There is a ton of attention paid to the value of speed in sports performance. Although it is an important aspect of athletic performance, other than running straight ahead, athlete’s that perform on a court, field, or ring have the need for cutting on a dime, shuffle to cut off a drive, or dribbling past a defender. All of these moves necessitate, some would argue the most important aspect needed for athlete performance—agility.
As with speed, agility has many components, including:
Recognition/Reaction: Recognize the situation and react ASAP
Decision-Making Speed: Moving as fast as possible while assessing game situations
Balance/Body Awareness: Controlling and knowing where all body parts are all the time
Footwork: Full control of the feet
Change of Direction: Rapid and accurate changes of direction
Obstacle Avoidance: React quickly to obstructions in running path
Technique is the base in being able to have proper execution. By learning how to change direction effectively, athletes need to have the knowledge and ability to utilize the proper technique.
Training technique can focus on perfecting the form while fixing the unique faults of any athlete. If an athlete has inefficient movement habits due to poor technique, that athlete is not going to see an improvement in agility.
Strong hips allow for quick and safe changes in direction. An athlete needs a sound base of explosive strength to maximize not only agility but speed as well.
Strength in the lower body help achieve higher velocities in their movement, the ability to decelerate and stop safely with optimal force production to explode into a new intended direction.
Some great exercises for base strength are Single Leg RDLs, Lunges, Spiderman Planks. After base strength, plyometrics exercises are very effective to build explosive strength: High Knee Bounds and 45-Degree Bounds are some examples.
Practice is what makes the perfection in an athlete’s agility. Through constant repetition, changing direction at a fast-rate becomes natural.
This is where muscle memory comes into play. When we consider running, it is usually a technique that is learned at an early age.
On the other hand, agility is something that is not. This is where different agility improving exercises come into play to improve that skill.