By Zoid Fitness Team on Nov 1, 2019 6:00:00 AM
Your pursuit of athletic excellence shouldn’t stop when you step off the field or hit the showers after a lengthy session at the gym. In order to be on top of your game and reach your athletic goals, you need to do everything you can to improve – and that means putting in the work even when you’re at home.
Most successful athletes at the pinnacle of their sport spend countless hours each day training, even in their supposed “downtime.” Olympic speed skater Jessica Smith spends a whopping eight hours each day training – although she does give herself one day off each week.
“It's definitely a full-time job,” she admits.
And for an Olympic athlete like Smith, training should be a full-time job. Of course, not all of us are going to make it to the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be training hard to reach our goals. Whether you’re hoping for a college scholarship based on your athletic ability, a semi-pro athlete looking for every possible edge as you chase your dream of turning pro, or simply a weekend warrior who likes to hit the basketball court with your buddies every Saturday, devoting time to training can pay huge dividends, even if it's only for a few hours each week.
While most athletes – whether aspiring or already accomplished – have strength and cardio training well covered, one aspect of training that often falls by the wayside is agility. Agility is one of those athletic traits that you see all the time (for example, a hockey player dipsy-doodling between two defenders and streaking in on a breakaway in overtime) but sometimes people don’t fully recognize it, or if they do, they mistake it for speed or just sheer skill. Sure, agility is a skill, but it’s a very specific skill. When you see an athlete make a shifty move on the field, it’s not just because they’re good at their sport. More specifically, it’s because they’re agile.
Excelling at agility can go a long way towards separating yourself from your competitors on the field or in the gym, and taking the time to work on it can be a significant differentiator on your athletic journey.
Below are four ways you can improve your agility from the comfort of your own home, without any fancy or expensive workout equipment. In order to mix things up a bit, we’ll suggest two “fun” exercises where you’ll be improving your agility without even realizing you’re working out, and two “traditional” exercises that you might not consider fun, but by putting in the time, you’ll reap the rewards.
Play ping pong in your basement
Whether you call it ping pong or table tennis, this popular sport is tons of fun, but also a great way to work on your agility. Plus, many individuals have ping pong tables in their garage, backyard, or basement game room, which makes getting in a quick agility workout a breeze.
As you volley back and forth with your opponent, your mind and body are making countless adjustments to gain an edge. Your feet are moving from side to side to help you get to and return the ball in time before it bounces again or flies out of reach. Your arms, wrist, and hands are constantly moving and adjusting as you change the angle of your swing to send the ball back over the net. These types of lightning quick movements and reactions are necessary to succeed in ping pong, whether you’re playing casually – as most of us do – or professionally. And speaking of professional ping pong, take a look at some of these volleys and it’s easy to see why you need agility to win a ping pong match, and how playing this fantastically fin sport can improve your agility and overall athletic abilities.
Playing ping pong is an excellent way to improve your agility at home, and the best part is, you won’t even realize you’re working out as you do it!
Practice box drills – with your own plyometrics box, or even using your porch
Box drills are a popular agility drill that many athletes tackle in the gym or at a Crossfit center, but why head all the way to the gym when you can do it just as effectively at home? You don’t need anything expensive or fancy to practice box drills at home. You just need a plyometrics box, and they’re easy to make yourself out of plywood. If you’re not up for a quick woodworking project, you can even use something as simple as your front porch.
The general idea behind box drills is to jump up from the floor and onto the box (or porch), and then hop back down again, repeating this motion rapidly in sets of ten – and then taking a well-deserved breather before doing another set. This can be considered strength and conditioning training because it builds leg, foot, and ankle strength, but it’s also considered agility training, because you have to be quick on your feet to repeat the motion over and over again without getting tripped up or slowed down.
To be quite honest, box drills are not very much fun – they’re exhausting and require a ton of energy and dedication – but we did warn you these agility exercises weren’t all going to be fun and games. Plus, in the end, the sacrifice and effort is worth the payoff as you’ll be one step closer to succeeding in your sport of choice.
Ride your bike
Riding a bike is something we all learn to do as young children – so who knew it could be such a useful way to improve our athletic abilities, even as adults? In the gym, stationary bikes are a great way to give your cardio and endurance a boost, but at home, if you take your actual bike out for a spin, you’re also improving your agility –-without even trying to. The secret lies in the balancing your body is doing as you pedal. Riding a bike comes as second nature at this point, so you don’t even realize that your body is making constant adjustments to maintain your balance and keep you upright and moving forward. Those movements to maintain balance are incredibly beneficial to your body’s overall agility, as balance is one of the primary components of agility.
When it comes down to it, the balancing you’re doing on your bike is really no different than the balance you need to have after you stretch out to make an acrobatic catch at the 10 yard line – all while landing on your feet to pick up a few additional yards for the first down. The weight distribution that keeps you up on your bike is the same principal as the balance you need to stop you from tumbling to the ground after that acrobatic catch because your weight was unevenly distributed.
The more practice and experience your body has with balance, even on something as seemingly innocent as a leisurely bike ride, the bigger the benefit will be when it comes to your agility when it truly counts.
Use an agility ladder
That’s right – you might have been waiting for this one, and we saved the best, and most obvious, drill for last. What better way to improve your agility at home than to purchase your own agility ladder and use it for regular agility workouts? OK, so it’s not going to be as exciting as a ping pong matchup, or as enjoyable as a scenic Sunday morning bike ride, but putting in the hard work with an agility ladder will give you that extra agility you need to set yourself apart and succeed.
An agility ladder is a great piece of workout “equipment” for home because it’s affordable and it doesn’t take up much space, so whether you have an expansive home gym or if space is at a premium, there’s always room for an agility ladder in your budget and your home.
An agility ladder looks just like a regular ladder, but they’re flexible and foldable, and you certainly wouldn’t want to use one to get onto your roof or to reach that top shelf in your supply closet. Instead, you lay it out on the ground and use it to practice your fast footwork, and there’s no shortage of ways you can use it or drills you can try out.
Below are a few of our favorite ways to use an agility ladder:
A linear (straight line) run down the length of your agility ladder might seem simple, but to navigate the ladder quickly and to keep your feet inside the boundaries of the ladder boxes is more difficult than it sounds. Try to zip down the ladder without stepping on the edges of the ladder or the rungs that separate the sections, and then turn around and head back the other way. Do this as quickly as you can, and keep repeating it – it will help you feel light on your feet when it comes to be game time.
Lateral shuffle steps
Orient yourself perpendicular to the “rungs” of the ladder, and shuffle step side-to-side down the ladder. Use your tip toes to make contact with the ground and spring up and into the next box, and lift your knees and ankles high to make this workout even more challenging and rewarding.
Single leg hops
You can choose to do this linear or laterally – it’s equally as effective either way. Start on one end of the ladder and use one leg to hop down it’s entire length. Don’t let your other leg touch the ground. If it does, start over and keep trying until you’re able to make it all the way through on one leg.
Keep pushing yourself to improve
No matter how agile you think you are, there's always room for improvement. Spending time in the gym or on the field is a great way to increase your agility, because as they say, practice makes perfect. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't also be working on improving your agility at home. There are a wide variety of exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home, and they're easy and affordable to boot. Try the four we covered in this blog post to start, but if these exercises aren't doing the trick for you, or if you're looking for even more tips or agility exercise ideas, be sure to check out the Zoid Academy.