Athletes are not quick anymore.
In an age where training is so advanced that high level athletes are doing things never even though of before, we still have young athletes that are missing the boat.
Their parents and coaches seem to notice where they need to improve but are just not sure how to do it.
But how did our athletes lose the ability to change direction quickly?
Here are my best guesses:
- Lack of recess or PE- its surprising how playing tag can help develop agility
- Technology- kids are sitting on their butts more than ever with some kind of screen in their face
- Too much opportunity- as long as mom or dad can cut the check for a club/AAU/ select team then the athlete will be able to play for one. They used to be exclusive to a few organizations and only the best of the best got through. With so many teams now everyone gets to play on an “elite” team. This leaves no drive to really improve.
- Too many games- many athletes are playing way too many games. This cuts into time they should be training or developing and sticks them in competition. Competition is time to use skills, not train them.
When we are talking about change of direction there are a few things we need.
An athlete must be able to load their hips and explode out of a stop. This requires two types of strength. One is the ability to slow down and put on the breaks, this is called eccentric strength. The other is to create force and go the other way which is concentric strength.
Bottomline: Strength is needed for quick change of direction. Despite my positive post on the agility ladder last week, that is not the tool to get us there.
I like the following three exercises when we are talking about transfer to agility training.
I like the kettlebell swing for the simple reason that it teaches and athlete how to explosively extend their hips. There are a million ways to train hip extension and some coaches will prefer other methods.
The learning curve is low with the kettlebell swing which benefits teaching young athletes. It also forces them to hinge the hips back followed by a vicious hip snap. When changing direction the hips are rapidly loaded and then forcefully extended to go back the other way.
The lateral lunge gets the nod here because it transfers really well to agility training. The lateral lunge involves an eccentric loading of one hip and then a concentric push off of that same leg.
This is exactly what I mentioned earlier.
The lateral lunge is going to provide overload for the body which means it is going to absorb more force than body weight and then push back the other way. Take the weight away and now the athlete is going to push with great force.
Crossover Step Up
The crossover step is what we use to get out of a deceleration. When we stop, the crossover is the fastest way to gain ground and get going back in the opposite direction.
With this step up, we crossover and then that leg is required to pull the whole body up onto a box. This achieves good force production and hip extension.
One of the biggest agility issues is that athletes are not pushing themselves in the direction that they need to go. This exercise simulates that needed push.
These three exercises transfer really well to agility training. They are not a complete program but they are definitely going to help an athlete with the qualities they need to be quick.