How can I improve my agility?
Are you a sportsman/woman looking to be agile? You've come to the right place.
noun noun: agility
ability to move quickly and easily. "though he was without formal training as dancer or athlete, his physical agility was inexhaustible"
ability to think and understand quickly. "games teach hand–eye coordination, mental agility, and alertness"
What is Agility?
The meaning of 'agility' often refers to an athlete's ability to quickly change direction multiple times. As such, agility tests require an athlete to complete a pre-planned course of directional changes as quickly as possible.
However, these tests are not a measure of agility, but rather a measure of 'change of direction speed'. There is another dimension of agility that is often unexplored: the mind.
To be truly agile, you need to be responding to your surroundings. Taking in the circumstances, quickly analyzing it and translating it to your body position to maintain balance, control and give out the correct response. Being agile requires quick reflexes, coordination, balance, speed and a correct response to ever-changing situations.
In this way, the definition of 'agility' should be redefined. Perhaps the best current definition of agility is that proposed by Sheppard and Young (1):
Agility is ‘‘a rapid whole body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus’’.
The most important words in the definition are "in response to a stimulus", giving agility a reactive component that comprises many cognitive functions such as:
These distinct cognitive functions are absent in traditional agility tests because a pre-planned course removes the reactive component. As compared to a defender's reaction to an attacker's sudden movement, which requires a reactive decision to be made based on another individual's movement.
The building blocks of agility
Apart from the cognitive components, agility is made up of two other obvious components: physical and technical. These components are made up of other sub-components that can be individually worked on.
Most of these sub-components such as strength and power of leg muscles can be incorporated into your daily fitness routines. But sub-components like reactive strength and body posture require different trainings. This is where agility training is different. So how can you improve your agility?
Again, the drills are broken down into the specific components. For that explosiveness, some physical and technical drills include:
Shuttle runs: Springing from marker to maker with changes in direction.
Forward-backward sprints: Sprinting to a cone and jogging backward to the starting line.
Ladder drills: Using an agility ladder, various drills such as side shuffles, high knees and leaps can be done.
Tuck jumps: Jumping from a squat , tucking in your legs at maximum height and extending them to land.
Lateral plyometric jumps: Jumps made to the side.
Dot Drills: Creating an X-shaped pattern, jump from marker to marker with both feet at the same time.
Training your reactive agility is also vital. Depending on your sport, you should customize your reactive agility drills. It could be a gesture, a ball or your coach's verbal cue. If possible, replicate the stimulus that you will encounter during your sport. Some basic drills include:
"Get up on clap" runs: Laying down on the ground, have your coach or teammate clap and get up to sprint to a set marker.
Shuffle on reaction: Doing a side shuffle, have your coach or teammate provide a cue to change the direction of your shuffle.
Cat and Mouse: Have your teammate initiate a chase, changing directions as he/she runs. Chase after your teammate, following those changes of directions.
Number and Move: Have four to five markers in a square or a circle and assign numbers to them. Your coach or teammate will call out a number. Sprint to it and return to the center.
Reactive hip drill: At the start line, face the opposite direction of where you are supposed to run. On cue, you will turn quickly turn your hip and sprint.
Ready to be tested?
When you have trained sufficiently, you might want to test out your agility. The best way is really to just play the sport you have been training for. You will definitely feel the difference. However, if you want something that will give hard data, customize your own agility tests.
Construct your test with tests for the following components: speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness (SPARQ). There is a list of tests for each component depending on your sport. You can create your own benchmark, or refer to the SPARQ rating according to your sport.
You may try out traditional tests such as the Illinois Agility test or T-test but just know that they never test your agility fully, but rather just the change of direction speed.
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