Standardized Nomenclature for Footwork

Getting on the same page. Speaking the same language. This is good when we want to avoid confusion and increase effectiveness.

When talking about footwork, specifically in reference to some common athletic movements, standardized nomenclature is essential. What I find, and I’m sure you have also, is that there is a bit of a disconnect when it comes to footwork. Athletes and coaches alike will use varying and inconsistent terms when describing things like hops, jumps, bounds, and leaps. 

This inconsistency is prevalent in popular media as well as in some of the scientific literature. In some ways, that doesn’t matter if everybody involved is in the same place, using visual demonstrations and patterning, and generally agreeing on the movement in the moment. Where this becomes a problem is in programming that is simply written or spoken. Without a common language which is easily understood, saying “do 10 hurdle hops followed by some straight-leg bounding for 20 yards,” or any other directive, can mean different things to different people.

In Episode 236 of The Lifetime Athlete Podcast, I briefly discussed and defined some of the frequently used terms in footwork. Here are some highlights:

  • A HOP is a single foot takeoff that lands on the same foot.
  • A JUMP can have a single or double foot takeoff but it always lands on two feet.
  • A BOUND is a single foot takeoff that lands on the opposite foot.
  • A LEAP is a single bound contained within a run, also known as hurdling.
  • SKIPPING is an exaggeration of the gait cycle that uses two hops on one side before switching sides.
  • GALLOPING is a non-alternating bound that always has the same lead leg (until it is switched intentionally).

When we are performing various drills, acceleration, change of direction, and plyometrics – this nomenclature becomes invaluable in getting the targeted result and avoiding injury. These aspects of training are incredibly fun as well as necessary. Developing and maintaining powerful, agile movement helps every athlete at every age to perform better and stay functional longer. I’ll be sharing more tidbits and pearls of peak performance wisdom in the future. Let me know what you think and thank you for reading.

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