Friday, January 29, 2016

Channel Your Inner Athlete with Agility Training

Whether you're an athlete, or just someone who wants to get in shape, fitness is, to me, about adaptability. Our workouts should help us become more resilient to the world around us. A potentially injurious situation can be avoided when you have the adequate strength and stability. Agility is one such trait that prepares us better for multiplanar movement.

This little guy is quite the athlete...

By definition, the word "agility" connotes changing directions with ease. An athlete who is particularly agile can more easily bob and weave around his opponents on the field. For others, someone who is more agile can avoid injuries like knee and ankle sprains, or broken bones. Adding more agility work into your training can improve overall athletic skills and minimize traumatic injuries.

Sports require that an athlete can cut corners, accelerate and decelerate quickly. Football, soccer, and tennis are just a few sports where agility is exceptionally helpful. Successful athletes need to move well in all three planes of motion (as depicted in the photo on the left). Developing movement in the transverse plane is especially important in sport.

One study on male college students found that agility training increased muscular power. "To enhance explosive muscle power and dynamic athletic performance, complex agility training can be used. Therefore, in addition to the well known training methods such as resistance training and plyometric training, strength and conditioning professionals may efficiently incorporate agility training into an overall conditioning programme of athletes striving to achieve a high level of explosive leg power and dynamic athletic performance." In order to excel in any sport, developing your agility is a must!

Injury prevention routines ensure that athletes don't miss out on weeks or months of training. Agility protocols are effective in avoiding contact injuries like ACL or MCL tears, which could potentially keep you benched for an entire season. "Multifaceted intervention studies that have included balance training along with jumping, landing and agility exercises have resulted in a significant decrease in ankle or knee injuries in team handball, volleyball and recreational athletes."

The benefits of agility training are not limited to the athletic population. For example, Liu-Ambrose et. al. performed a study on "98 women aged 75–85 years with low bone mass." The goal of the study was to improve balance, and hopefully reduce the incidence of falling, in geriatric women who suffer from osteopenia (which precedes osteoporosis). The ladies were either assigned to do resistance training, stretching, or agility training. "Both resistance training and agility training significantly improved balance confidence by 6% from baseline after 13 weeks ... This change in balance confidence was significantly correlated with change in general physical function." Once these women developed the requisite strength and agility, they were able to improve proprioception (limb awareness), and, thus, find a new sense of confidence in balancing-related tasks.

If you're looking for some exercise ideas to help you become more agile, here are a few of my favorites:
  1. Diagonal sprints
  2. High knee carioca (ideal for warm-ups)
  3. SAQ ladder drills
  4. T-drill or 4 cone drill
  5. Speed skaters
  6. Hurdle drills
  7. Rebound jumps
  8. Pro agility drill
Overall, shuffling, back pedaling, twisting, and cutting movements are great tools to improve your agility level.

Becoming more agile can minimize your risk of falling, while simultaneously maximizing your athletic performance.

Works Cited:

  1. Griffin, Letha Y. Etty. "Neuromuscular Training and Injury Prevention in Sports." Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research 409 (2003): 53-60. Web.
  2. Hrysomallis, Con. "Relationship Between Balance Ability, Training and Sports Injury Risk." Sports Medicine 37.6 (2007): 547-56. Web.
  3. Jukić, Igor, Luka Milanović, Javier Sampedro Molinuevo, Darija Omrčen, and Goran Sporiš. "THE EFFECT OF AGILITY TRAINING ON ATHLETIC POWER PERFORMANCE." (2010): n. pag. Print.
  4. Liu-Ambrose, T., K.m. Khan, J.j. Eng, S.r. Lord, and H.a. Mckay. "Balance Confidence Improves with Resistance or Agility Training." Gerontology 50.6 (2004): 373-82. Web.
  5. Wojtys, E. M., L. J. Huston, P. D. Taylor, and S. D. Bastian. "Neuromuscular Adaptations in Isokinetic, Isotonic, and Agility Training Programs." The American Journal of Sports Medicine 24.2 (1996): 187-92. Web.

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