Athletes and sportsmen and women have been using agility drills for decades. Interestingly it seems to have developed a new popularity recently but in truth, those who are serious about their training will always have included some form of agility exercise in their weekly routine.
Agility exercises are most commonly used in sports that require a player running and changing direction. Fast sprinting and quick stopping, ballistic sports such as football, soccer, basketball but also tennis and squash all have sudden of stop and start movements. With this players can become prone to injury and therefore conditioning you muscles by including agility training is a very effective way of preventing this.
Every team that I have been involved with practiced some form of agility exercise. The great thing about them is that you don’t need any specialist equipment but what you do need is an understanding of how to do them correctly.
The main purpose (as well as general fitness) of agility drills is to improve the lateral speed of the player. The benefit of having exceptional lateral speed and having practices this through agility drills is that it reduces the number of steps you have to take to change direction. It is this that will give you that vital half yard on your opponent and it is this that differentiates the good from the great. Before we get in to the detail of agility exercises or agility drills, I just want to go through some of the basic terminology and types of exercises used so you understand them if you hear them used.
Shuttle Drills are designed to improve sideways movement in particular but clearly there are great endurance and stamina exercises too. Generally you will cover around 20 meters during each drill. The first movement is to the left for 5 meters, then the opposite direction for 10 meters, then 5 meters back to the starting point.
Weaver Drills, as the name suggests is where the plays weaves in and out of randomly places cones. It is important that the cones are places at different intervals and unlike the slalom drill, the player should not make contact or touch the cones.
Box Drills are one of the most popular. Here 4 cones are placed in the corner of a square pattern and in the centre, a fifth cone is placed. (Tip: if you don’t have cones then don’t worry. Plastic bottles half filled with water will do just fine. I’ve seen this exercise done with tennis balls but wouldn’t recommend this. Step on a ball by mistake and you could turn your ankle.) Start the drill at the middle cone with the outer cones being about 5 meters apart. All you have to do is run to each cone in sequence, then back to the centre. To make it a little more interesting, number the cone and have someone shout out random numbers.
T Drills are where the cones are set out in T shape pattern, each cone placed a few meters apart – three cones place 5 meters apart at the top of the T and the fourth cone 10 meters away forming the bottom of the T.
Vertical Jump Drills are excellent for developing your leg muscles. Place the cone in whatever pattern you choose. The starting position is to clasp your hand behind your back, knees bend at 90 degrees and make as many jumps as you can, as high as you can, moving between the cones. Here it is importing to keep your back straight in the vertical position. The purpose of the jump is not to cover a great distance forward, it is more beneficial to make as many jumps as you can between the cones.
There are some basic agility drills to get you started. Remember, start slowly at the start of your routine to get the muscles warmed up, then pick up speed.