MTOD #9: Develop Lateral Skills


I was chatting with Lewie West yesterday for the Move Smart Podcast (an episode I’ll be releasing in 2-3 weeks…can’t wait!), and it was an honor to have a glimpse into the mind of such a creative, intelligent, and well rounded mover.

There was a couple things we talked about that really stuck out to me, and I want to share one with you today: Lateral skill development versus vertical skill development.

Examples of vertical skill development:

  • Progressing from a handstand to a one arm hand stand
  • Progressing from a forward roll to a front flip
  • Progressing from jogging to sprinting, to sprinting just a tiny bit faster

Examples of lateral skill development:

  • Creating and exploring as many entries (and exits) into the handstand as possible
  • Doing as many cartwheel variations as possible
  • Exploring the forward roll with as many variations, entries, and exits as possible

Vertical skill development is important and necessary, but lateral skill development will launch you into a new universe of movement complexity.

And as Ido Portal would say, “[In movement] complexity is king.”

Yes, the novice MUST spend more time on vertical skill development, but for the intermediate and advanced practitioner, it may be a different story.

For the intermediate and advanced, lateral skill development will likely have much greater return on investment than vertical skill development. We can increase movement complexity through both vertical and lateral skill development, but to fixate completely on one or the other comes with a high cost.

Don’t get me wrong, vertical skill development is important and necessary. But if movement complexity is a primary goal, lateral skill development actually has a much greater reservoir of movement complexity than vertical skill development, and comes with higher reward for your investment of time and energy.

For example, one hour invested in lateral skill development might yield three units of increased movement complexity, whereas one hour invested in vertical skill development might only yield one (or zero) units of increased movement complexity.

Yet, this principle applies to all movement: crawling, running, jumping, throwing, balancing, inverting, brachiating, and probably anything else you can think of.

So don’t forget to expand your movement fluency through lateral skill development.

Two masters of lateral skill development are Lewie West and Tom Weksler. I highly recommend you watch all their videos, but here are two that I really like. Yes, there is vertical skill development but so much of what you’re watching is LATERAL skill development.

Lewie West

Tom Weksler

Go out and explore the possibilities of lateral skill development!

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