Updated: May 31
Agility is an important aspect of many sports, and it refers to the ability to change direction quickly and efficiently. Here are some reasons why agility is needed in sports:
Improved performance: By agility training, athletes may move more rapidly and effectively on the field or court, which can help them perform better..
Injury prevention: By enhancing an athlete's capacity to land, pivot, and change direction without putting undue strain on their joints, agility training can also assist lower the chance of injury.
Tactical advantage: Agile players can outmanoeuvre their opponents and gain a tactical advantage on the field or court by using their agility.
Better coordination: Athletes' coordination can be enhanced by agility training, which is beneficial for many sports that call for precise movements and hand-eye coordination.
Mental preparedness: Sportsmen and women who practise agility can improve their mental toughness and flexibility on the field or court.
Agility vs Change of direction
Agility and change of direction are both important in sports, but they refer to slightly different abilities.
Change of direction, refers to the ability to change the direction of movement while maintaining speed and control. It involves deceleration, reacceleration, and redirection of the body. Change of direction is particularly important in sports like tennis, hockey, and basketball, where players need to be able to change direction quickly to keep up with the ball or the opponent.
Agility has been traditionally considered as the ability of an athlete to start (accelerate), stop (decelerate), and change the direction of the whole body rapidly. Agility consists of two components: speed of changing direction (also explained above) and cognitive abilities (Sheppard, et al, 2006) Cognitive abilities are the ability to rapidly change direction in response to a sport-specific stimulus.
Agility = Change of Direction + Reactive Ability
While agility and change of direction are related, they require slightly different type of training. It can also be said that change of direction is part of agility.
Planning for Agility
The underline demand of the agility is to lower ground contact time and produce ground reaction forces. Further, requirement for the agility component will also be the ability to produce braking forces and to improve reactive ability.
Visual scanning, anticipation, pattern recognition, situation knowledge, decision-making time and accuracy, and reaction time are all components of perceptual-cognitive ability (Serpell, B.G., et al, 2011), (Sheppard, J.M., et al, 2006), (Spiteri, T, et al, 2014), and (Young, W, et al, 2013). (Young, W et al, 2011).
There are many different programming approaches that can be used to improve agility in sports. Here are a few examples:
Ladder drills: Ladder drills are a popular way to improve agility. They involve a series of quick footwork movements that challenge an athlete's coordination, speed, and reaction time. Some examples of ladder drills include the basic ladder drill, the lateral shuffle, and the icky shuffle.
Cone drills: Cone drills are another effective way to improve agility. They involve setting up a series of cones in different patterns and then quickly moving around them. Some examples of cone drills include the figure eight, the T-drill, and the box drill.
Plyometric exercises: Plyometric exercises are explosive movements that can help improve agility. They involve jumping, hopping, and bounding movements that help develop power and explosiveness. Some examples of plyometric exercises include box jumps, broad jumps, and lateral bounds.
Sport-specific drills: It's also important to include sport-specific drills in your agility programming. For example, basketball players might work on dribbling and changing direction quickly, while soccer players might work on quick changes of direction while running with the ball.
Overall, an effective agility training program should include a variety of exercises that challenge an athlete's coordination, speed, and reaction time, and should be tailored to the specific demands of their sport. It's also important to gradually increase the intensity and complexity of the exercises over time to continue to challenge the athlete and promote improvement.
The volume, frequency and intensity of agility drills will depend on your fitness level, sport specific training goals, and the specific drills you have selected. However, here are some general recommendations:
Volume: When starting out, it is important to gradually increase the volume of your agility drills to avoid overtraining or injury. Start with 1-2 sets of each exercise, with 5-10 repetitions per set. As you become more comfortable with the drills, you can gradually increase the number of sets and repetitions.
Frequency: It is important to allow adequate recovery between agility training sessions to avoid overtraining. Aim to have at least one rest day between training sessions, and consider incorporating active recovery techniques such as foam rolling, stretching, or light cardio on your rest days.
Intensity: The intensity of agility drills can be increased in several ways, such as by increasing the speed or complexity of the drills, reducing the rest periods between sets, or adding resistance (e.g. wearing a weighted vest). However, it is important to progress gradually to avoid injury. A good rule of thumb is to increase the intensity by no more than 10% per week.
In conclusion, agility training is an essential component of athletic performance that can help improve an athlete's ability to change direction, react quickly, and maintain balance and coordination. To effectively incorporate agility training into a workout routine, it is important to gradually increase the volume and intensity of drills, allowing for adequate recovery between sessions. Additionally, periodization can be used to plan and structure agility training for athletes preparing for a specific event or sport. Following these recommendations can help athletes improve their agility and overall athletic performance while minimizing the risk of injury or overtraining.
Sheppard, J.M. and Young, W.B., 2006. Agility literature review: Classifications, training, and testing. Journal of sports sciences, 24(9), pp.919-932.
Spiteri, T., Hart, N.H. and Nimphius, S., 2014. Offensive and defensive agility: a sex comparison of lower body kinematics and ground reaction forces. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 30(4), pp.514-520
Young, W. and Farrow, D., 2013. The importance of a sport-specific stimulus for training agility. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 35(2), pp.39-43.
Young, W., Farrow, D., Pyne, D., McGregor, W. and Handke, T., 2011. Validity and reliability of agility tests in junior Australian football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(12), pp.3399-3403.
Haff, G.G. and Triplett, N.T. eds., 2015. Essentials of strength training and conditioning 4th edition. Human kinetics.
Chaalali, A., Rouissi, M., Chtara, M., Owen, A., Bragazzi, N.L., Moalla, W., Chaouachi, A., Amri, M. and Chamari, K., 2016. Agility training in young elite soccer players: promising results compared to change of direction drills. Biology of sport, 33(4), pp.345-351.