By Zoid Fitness Team on Nov 6, 2019 6:00:00 AM
Improving your coordination, quickness, and balance through agility training makes you a better athlete, period. While this may be obvious to anyone who spends time on the fields, courts or in the gym, what may not be so obvious are the effects of too much or too little agility work on your athletic performance. This brings up questions of what your agility training frequency should be--are daily workouts safe, or is one big session per week the best way to improve your speed, coordination, and balance? Is there a magic number somewhere in between?
Of course, these questions have different answers for different people, although no matter who you are, over-exuberance leads to worsening performance, low exertion tolerance, moodiness, injuries, and other negative symptoms. Likewise, under training means missing out on potential gains to maximize your performance which goes against everything you stand for as an athlete, you laser-focused scoring-machine you.
This means managing your workouts so that you're falling short of overdoing it while avoiding shortchanging yourself--finding the sweet spot, in other words.
But, how much is too much and how little is too little?
Let's have a look and find out!
Why is Enough Agility Training Important?
Of course, you already know that agility work is not only key to performing well on the field, it also improves your day-to-day poise, coordination and balance along with reducing your risk of injury from an accident.
Plus, it helps strengthen tendons and support muscles to reduce your risk of nagging joint sprains and strains.
However, another way agility training helps keep you injury-free and performing well late in the game is by keeping your ankles, knees, hips, etc. strong throughout the game. For instance, the muscles which support your joints are just like any other muscles, in that they fatigue with use. And, just as your foot speed slows late in the game, your ankles-in-particular also lose strength as small supportive muscles become fatigued.
This causes you to move less efficiently, and less efficiency means reduced performance along with increased risk of injury. This is because an unsupported joint doesn't transfer energy as well as one which has the strength to remain solid-yet-flexible so that energy isn't lost through lateral movement.
Plus, an unsupported joint not only requires more energy to change direction, accelerate, jump, etc., it also produces less protection against hyper-extension and other causes of injury.
This means that even if you are performing regular agility work though not enough to maximize the functional strength of your joints, you're probably missing out on that key competitive edge you so seek--especially late in the game.
Why not Just Work out Constantly?
So, if agility training is so important, why not just perform it willy-nilly? Set up markers on the front walk so that you need to do dot drills just to get to and from the house; spontaneous bursts of tuck jumps whenever the meeting becomes too dull...sure, why not? The more the merrier!
Well no, that's not really the way it works since too much agility training can have the same effects as not enough--and possibly worse.
This is because the supportive muscles in your ankles, knees and hips are just like any other muscle you work to strengthen, in that they need rest and recovery time to maximize gains.
Plus, many agility drills are performed as part of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or plyometric workouts, both of which can pump-up the burn. This means you not only risk over training the small support muscles, but the big strong ones you need to run fast, jump high and outmaneuver the competition as well. Altogether, over training can nullify your workout progress--or even reverse it--since you're not allowing time for your muscles and tissues to be repaired.
- Moodiness and irritability
- Symptoms of depression
- Chronic nagging injuries
- Extreme fatigue
- Nutritional imbalance
- Muscle weakness
- Hormone imbalance
- Weakened immune system
So no, constant agility work isn't the answer, even if it does liven-up your otherwise-boring meetings.
Finding the Sweet Spot
First, let's make one correction relating to your workout frequency: it usually isn't really over training which is the problem so much as it is under recovering. This is because whether you are a pro, a weekend warrior or just someone who likes to stay in shape, competitive drive and a determination may be keeping you from getting adequate recovery time.
And, adequate recovery means time away from the workout rooms and playing fields along with plenty of the kind of good, restful sleep your body needs to rebuild what you've broken down--which in this case are your muscles. This is because working out causes tiny tears in your muscle tissues, which also happens to be why they get sore after you work out hard.
And, the good news is that when your body repairs these tears, it repairs them so that they are even stronger and more resilient to handle more stress the next time--or in other words, it strengthens your muscles.
