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Fundamental agility training for athletes

By Lucas Keating, 17 July 2020

If you have the genetics and the desire to become an exceptional athlete, efficient sports training sets apart an average Joe from a professional athlete. It might include participation in sports camps to intensively improve the required skill sets or individual sports training (e.g. with a coach, a local team). The athlete will have to dedicate time to the creation of efficient training plans and schedules. This rule equally applies to agility training. 

Agility training helps athletes to improve speed, fast change of directions, coordination, and specific sports abilities. This kind of practice is widespread among sports schools, amateur, and professional athletes. The reason is simple. Whether a person is preparing for the first triathlon race or a pro player executes his pre-season soccer training plan - agility training is a must. 

Review the agility drills we have prepared for you below and integrate them into your weekly training schedule.

Agility drills

Agility drills are the key to improving your athletic performance. Agility drills (e.g. agility ladder drills) are highly beneficial if you want to enhance your acceleration pace in one direction, immediately slow down, and change direction. Your coordination will get better just like your speed and explosive power, which can help you dominate your opponents. Even at a young age, agility drills for kids have a massive impact on their future. Speed and agility training for youth is included in all sports camps and high school sports teams programs. Ultimately, well-thought-out athletic performance training can increase someone’s chances of becoming a professional athlete. 

Although some agility exercises are distinctive for a particular sport, like basketball agility drills or soccer agility drills, most work for all sports. The goal of any agility exercise is to strengthen your joints and muscles so you could change the position of your body, speed up, decelerate, or do something that your opponent will not expect you to do. 

Everyday life does not test your body to that degree that you can play a game without exercising. Agility drills also engage parts of your musculoskeletal system that are not being used enough on a regular daily basis. If you do not build up your muscles and strengthen your bones, you will be prone to injury. It is one of the reasons why agility training should be accompanied with speed drills as well. However, if you work out too much, that can also lead to an injury. The key to developing stability and avoiding damaging your body is to maintain balance while exercising. We will present you with some of the most common yet effective agility drills below. 

Tuck jump

Tuck jump is among the basic agility drills that do not require any equipment at all. Yet, it is one of the most effective because it improves athletic performance by enhancing both power and agility. This exercise engages your core muscle, hips, and legs. Tuck jumps to build up quadriceps muscles and hip flexors. This agility drill is among the easiest to execute. Bend your knees slightly, and your feet should be shoulder-width apart. After taking that stance, jump straight up because you should land in the same position. While in the air, you could grab ahold of your knees with your arms. Make sure that your knees are as close as possible to your chest. Hold your knees for a brief period while in midair, and let go once you start falling. Once you land on your feet, jump right back up, and continue doing so. You could start by doing 10 to 12 reps in three sets, and if this is too many for you, reduce the number of reps. 
 

Shuttle runs 

Shuttle runs combine high-intensity training with a basic conditioning program. Sports such as basketball, soccer, and football have a lot of changes in rhythm. These sports are referred to as stop-and-go sports, and shuttle runs are perfect for them. Not only will you develop quickness, speed, and agility, but your endurance will be on a higher level as well. This exercise requires more space than what is usual for most agility drills. Although professional athletes usually use cones, you could use whatever you have to mark two spots about twenty-five yards apart. Position your body for a sprint and sprint from one marker to the other. Once you reach the second marker, get back as fast as possible to the first one, and repeat this process six to 8 times. You could also create your version of this agility drill. Instead of just sprinting back and forth, you could lower your body and touch the marker, and immediately sprint back. Also, you can try sprinting in one direction and running backward in the other. To execute side-to-side shuttle run, your hips should be back, your knees should be forward, and you should land on the balls of your feet.

 

 

Dot drills 

Dot drills are designed to strengthen your knees and ankles. If you want to achieve a fluent change of direction without maximum effort, dot drills are the way to go. Not only do these exercises build up your leg muscles, but they also provide you with the stability needed for sports activities. Your explosive speed will improve if you do dot drills. These agility drills are especially beneficial for athletes that play soccer, basketball, or any other sport that entails multiple changes of your body position and direction. 

The movement and body position during the exercise makes it the perfect drill for skiers, as well. Your movement should be quick, and your upper body should not be moving too much. To gain maximum out of this exercise, you should let your lower body do everything. 

