The term agility refers to your ability to move and react quickly. It is an essential part of physical fitness. Exercises that improve your agility often provide additional benefits like improving sport-specific skills, coordination, speed, and explosive power – all of which are important to athletes regardless of discipline and including those in combat sports.
If athletics make up a considerable part of your lifestyle, agility training exercises should be part of your training routine.
Seven Exercises That Improve Your Agility
Here are some simple exercises you can add to your workouts to improve your agility:
1) Lateral Running Drills
This exercise is excellent for improving your ankle and knee stability. They are particularly helpful for athletes involved in sports played on hard surfaces like basketball that require quick movements. It’s also a simple exercise to master since there isn’t much to it. The key to getting the most out of this exercise is maintaining proper form during your reps.
To perform the exercise:
- Place a sports ladder on the ground.
- While keeping your center of gravity low, sidestep through the ladder, making sure to move one at a time inside each rung.
- Aim to make contact with the balls of your feet first as you work your way through the rungs.
- Go right to left, then repeat the exercise going left to right.
2) Lateral Plyometric Jumps
This exercise helps to improve your agility, coordination, balance, and power. It keeps stress on your joints minimal since the exercise is performed using your body weight. The exercise is particularly effective at improving your lateral power and coordination.
Warm up with some less intense exercises before performing lateral plyometric jumps.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Get into position with a line on the floor that indicates what you’re jumping over.
- While keeping your feet about hip-width apart, bend at your knees and squat. Keep your weight directly over the heels of your feet.
- Now, shift your body weight from your heels to your toes as you start your jump. Jump upward and sideways to the other side of the line.
- Try to land softly and absorb the shock by squatting as you land. Perform as many reps as you can for a minute and rest for the same length of time. Aim for about three sets.
3) Dot Drills
Dot drills help to improve your leg strength, explosive speed, and agility. This exercise is also one of the few ways to improve your ankle and knee strength. Dot drills improve your overall stability, leading to improvements to your athletic performance. These exercises teach you how to change directions smoothly during athletic movements.
Here’s how to perform the exercise:
- Place a dot drill mat on the floor or use tape to make small ‘Xs’ on the ground using the type of pattern used to represent the number 5 on a dice cube.
- Warm up for the exercise by jumping from one dot to another, using both of your feet simultaneously.
- Once you’re warmed up, start hopping from dot to dot using only one foot. Try to stick to a specific movement pattern for each round.
4) Forward Running High-Knee Drill
You’ll need a speed ladder to perform this exercise. It helps to improve your overall speed and foot coordination. To perform the exercise:
- Set up the speed ladder and get into position.
- Run through the ladder with high knees, making sure you step in each ladder space. Land with the balls of your feet and drive forward with your arms.
- You can also use a resistance cable tethered behind you to make the exercise more challenging.
5) Plyometric Agility Drill
Plyometric exercises that involve jumping help to improve your speed and power. These drills also build your dexterity and coordination. It’s an exercise you should consider adding to your fitness routine if you want to improve your overall athletic performance.
To perform this drill:
- Set up several agility hurdles about two feet apart from each other.
- While standing with your legs about shoulder-width apart, start jumping forward and upward as you clear each hurdle. Land on the balls of your feet as you clear each hurdle.
- Immediately get back in the air as you land after each forward. Use your arms to drive yourself forward as you clear each hurdle.
- Start jumping with both feet, then switch to only jumping with one foot at a time.
6) Shuttle Runs
This is a very popular exercise with athletes who perform stop-and-go sports like basketball or soccer. You can incorporate this exercise into your high-intensity cardio program while working on your endurance, agility, and speed.
To perform shuttle runs:
- Set up your training area by placing markers about 23 meters apart on the ground.
- Sprint from one marker to another back at full speed. Try to get at least six reps.
- Perform the same exercise doing rounds of side-to-side runs and forward-backward runs.
7) L drills
This exercise helps to develop your speed and ability to change directions rapidly. It’s excellent for stop-and-go athletes and martial artists who need to be able to quickly change directions or stances to implement their craft.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Place up to three cones on the ground to perform the drill.
- Get into position in a three-point stance at the line.
- Start low for about five meters, moving at about 60 percent of your full speed. Touch the line when you reach the center cone.
- Immediately return to the starting cone and touch the line with the same hand when you get there.
- Sprint back to the center cones, make a sharp turn, and a “figure 8” around the end cone. Plant your inside foot firmly on the ground as you make your turns.
- Make another sharp turn when you get back to the middle cone and sprint back to the starting position to finish a rep. Aim for three to five sets.
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