“Athletes need to understand the most basic concept of agility: In order to move to the left, the athlete must push off with the right foot1”. Agility is the ability to change your body’s position, in sport you often do this very quickly. Before you can train your body for quick feet you need to have solid core strength. After proper conditioning there are many drills that challenge your forward, backward, and side-to-side movements.
Agility training involves teaching your body to respond to a quick start (acceleration), a quick stop (deceleration) and a quick stop to start (re-acceleration). When an opposing player in soccer is coming at you or you are moving to hit a racquetball you need to use your agility. To successfully do this you require balance, coordination, speed, reflexes and strength. When training for agility you can use a ladder, circles, cones, or jump rope to help you move faster, better, and safer. Any equipment is fine if you keep in mind the concept of stopping and starting efficiently. Using these simple ideas as you progress you can learn more difficult movement skills faster.
“You never get anywhere fast by stepping in the direction that you are going; you have to literally push yourself in the direction you want to go with the foot that is furthest away1”. To provide this push you need to have the optimal stability to stop and land. Be sure to develop a good foundation of strength and conditioning before you challenge your foot speed. Agility includes arms and legs, a solid core can help make this movement easier. Core training also includes hip mobility which is a key aspect of improving the ability to move laterally. Dynamic activities like hurdle walks can be used to achieve the range of motion needed.
In planning your agility workout relate correct body mechanics of the drills to correct technique of your sport. Know why you are doing a specific drill and how it relates to what you are training for, always considering the overall action of the movement. Try to use your own individual expression as an athlete so the movement is not robotic2.
Understand the progression of the amount of exercises and quality of movement skills that include upper, middle, and lower body mechanics3. Training can then be fun and easy to incorporate into your athletic program. Start your routine with three or four movements per training session. The next session review the movements and add one or two more. Remember by making these drills sport specific you can see how they relate to performance as well as speed up your learning.
Here are some simple concepts to think about when learning agility drills:
- Keep your movement controlled. You want to do the drill completely and correctly. Tripping and dragging equipment because you are going too fast makes it difficult for you to be successful and hard for your teammates to perform the drill. Go as fast as you can, not as fast as you cannot.
- Find your rhythm before increase the speed: your feet should know the beat before you change the pace.
- Words can be good cues if finding the rhythm is not working. In-in-OUT; in-in-OUT is a great example of cueing yourself to do a ladder drill. Say them out loud so your feet can hear you.
- Do not forget your arms! Arms and legs should work together in drills because they work together in sport.
Agility training is a great way to teach your body to change its direction. Developing core strength makes this transition more safe and effective. Choose drills that are specific to your sport and you will learn more quickly and see the benefit. By training your feet to be quick you can change your performance in the right direction.