Professional athletes usually execute dot drills on a dot drill mat. However, if you do not own this piece of equipment, you can tape five marks on the ground. Those five marks should form the same pattern as the number five on a dice. Before doing the exercise, you should warm up first. Step on a dot, put your feet together and start jumping from dot to dot. The warm-up should not take too long, and once you are ready to go, you can try jumping on one foot from dot to dot. After this, you could design a jumping pattern that suits you the most. You could try completing these three versions of dot drills, or you could create your own. 

The first version requires you to step on two dots in the back with each foot on the separate dot. The remaining three dots should be right in front of you, and they should form an imaginary letter “V”. Hop to the central dot with both feet at the same time, and immediately proceed to the two front dots. Hop back swiftly to the central cone, and then back to the two back cones. One set should have a total of six repetitions, and you could do three sets. 

The second version is similar to the first one. However, instead of hopping backward, you should turn around 180 degrees while in midair, and land on the central. After that, proceed to jump on the two back cones. Follow this routine six times to complete one set, and do a total of three sets. 

Agility ladder drills 

Several agility drills can be done with the help of a ladder. Most athletes use this piece of equipment to improve their knee and ankle stability. The speed ladder is practical because you can take it with you and exercise wherever you want. Not only will this ladder improve your speed, but it will also have a significant impact on your feet coordination. Agility ladder drills are a part of many speed and agility training programs because of their efficiency. 

Carioca Agility Ladder Drill

Start this exercise by standing on the right side of the ladder, then step sideways into the first section of the ladder with your right foot, then cross-step your left foot behind your right one into the second section of the box. Keep going along and through the agility ladder, pay attention to your hip rotation and changing feet in due. Repeat the exercise in the opposite direction with the left foot as a lead one. 

 

Ickey Shuffle

This is one of the most popular yet efficient agility ladder drills incorporated in many agility and speed training routines, especially in team sports. 

Stand by the left side of the ladder, then take a lateral step to the right with your right foot inside the first section of the ladder, then pull up your left foot the same way. Take a left lateral step with your left foot and put your right foot onto the next section of the ladder. Then again pull your left foot close to your right, and keep going with these movements through and till the end of the ladder. Once you finish doing it in one direction, repeat in the opposite one. 

Lateral Running 

Lateral Running is one of the best agility ladder drills for any athlete that plays court-sports, especially basketball because it makes your knees and ankles more durable and quick. Take a position in such a way that an agility ladder is to the right side of your body, then take a step sideways into the first section of the ladder with your left foot, have the right foot to follow. Continue the movement with your left foot into the second box, again follow up with your right foot, and so on till the end of the ladder. Then repeat the exercise with the right foot as a lead one in the opposite direction. Please, pay attention to your body posture: keep your back straight, eyes in front of you, chest up. 

 

Advanced agility ladder drills for experienced athletes

This set of agility ladder drills aimed at developing fast footwork, speed performance and explosive power which is extremely important for semi- and professional athletes. 

First drill is called «Salsa» and it helps to improve athlete’s multi-directional speed and agility. You are going to start out with the wide low position and proceed with your movement like in salsa dance «one, one-two, one, one-two, one, one-two» running through the ladder in such a way that you move both feet from outside the ladder into the ladder boxes. Pay attention to the hands and hips, have them quick and mobile all the way through. 

In the second video, professional athletes take you through the full-body circuit using the agility ladder. This training is of great help to improve the speed and endurance of the athletes as well as body strength and power. Use it once-in-two weeks as a part of strength and conditioning workout to keep an optimal speed performance.  

 

If you want to learn more advanced agility ladder drills and implement them into your daily sports training practice, take a look at the video below. It has a nice collection of 25 agility ladder drills that cater to youth and adult athletes regardless of their sports.

 

Plyometric agility drills

Besides agility ladder drills athletes that need great lateral power and coordination can benefit from lateral plyometric jumps. This exercise can help you improve your dynamic power, as well as your balance. In total, your lateral movement will be quicker because your feet will get stronger. This drill is a fantastic example of how you can improve your athletic performance by using just your body weight. No equipment is required in the beginning, but you might want to set up a barrier once it becomes too easy for you. You could also use exercise steps or even low hurdles once you feel ready for it. Before you begin your workout, make sure that you are not doing this drill on concrete. Carpeted floor, lawn, or gym floor will do the trick. Prepare your muscles for this exercise by going through a thorough warm-up. Place masking tape on the ground in a straight line. 

