Who needs agility training? In our professional opinion all athletes need agility training in all sporting events, tactical athletes (SWAT teams, firefighters, police, Special Operation team members, military) and the general population. Yes, even the common person can benefit from agility training. Reflexes occur naturally in the body and at pre-determined rate(s) inherent in the body. Sport skills however require conscious thought; the decision to move and implementation of movement determines reaction time, a highly trainable attribute. Reactivity refers to muscle responsiveness, the ability of a nimble mind to make quick decisions and whole body adjustments to environmental challenges. The same premise applies to the tactical athlete as they need to be nimble with physical and mind to make life or death decisions while reacting to environmental decisions. The common person can benefit from the above mentioned items, all though they might not directly benefit per-say from them. however, the actual agility training is a fantastic cardiovascular workout and a great change and challenge for the common person.
Peter Twist says, "Explosive agility and muscle responsiveness allow small athletes to prosper in a big mans game and give large-mass players another dimension to their game. Both require the skills to perform complex maneuvers rapidly. Small players use agility and reactivity as the of difference that provides a competitive advantage in lieu of size and absolute strength. Large sized athletes have these attributes to redefine their positions, and build agility and reactivity to move their large mass well enough to counter fluid, explosive athletes." (Complete conditioning for Hockey - pg. 138) . In short, agility can make the difference between making or breaking plays, winning and losing, avoiding or sustaining injury, and perhaps the biggest key factor is the difference between star athletes/individuals and those stuck in lower levels.
Before beginning agility training or better multi-directional quickness. Individuals need to be efficient and movement skills. It is very easy to go about footwork/agility drills and do them incorrectly thus developing non-efficient skills. It is very important to do such training with direct, calculated feedback. Not just attempting these drills as fast as you can or as some coaches will bark "move your feet!" Effective agility training requires assessment, error detection, and corrective cues to teach precise body control. When we begin working with an organization in our sports training camps, we are very specific in telling each athlete to go through the movement slow and give your mind a chance to understand what it is you are telling your body to do. A widely used quote is, "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast". This is because during this type of training your body is creating what is called a, "body schema" a body schema can be defined as, "a concept used in several disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, sports medicine, and robotics. The neurologist Sir Henry Head originally defined it as a postural model of the body that actively organizes and modifies 'the impressions produced by incoming sensory impulses in such a way that the final sensation of [body] position, or of locality, rises into consciousness charged with a relation to something that has happened before." Essentially saying, your mind is mapping out how to perform such movement as effective and as fluid as possible. Start slow the speed will come.
Well-executed movement skills strung together in sequence are the mark of a controlled, fluid athlete. Body control can open or widen vision. Body control with visual awareness will help slow the game or environmental situation down to facilitate smart decisive decisions. The difference between successful completion of these movements-based drills and actual game performance is the ability to react and adapt to dynamic game situations and to perform these movements efficiently in the confined space of most game situation. Race drills are not the only drills with value. All though many coaches elect this method as they believe it raises competition within any team/organization. However, as mentioned above agility training needs to have direct-feedback correcting any so called, "bad-habits" beginning to form. And, race drills will increase athletes to cheat/cut corners due to inadequate agility and body control. This is not agility training - Agility is about thinking quickly and moving quickly and skillfully.
Let's get into the training aspect now of agility training. Agility is best improved with a fresh body, with no fatigue. Initial agility training sessions should focus on 10-second reps with a 1:5 work-to-rest ratio. Beginners and/or awkward moving individuals should be focusing on primarily on the motor skills of each movement allowing the body-schema to develop. As the athlete develops and becomes more and more efficient at each exercise. It is equally important to challenge the athletes mind as well. For example, we will have our advanced athlete run through a sequence of agility drills while we ask simple questions: (i.e) Who is the current president? What is 3+2? What is your team mascot? etc. You would be surprised at how difficult it is for an athlete to be performing any said agility movement and articulate an answer for such a simple question. This because all the focus of the mind is on the actually physical movement. In any game situation and/or environmental situation you need to be able to both move physically and think on your feet. As the saying goes.
For maximum potential in agility training. One should follow a training program in their respective off-season. 3 training sessions a week for a period of 6-10 weeks. This is a total of 18 to 30 training sessions. Giving the body ample time to develop a body-schema and become ultra-efficient at any agility movement being executed. Agility can and should be integrated with proper strength, plyometric, and conditioning training as well. It is also in our opinion that this type of training should be monitored by a health and fitness professional. Have it be a personal trainer, strength coaches, etc. And, if an individual want's to do this on their own time. It is highly advised to seek out professional help - if money is an issue their are great online training programs for agility training. Performance Training offers 6-8 week programs made specifically to the end-user for $49.95 with 24/7 feedback. It is also advised to continue working on agility training during in-season competition a minimum of 1-2 times a week. This should be coupled with team practice's and around the team's game schedule.
Here is a basic agility training program, that can benefit anyone from beginner to advance:
*using agility ladder, remember to train progressively. Meaning start slow and gradually increase your speed with each rep. If you are unsure of what each exercise is. We invite you to e-mail us at Performancetraining24@gmail.com and we will send you a step-by-step picture instruction of how to do each exercise.
- Quick Feet - 1 set of 15 rep's
- Gumby's - 1 set of 10 rep's
- DDR - 1 set of 10 rep's
- Side-Step - 1 set of 10 rep's (each direction)
- BB Dub - 1 set of 10 rep's
- 2 for 1 - 1 set of 8 rep's
- Zig-Zag - 1 set of 8 rep's
- 180 turn - 1 set of 8 rep's
- One legged hop's - 1 set of 8 rep's (each leg)
- Squat Jump push - 1 set of 10 rep's
In the end a primary effect of agility training is increased body control resulting from a concentrated form of kinesthetic awareness. This form of training appears to help athletes control small adjustments in neck, shoulder, back, hip, knee, and ankle joints for the optimal postural alignment during performance. Moreover, agility training gives athletes a greater sense of control in making fast movements. Athletes in a variety of sports report excellent gains in athleticism through effective, frequent agility workouts. This seems to be true especially for less coordinated athletes, who demonstrate and feel a greater increase in control as a result of their training.
As always Performance Training prides itself on being a leader in the Health & Fitness industry by providing professional training to all athletes through our Sports Training camps, online personal training, and by providing tips, information, and insight in our health and fitness blog. Make today a great day and best of luck in your agility training adventure!
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