Updated: Apr 10
Agility is the use of speed, coordination, reflexes, balance and more to move the body efficiently. It takes a lot of practice and learned skill to master and is a huge benefit to sports of all shapes and sizes. You can be as strong as you want and have increased endurance, but if you don’t know how to move your body quickly and efficiently it will be difficult to succeed in your sport.
Most people have the ability to learn agility and progress their skills in this area when you know how to do it. The most important things to work on are having strength, building your reaction time, and increasing your speed. Let’s look at each of these aspects of agility and how to better them.
Building Strength, Quickly.
We have all seen or been that person at the gym that does a few slow reps and then takes a 5 minute break to check themselves out or be on their phone. There is nothing wrong with this idea if you are strictly trying to build strength, bulk. However, if you are trying to better your agility, this will not be the technique to use.
Strengthening to build agility needs to be done with increased repetitions which can also be done in a shortened, quick pace to get your body moving fast and also strengthening. Remember during these exercises not to lose your form or focus on what muscles you are strengthening.
A typical training session might include 5 exercises that you complete 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps each. A few of my favorite strengthening exercises to influence agility include:
Quickies: These can be done with the upper or lower extremities to strengthen the shoulder or hip girdles. All you’ll need is a resistance band/loop.
Quick steps: Start with a small step and increase the height to make it more challenging. You can also add in a jump before switching legs to improve your strength and agility.
Forward and lateral single-leg hops
Improving Your Reaction Time
Cat-like reflexes, that’s what every athlete wants and needs to make things happen on the court or field. Some of us have quicker reaction time than others, but have no fear! Reaction time can be learned. The cool part is that there are many tools out there that add an element of fun to the training, but you can also work on it without paying the extra costs.
To improve your reaction time, your workout should include exercises that are quick and hoppy, aka plyometrics, and may include a target of some sort. You want your eyes to work to coordinate movements so that you can snatch that ball away from someone without them even knowing it. A few exercises that do great to work on reaction time include:
Drop and catch drills: Can be done standing, prone, reverse tossing.
Changing gears: Have someone call out different speeds and you must run at that level; can include reverse and lateral movements as well.
Ball toss/drop in different speeds and areas: athlete has to run up to grab ball before it drops.
Putting it all together and you will see an increase in your speed as you complete these exercises and the drills in your practices. However, there are ways to improve your speed while working on your agility in order to be able to react quicker and more efficiently.
In order to make changes in your speed you need to work on gradually improving how quickly you can reach for an object, move around an object, change directions, etc. So think, how fast can I move my feet or arms in order to reach or move around an object? A few speed exercises that I like include:
Sprint and stop: can be running forward/back, lateral, or a combination of all directions and speeds.
Speed throws: having a partner toss balls at you in all planes and speeds and you have to catch and release them.
Oh…You Need Some Help???
Well, you came to the right place! As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I am a movement specialist. It’s what I do best! Watch you move and tell you how to do it better to prevent injury and enhance your performance. If you're still on the fence, check out my post "Not sure Where to Start or When to Start Physical Therapy: 3 Key Indications."
You can check out my website: www.onthemovempt.com to see how I work with athletes and teams. You can also schedule a No-charge phone consultation so that we can discuss your goals and see if we would be a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule it now!