Moving From Speed To Agility: The Frontal Plane

Rich Clarke

As mentioned in my previous article about deceleration, once you have developed some basic acceleration skills, you need to move your attention towards deceleration and the frontal plane. Deceleration is a simpler add on as we have already done half the work needed in a speed session by accelerating (if this is the progression route you choose). But the frontal plane is a little harder to integrate to what you already have. This is the reason you typically see linear sessions and multi-directional sessions separated during programming. This isn’t necessarily the model I use (I’ll challenge some components later), but I am pretty sure it is the most common.

The simplest form of frontal plane is the lateral shuffle. Not necessary sport specific, but it helps build the foundation on which to progress to more sport specific complexity. The reason it provides the required foundation is because it allows for multiple reps in the frontal plane to develop the required skills. In all other circumstances the aim is to have some initial frontal plane force application, but then get back to the sagittal plane as soon as possible. So whether you see it as sports specific or not, starting with a lateral shuffle is a perfect answer. As usual, the technical model is simpler than you think if we break it down to some key principles.

Lateral shuffle principles:

  • Lower COM
  • Work distributed across multiple joints and to the bigger force contributing muscles
  • BOS outside COM with appropriate shin angles
  • Trunk Control upon force application
  • Minimise flight time
  • Maximise adaptability by keeping BOS outside COM and pelvis square

These actually run-in order; we need to lower the COM by distributing work across joints (importantly to the posterior chain); this allows for the BOS to move wider and us to apply lateral force; when we apply force, it needs to transfer from the ground to the shoulders with no lag (i.e the trunk shouldn’t sway left to right); when applying force we should minimise the flight time to ensure adaptability and frequent contact with the ground; we should apply force without compromising the pelvic position or adaptability of the force application (no crossing feet or turning pelvis – yet).

If we want to move towards cuts and curves or large angle turns the context changes a little. There are fewer frontal plane contacts before a return to sagittal, and there may also be a braking component. But these don’t change the above shuffle principles, they simply need a couple of additions. For example, if there is deceleration, the BOS must move forwards for braking, and the joints need to couple together to dissipate force. If there is a return to the sagittal plane, force needs to be applied with a transverse plane component to rotate the pelvis. Once we establish this lateral shuffle skill, the movement can either progress towards more defensive or attacking actions.

Defensive progressions will:

  • Move towards a crossover run (a frontal plane movement when you need to cover more ground but not fully commit)
  • Increase perceptual demands more quickly.

Attacking progressions will:

  • Add momentum prior to the frontal plane force application
  • And/or a move towards a single frontal plane foot contact before a return to a sprint.

Example Attacking Progressions:

  • A multi-directional initiation. For example, a shuffle to acceleration 90 degree from the facing direction. This keeps the frontal plane component but adds in transverse plane requirement and builds on an important principle: Get to the sagittal plane if committing.
  • A deceleration into a frontal plane shuffle (this becomes a 180 degree turn if you don’t exit in a shuffle but rotate into a sprint again)
  • You could move towards a more cutting focussed progression which is EITHER at high speed with low angle demands OR at low speed with a higher angle demand. A high-speed example with a small angle is moving a linear sprint towards a curve and a shallow cut. A low speed, high angle example is where you use a diagonal bound to increase the level of forwards momentum (longer/larger bounds = more momentum) but keep the angle demand high. Combining both high velocity and large angles is something you need to progress to as both load and movement complexity are at their highest (therefore so are risk and difficulty).

These are all pre-planned ‘Change of Direction Speed’ progressions and we want to make these skills more open as time moves forwards. I actually believe we can be much more open skilled earlier in the process than we think we can. If the movement and the perceptive stimulus is simple (for example a low complexity stimulus with a temporal reaction) I don’t think this has a particularly negative impact on the technical execution. It is all about getting the challenge point right, not about if there is any uncertainty at all.

There are loads of different ways of progressing things. I don’t like giving templates or claiming to have a perfect answer to a progression. What you need in your education is to understand the key principles and develop your own strategy which suits who you have, and the environment you are in.


Rich is the founder of Strength Coach Curriculums and an S&C coach who specialised in multi-directional speed. He runs the S&C provision for Bristol Flyers Basketball and consults with clubs across the globe while also leading the MSc programme at the University of South Wales