It’s time to step up your game and with these exercises you will be side stepping like Shaun Johnson in no time. A few weeks back a friend and fellow Touch Rugby player asked me how to improve his side step from an training perspective. Funnily enough this was a question I posed to one of the Elite Trainers at Third Space gym in London a few months before heading on my tour of Australia with the England Touch team. I had been implementing the knowledge and exercises he gave me three months prior to my tour and they seemed to work pretty well for me, so I thought I would write a blog post on How To Improve Your Side Step.
I told him to start by increasing his lower body strength. Implement some heavy compound power movements into your routine, squats, deadlifts etc. Basics I know, but they need to be done.
Secondly – like most things – a strong side step stems from a strong core. One ab session a week, just isn’t enough. You don’t need to train abs everyday but if you do three full body workouts a week, try ending each with a core element, making sure to hit the;
- Sagittal plane with an exercise such as leg raises, crunches or my favourite core exercise, dead bugs.
- Frontal plane with exercises like a standing oblique kettlebell crunch or a side bridge.
- Transverse (rotational) plane with exercises like the pallof press (I like to use a cable or resistance band) or rotational med ball wall throws.
Thirdly, as a runner you should be doing a lot of unilateral lower body exercises. Squats are great, but you don’t step off two legs. You need to be balanced, strong and explosive off each leg individually. Implement some weighted step ups, walking lunges, lateral lunges or lateral sled drags into your routine.
Lastly you need to incorporate plyometrics into your routine. Both bilateral exercises, like broad jumps and unilateral exercises, like single leg box jumps. Always progress slowly into the unilateral stuff. Follow this progression for all movements.
- Start on 2 feet and land on 2 feet.
- Start on 1 foot and land on 2 feet.
- Start on 1 foot and land on 1 foot.
- Start on 2 feet and land on 1 foot.
Here are 2 full leg workouts to improve your sidestep. Try to perform both every week.
- 2×4 Vertical jump
- 2×4 Broad jump
- 2×4 Double broad jump
- 4×20 BB calf raises
- 5x 12,10,8,8,8 box squat
- 5x 12,10,8,8,8 single leg RDLs (use a kettlebell)
- 4×8 Swiss ball hamstring curls
- 4×8 DB Bulgarian split squat
Prehab Session (Injury prevention, improve proprioception and biomechanics)
- 4x15m Banded crab walks
- 4×6 Bosu ball ice skater (each side) (try just using 1 Bosu ball first then progress to using two)
- 4×6 Glute ham raise
- 4×6 Pistol squats, super set with 4×10 single leg calf raises
- 4×6 Box curtsey squats, super set with 4x to failure calf raises (in the video, use a higher box and don’t let your trailing leg touch the floor)
- 4×6 Single leg glute bridge
- 4x balance on Bosu ball for as long as you can. Once you find that quite easy and can last 60 seconds without shaking too much for all 4 sets progress by; adding in head turns, then try closing your eyes, then try single leg squats, then single leg RDLs.
I hope you are now confident in How To Improve Your Side Step. Keep it simple and aim for steady progress with these exercises, don’t jump ahead and attempt something your body isn’t ready for. They might seem simple but a few of these exercises will surprise you with just how difficult they are from a mechanical and neurological point of view.