Cross-Lateral Exercises

Group of young people playing basketball, elevated view

Cross lateral exercises stimulate brain function and learning. Imagine a line running from the top of your body to the bottom -- dividing you in half – any movement that crosses over this invisible midline fires up the brain. Use cross lateral movement to energize learning in children, help rehabilitate stroke victims or improve hand-eye coordination in athletes.

How Cross Lateral Exercise Works

The left side of the brain is in charge of the right side of the body and vice versa. When you cross an arm or leg over one side of the body to the other, both sides of your brain communicate with one another. Activating the body through cross lateral movements improves coordination and alertness – making the body move in a more fluid, more agile manner.

Simple Drills

A cross lateral movement may be as easy as touching the left foot with the right hand from a standing position. Opposite hand to knee or to ear also count as cross lateral movements. Put a series of these drills in quick succession to fire up the brain. For example, touch the left foot with the right hand, the left knee with the right hand and then the right ear with the left hand. Repeat in reverse. Speed up the movement and perform for an entire minute. Standing and touching the right elbow to the left knee and the left elbow to right knee is another version of this exercise.

Athletic Movements

Standing windmills are a dynamic warmup for many athletic activities. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and bend from your hips to touch your right hand to your left toes. Return to a stand and switch sides. Build up some speed, but keep the movement controlled. Another cross lateral athletic drill involves hopping while kicking your right instep up and tapping it with your left hand and then quickly changing sides. To build core strength while increasing your coordination, work with a partner and face each other holding plank position, balanced on your toes and hands. Both partners lift their right hand simultaneously and clap them together and then switch. Work up to a fast pace that challenges your core and coordination.


Simple cross lateral movements such as opposite hand to foot touches can be done several times a day to wake up the brain. A session in the morning or before sitting down in a classroom setting may help improve concentration and thinking skills. Athletic cross-lateral drills are valuable during the warmup as they prime you for agility and coordination you’ll need during a game or competition.