This is a basic setup for this drill. Position yourself on one side of the line and bend your knees in a deep squat. Your feet should be hip-width apart to execute this exercise properly. Be sure to maintain this body position throughout the drill except when you are jumping. Once you are ready to go, jump laterally from one side to the other. Your heels should have a crucial role in propelling your body upward and sideways. Once you land, do a deep squat to absorb the shock from jumping and immediately jump to the other side of the masking tape. Repeat this process for half a minute to a full minute, and you will have completed one set. Take a moment to breathe, rest, and do a total of three sets for these agility drills. 

If you want to increase the strength of your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstring muscles, a plyometric jump box is a piece of equipment that can help you achieve that goal. Many speed and agility training programs include workouts with a plyometric box. All you need is a sturdy cube that is from fourteen to thirty-six inches in height, and you can start improving your explosive power, as well as your foot speed. There is a number of exercises that can be done with the help of a plyometric jump box, but the most common ones are step-ups, lateral step-overs, and box jumps. 

Step-ups 

Step-ups work your quads, and they are quite easy. Stand in front of the plyometric box and step up onto it with one leg. Your other leg should follow, and both legs should be straight once you stand on the box. Step down one leg at the time to complete one rep. 

You can start by doing three sets of ten reps 

Lateral stepovers 

Step-ups and lateral stepovers are similar exercises, with the key difference of your body position with the plyometric box. Whilst you stand in front of the box for step-ups, you should stand laterally to execute stepovers. Lift your foot, and step onto the cube with one foot. Stand on the box by lifting the other leg, and your legs should be straight now. To complete one repetition, step down, one leg at the time 

Box jumps

There are many versions of box jumps, and you can even create your own. We will introduce you to the simplest versions. Stand in front of the plyometric box, and bend your knees a little. As you are attempting to jump, make sure to keep your knees over your toes. Jump on the box and land on the balls of your feet. Unlike step-ups and stepovers, both feet do the work simultaneously in this exercise. As soon as you land on the box, step back down to complete one rep. Do one rep after another rapidly for a total of ten reps in one set. Do three sets to complete a workout. 

Plyometric agility hurdles

Plyometric agility hurdles are a part of the equipment that could be found in basketball agility drills, soccer agility drills, as well as many others. Plyometric hurdles are also popular with skiers, figure skaters, sport divers, and many athletes who use them for football speed drills. If you want to build power and improve coordination, agility hurdles are the way to go. What’s more, your dexterity and overall sports performance will be on a higher level if you decide to work out with this piece of equipment. You will feel that your explosive power and foot speed is also improved, which is important for both track and field sports athletes. 

Make sure that you have gone through a thorough warm-up before using plyometric agility hurdles. There is no limit to drills that you can do with hurdles because of their practicality. For starters, place a series of agility hurdles one after another. The hurdles should be about two feet apart, and they should not be too high. Position yourself for jumping, and your legs should be shoulder-width apart. Jump over the hurdles, one at each time. 

Pay attention to the landing because you should not land flat-footed. The balls on your feet should only be in contact with the ground, and make sure that you land lightly. Do not waste any time when you touch the ground after jumping, and immediately bounce over the next plyometric hurdle. Be sure to drive forward with your arms while also jumping forward and upwards. Jump over ten to twelve hurdles to complete one set. Take some time to rest between the sets, but don’t take too long. One minute for resting is sufficient, and you could do a total of three sets. Once this becomes too easy for you, you could place the hurdles further apart. Also, you can do this exercise with one foot at the time.

You can execute more robust agility routines by doing cone drills which benefit both to athletes' speed and agility skillsets. 

Conclusion

Apparently, agility training needs to be adjusted to the specific needs of the athlete, his/her experience, and sports skills. Fundamental agility drills are perfect for any sports, though there might be another type of agility exercises that cater to specific sports. Actually, this is the very reason different sports camps take place all over the world, i.e. because some athletes want to improve the quality of their preparation process. 

Please, be noted that Sportlane offers a variety of high-performance sports camps and sports academies all over the world for a different level of skills, budget, and location preferences.

For instance, once can search great soccer (football) camps, basketball camps, cycling camps, triathlon camps, etc.