However, if you work a fatigued muscle without giving it adequate repair time, your body has to do the equivalent of trying to bail a leaking boat: it does what it can to keep up and stay afloat. This can mean only limited gains, no gains at all, or, in the case of a big enough leak (too little recovery time), fighting a losing battle.
And no, spending extra time working out only to deplete muscle mass makes no sense!
It should also be noted that a big part of this equation is sleep, or as stated above, enough of the deep, restful, dreamless sleep you need to be at your best. This is important since deep sleep is the time when your body is at its busiest producing growth hormones and performing protein synthesis along with other means of cellular repair. When you don't get enough sleep or your sleep isn't restful enough, you don't get the kind of complete recovery you otherwise would with enough deep sleep.
It should, since just as you miss out on maximizing your gains by not training enough, you also miss out on maximizing your training by not sleeping enough.
Active recovery also needs to be included on your recovery days. This involves easy, low intensity exercise and stretching, such as walking, swimming or light jogging followed by static stretches. This is important since it not only helps speed recovery, it also prevents that crippling "day-after-the-day-after" muscle pain you WILL feel if you are completely inactive the day after working your muscles hard--especially for new workouts or muscles not yet in shape.
Don't believe us? Try avoiding any activity on the day after you resume working out following a period of inactivity, then try tying your shoes the day after that. Yes, active recovery is your friend there, "Lurch." Nice slippers you're wearing too, by the way...
Of course, all of this along with your personal makeup factors into finding the sweet spot when it comes to how much agility training you should perform each week. Yes, some of us are better able to recover more quickly than others, and age, physical fitness and nutrition also factor in.
That said and as a general rule, most of us need between 24 and 48 hours of recovery before working the same muscles again. Of course, since we are talking about groups of muscles used in agility drills, this means keeping your agility workouts 1-2 days apart.
Again, this is a general rule, and you also need to listen to your body to help you determine your workout frequency. For instance, if you have a workout scheduled but your resting heart rate is still up and you're still feeling foggy and fatigued from a previous workout, take another day of recovery.
Likewise, if you plan on doing a different workout the day after an agility workout, you need to avoid working the same muscles all over again--even if the workout is of a different format. You can, however, include low intensity training more often, such as balance exercises or other types of work which don't involve breaking down muscle or pushing things into the red. These types of exercises can--and should--also be used as part of your active recovery, and can also be performed daily.
Altogether, this means your intense speed and agility training should take up 3-4 workout sessions per week with lighter exercises filling in the gaps. If you are intensifying your strength training or are still feeling fatigued from a previous session on training days, you may need to knock this back to 2-3 sessions per week along with plenty of sleep and active recovery.
The bottom line is, by being aware of the symptoms of over training and remaining flexible to make adjustments in your workout schedule, you can better determine just how often is often enough without going overboard. Plus, as you gain fitness you will see improvements in your recovery time so that you can add frequency as you go along.
However, adding frequency means adding a single workout session rather than just saying "Okay, I'm in shape now--speed and agility drills galore from now on!" Yes, being in shape can make you feel like Superman, though think of over training as kryptonite and anyone discouraging you from getting enough recovery as Lex Luther. Take it slowly, make only incremental increases in your number of weekly sessions and listen to your body--even if it is made of steel.
Agility Training done Right
Agility training is perhaps your biggest asset when it comes to staying competitive on the field, and there are also everyday benefits to keeping your balance, coordination and nimbleness in shape as well. It helps reduce your risk of accident and injury, and there's a lot to be said about the grace and poise it helps you carry yourself with.
However, you may be groaning over the idea of all the ladders, cones and other equipment you need for agility work. Not only can the investment add up, it's a lot to lug around and find storage room for.
Enter Zoid's Fitness tool: a simple, easily transportable and nearly-indestructible agility training system. Not only will it easily fit into the trunk of your car, it can be used on nearly any surface and the number of functional drills, patterns and workouts which can be created with it are limited only to your needs and imagination.
Plus, it is made from 100% recycled materials and has no interlocking parts to figure out.
So work hard, get plenty of rest, and whether you are Superman or Wonderwoman, think of Zoid's Fitness tool as your best defense against kryptonite.