A few weeks back I put together a post just like this for speed training. The 10 Laws of Speed Training.
This post was really good because it broke down the different things that athletes need to be fast. I wanted to do the same thing with agility training.
Last week, I posted about getting the most out of your agility training. This is going to provide more tactical info about improving agility training.
I also do not typically create posts with a lot of links to read my older articles. So I guess it makes sense that I post 2 links to recent articles within the first 70 words of this one.
Agility training seems to be commonly misunderstood. Agility is the ability to change direction. If you are not changing your direction or movement then what you are doing is something else.
Quickness is also one of the most sought after qualities for athletes. A lot of athletes may be highly skilled or conditioned but they never get to show it because they are not quick enough on the field or court.
Improving quickness is important for all athletes but too often the training is incomplete. The following 10 rules should help you improve your training which will make you quicker.
1. Move in Multiple Directions
Movement exists in 3 planes. We should be training forward, backward, side to side, and in rotation. All of those movement planes exist in sport and athletes need to be strong in them.
Working on transitioning from any combination of shuffles, sprints, backpedals, and crossovers will improve your quickness.
2. Use the Hip Hinge
The hip hinge is important in agility for 2 reasons: backpedaling and decelerating. A good backpedal position is hips back, knees bent, and chest over the knees. This ensures a good push and reduces the likelihood of catching a heel, falling back, and getting hurt.
The hip hinge is also needed when we slow down. The same mechanics a backpedal require are needed to stop from running. This allows the deceleration to take as little time as possible in order to get going in another direction quickly.
3. Push off the Back Foot
A good shuffle requires a push off of the back foot. The front foot should not be pulling to gain ground. This causes the athlete to raise up and down, wasting energy. The front foot is responsible for getting out of the way and allowing the back foot to gain distance.
The video below is a basic lateral progression. It starts with a lateral push, moves towards a continuous push, and ends with a shuffle.
4. Master Slowing Down
As I have already alluded to, slowing down is really important for quickness.
Imagine you are following the play and it all of the sudden flips. You need to go the other way. Is the athlete that slows down in 3 steps or 6 steps going to win that race the other way? The athlete who can slow down in 3 steps has made the change in half the time. I like their chances.
5. Utilize the Drop Step
Transitioning from a backpedal to a sprint is an important skill. Most sports require backpedals, but the movement is really short lived. Backpedals in sport usually transition to a sprint quickly. That sprint can be in the same or opposite way of the backpedal.
To sprint in the same direction of the backpedal, it is important to use a drop step. A drop step involves opening the back hip and punching the front knee through. Most athletes will just twist in place.
Twisting is slow and will throw you off of your line. Open the hips up to make a smooth transition.
Train with reaction.
A lot of athletes can be good in pre programmed, rehearsed drills. The real magic is with those that can make decisions quickly. The faster you can react to the play, the better chance you have to be in the right spot. Sports are really about giving yourself the best opportunities to get lucky and good reaction is a way to do that.
Practice drills that are cued by a coach or a partner to improve your reactive ability.
7. Gain Ground out of a Stop
Every time you stop, your next move should be to gain as much ground as possible in the opposite way. This can make the difference of up to 3 steps.
If you feel like you are always a step behind, you might not be getting out of your turns well. Think about pushing the ground away and getting some distance.
8. Train in Small Areas
Training is small areas teaches you how to be quick. There is no room to stride it out and get into open space. It forces you to move and make decisions quickly.
There is a reason that a lot of sports are adopting small area games for young athletes. It helps them develop skills necessary for the game when some kids would normally use their speed or physical qualities to get an edge.
9. Quick Feet is Different than Quickness
Footwork drills are good for young athletes and should be incorporated until mastery. Just remember, they are footwork drills and not designed to improve agility.
I think every athlete should be able to perform basic footwork drills but eventually their use becomes limited. Know the difference to get the most out of your training.
10. Resist Torso Movement
One of the biggest wastes of energy resulting in inefficient movement is a lack of torso control. This is why core stability is so important.
When you are changing direction, your torso should not be following the direction that you are going. It should stay stable and over your center of mass. This will keep you balanced and ready to change direction.