from a static position.

In terms of shin angles, one could say the same thing when comparing the shin angles of  a sprint to those of a squat or lunge. In a squat or lunge, we want the knee to stay over the toes or behind the toes; when sprinting, the positive shin angle – knees in front of the toes – is important to speed development. The difference is the purpose and the angle of the body. The purpose determines the function. To increase speed in a forward-direction, a sprinter needs a positive shin angle; to increase quickness in a lateral direction, a defensive player needs the positive shin angle with the hip inside the knee and the knee inside the foot.

Another consideration is the deceleration or stopping to change directions. The shin angle with the hip inside the knee and the knee inside the foot create an angle for deceleration. It is very difficult to stop quickly when moving laterally with the foot pointed in the direction of the movement. To stop quickly, the player naturally closes his foot to create this breaking mechanism, just as one steps with his foot ahead of his knee to break when moving in a forward direction.

The other big difference is the foot position. The real danger to one’s knees when moving laterally is the change of direction, especially when an angle changes. When a athlete points the lead toe in the direction of the movement, there is a big twisting moment when trying to change directions. If the foot gets caught in the ground at all, that twist occurs at the knee. I am assisting with the rehabilitation of a college player who tore her ACL in this manner because this was how she was taught to move, with the toes pointed outward. She was moving quickly, the offensive player crossed over, and she attempted to stop and pivot, but her foot stuck in the ground and the force went to her knee.

I believe that the technique that produces the most force or the most speed is generally the more correct technique. The body naturally adapts to produce the fastest, strongest movements. Knee valgus when landing from a jump is not only dangerous in terms of tearing one’s ACL, but it also leads to reduced performance in a repeat vertical jump. An athlete produces better results if the forces are not attenuated by the knee valgus. In lateral movement, the internal hip rotation and positive shin angles produce the quickest movements.

This is how it looks on the court:

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