Being able to jump up at any moment, easily get up from sitting on the floor or simply move your body more effectively is one of the aims of agility training.
What exactly do we mean when we talk about agility training? The most common definition is 'the ability to move, change direction, and position the body effectively while under control.' While that certainly pertains to just about every sport, this description covers much of daily living, too. Agility workouts are fantastic practise for injury prevention, multi-planar coordination improvement, increased heart rate and blood flow throughout the body, as well as increased mind-body connection to help us stay focused.
There are generally two types of agility training: rehearsed and reactive. In rehearsed training, athletes move through pre-set arrangements, focusing exact techniques to become more intense and efficient at changing direction. Rehearsed exercise training helps improve potential motor learning in centres of the brain; and that means permanently engraining the correct motions that you can use later.
Reactive agility training, on the other hand, challenges you to react to unpredictable cues in real time to mimic possible scenarios. In athletic training, coaches or trainers will use visual or audio signals to challenge athletes to think fast and move in response to game situations. Adding regular speed and agility workouts to your cardio routine two or three times per week can make workouts fun and challenging, while also keeping you healthy.
Why agility is Important
Agility is not often considered an important component of most mainstream fitness programs; however as one of the ten components of fitness, it should be seen as equally important to all others. Consider for example an elderly person. We all lose our balance and reaction time as we age. This can cause us to struggle with day-to-day activities. Agility training can help you displace your body weight from one movement to another more rapidly. This results in less falls and injury and more independence. In an athlete the benefits are obvious, though improving your agility, no matter your fitness level will always provide you with a physical advantage.
Agility at Home
Try these simple agility work-outs you can easily do in your home with little to no equipment required.
Face forward and put both arms out to the side, parallel to the floor. Begin by moving laterally to the left by stepping left with your left foot, then cross your right leg in front of your left foot and step as far to the left as you can. Uncross your legs, and continue by moving your right food behind your left foot, stepping as far to the left as you can. Continue this movement for the length of the room or outdoor space. Repeat in the reverse direction, stepping first to the right with your right foot. This is one set. Do at least three sets of Karaoke Steps.
Side shuffles, or defensive slides, are another simple agility exercise ' but please keep in mind this simple movement becomes physically difficult when done correctly. You'll want at least 3 metres of space in which to move side to side; however, a distance closer to 10 metres is preferable. Don't worry if you have to perform this in a smaller space'this just makes the drill more challenging!
Start facing front with your left foot on a marker at the end of your designated space. Start in a crouched stance with your hands up by your sides. Step out with your right foot, pushing off your left. Shuffle as fast as you can, without crossing your legs, to the marker on the other side of your space. Without standing up, switch directions and repeat. This is one set, so do three sets of these to start and add more as you build up strength in your legs.
Jump and Reach
The 'jump and reach' drill is one of the most strenuous. As you do these, remember they're great for increasing leg power and vertical jump, burning calories, and toning your glutes, quads, and calves. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat slightly, bending at the knees and hips. Bring your arms back slightly and explosively jump into the air, reaching your arms up as high as you can. Land in your starting position and repeat without stopping in between reps. In this drill, focus only on vertical height. Depending on your level of physical fitness, you may want to start with just two or three reps. Slowly increase reps as you become able to do so without causing pain or immense strain.
One Foot Ladder Drills
There are many ways to perform quick foot work drills using a rope ladder placed flat on the ground. However, you can also do these without the ladder if you don't have one lying around. Simply make 10 tape or chalk marks on the ground about ' a metre apart. The point is to hop on one foot over the marks you've made. Start at one end of your 'ladder' with the first horizontal line in front of you. Hop on one foot down the length of the ladder, making sure to jump over each line. When you get to the end, turn around and repeat with the opposite leg. This is one set so do three sets of this drill.
It's so important to rest. Without adequate rest intervals between workouts, sets, and reps the neuromuscular system will not be able to fully restore, leaving you slower and less coordinated. Think of agility training like sharpening a pencil'a few turns of the crank each day and you're good to go. Anything beyond that will just grind you down. It's also important to keep the volume and frequency low. You don't need massive amounts of training volume to become quicker and more agile, especially if you're a beginner-level athlete. Many people tend to overdo it on agility training, but this is one training modality where volume is actually counterproductive. When it comes to this kind of training, less is more.
Another key tip is to perform every rep with maximum effort. Once you've mastered the technique and you're feeling comfortable, make sure to practice every rep with explosiveness and operate at your highest speed so your body is forced to react quicker and faster. Only by training at peak output will your body develop new power and agility.
It's vital to remember agility training is not endurance training. While both are absolutely essential to an athlete's overall physical development, if you approach agility training like endurance work, you'll inevitably feel frustrated and burnt out.