By Zoid Fitness Team on Sep 14, 2019 4:22:00 PM
Whether you're a competitive athlete or a hard-core fitness enthusiast, increasing speed and agility with routine drills are essential for peak performance. The benefit of having more speed is evident. When you have explosive speed, you're going to be in top shape and excel at your sport. However, improving your agility, too, will take you to the next level of athleticism and fitness.
Agility is defined as being able to move quickly in one direction and then instantly be able to shift to another position or direction smoothly and rapidly. Soccer, tennis, basketball, hockey, ping pong, squash badminton, speed skating, football, cycling, cricket, and sprinting all require excellent agility and lateral movement to be able to do them skillfully.
You don't need to be an elite athlete to benefit from improving your agility and speed training. Every fitness enthusiast can strengthen and improve their fitness level and training from these drills. Speed and agility drills drastically improve motor skills and overall performance by strengthening the muscles and joints that otherwise are underused. Therefore, not only do they enhance your ability and strength, but they increase stability and reduce injury risk.
In addition to boosting proficiency at your chosen sport and workout, let's take a look at how speed and agility training is incredible for your overall health and fitness.
The Benefits of Speed and Agility Routines on Health
Not only does speed and agility training help you hone your sport, they provide many other health benefits such as:
- Reduces the risk of injury. There's nothing more infuriating than sustaining an injury and having to take time off to recover. Or worse, not being able to return to your preferred fitness routine or sport at all. Prevention is the best measure by strengthening all underused muscles and joints with regular speed and agility routines.
- Increases heart rate and blood circulation. There's no question that speed and agility drills involve short bursts of intense effort that gets your heart pumping. As a result, the cardiovascular system is greatly strengthened while more blood pumps to all of the muscles in the body.
- Enhances coordination. Defined as the ability to move two or more body parts with control, precision, and without effort, coordination is a vital skill in sport and life. You don't need to be a professional athlete to appreciate the importance of maintaining a healthy and mobile body for life.
- Reduces muscle recovery times. Muscle recovery is the time that it takes after your workout or sport for your body to rebuild and recover your muscles. A shorter recovery time will allow you to trainer harder, reduce injury, and assure you're ready for game day. The stronger muscles and improved blood circulation gained from regular speed and agility training will prevent other muscle groups from becoming overused and fatigued, aiding in quicker muscle recovery.
- Prevents weight loss plateaus and burnout. Agility and speed training routines offer a wider variety of workouts and drills. This changes up which muscles are working so the muscles develop in a more balanced way. They help to prevent mental boredom and burnout by keeping your mind more interested and focused on new routines. And an added bonus; speed and agility workout routines are excellent fat burners that help you surpass weight loss plateaus.
- Improves focus and connection between the mind and body. Since agility and speed drills are executed at a quick pace, they train you to stay present and entirely focused on the task at hand. This is a skill that defines the greatest athletes.
- Improves balance and reaction times. Speed and agility drills develop all motor skills, including balance and reaction, by fine-tuning the coordination between your brain, nervous system, and muscles. Due to enhanced focus and concentration, it strengthens balance and quickens reaction times.
Now that you understand why you should do speed and agility drills, it's critical to know how to practice safely and effectively.
Getting Started with Speed and Agility Routines
First of all, never jump into speed and agility drills cold. Before getting into your chosen drills, it's important to warm up. Begin with some basic cardio on a treadmill, running laps, or on a bicycle for a minimum of 5 minutes to increase your heart rate.
Next, do some dynamic stretches and multi-directional movements that increase your range of motion in preparation for your planned drills. Yoga stretches or sun salutations are an excellent example of this.
Then, continue warming up with plyometric exercises. Plyometric exercises involve dynamic movements like skipping, hopping, jumping jacks, lateral jumping, burpees, jump squats, and high knees. These are all excellent strength exercises to prepare for the explosive movements involved in the more elaborate speed and agility routines.
Begin slowly, both on that day and with your choice of routines. If you're new to speed and agility training, keep it simple and put more focus on form and posture. Work to excel at your drills before graduating onto more challenging routines.
The following are six of the best speed and agility drills, listed from simplest to most advanced. Remember to vary up the combination of drills to keep it fun, engaging, and to avoid burnout.
6 Routines for Increasing Speed and Agility for Sports and Fitness
High-Knee Forward Running Drills
Why it's so good: If increasing speed is your priority, then you'll love this drill. The high-knee exercise is one of the most popular speed exercises with field sport athletes and sprinters because it improves stride length and foot coordination.
How to execute: It's accomplished simply by laying out an agility ladder in your training area. Run with knees up high forward through the ladder as quickly as possible, landing both feet in each space between the rungs. This drill may seem simple, but it's critical to maintain proper form by landing on the balls of your feet and slightly leaning forward.
Lateral Running, Side-to-Side Drills
Why it's so good: Athletes benefit from lateral running drills, but they are essential for the court-sport athlete as they improve both knee and ankle stability.
How to execute: Again, use an agility ladder for this drill. One at a time, step both feet between each rung of the ladder. Be sure to keep your knees bent and maintain a low center of gravity as you step quickly, side-to-side through the ladder. Aim to land on the balls of your feet. Start by running from right to left and then repeat going from left to right, while maintaining proper form.
Why it's so good: The dot drill builds agility, leg strength, and explosive speed. It improves knee and ankle strength, which is crucial for stability in field sports, racket sports, soccer, and basketball. The dot drill routine also trains you to switch directions rapidly and smoothly.
How to execute: Place five dots on the ground in the formation of an X - two on each side and one in the middle. Jump from dot to dot with both feet at once. After you're warmed up, you can make it more challenging by doing one foot hopping. Also, this is a fun drill to experiment with a variety of jumping patterns to keep it challenging.
Why it's so good: The shuttle run drills are an indispensable agility training exercise for athletes that play high-intensity sports with frequent stop-and-go like soccer, hockey, and basketball. Building speed, agility, and endurance, shuttle runs are quite an effective fat burning exercise, too.
How to execute: Set your training area with two markers about 25 yards apart from each other. Sprint, with explosive speed, from one marker to the other and back again. Repeat six to eight times. Shuttle runs can be tailored to your sport's specific needs by switching it up to forward-touch-return runs, forward-backward runs, and side-to-side runs.
Why it's so good: L Drills, also known as Cone Drills, are popular with coaches and professional trainers for perfecting quick changes of direction with speed and ability. It's a chosen drill for the yearly NFL Combine to test football players' agility and explosiveness.
How to execute: Place one cone down and walk forward 5 yards to place down the second. From the second cone, walk either to the left or the right 5 yards and place the third cone there. Standing at the first cone, it should look like a large L shape.
Beginning on the outside of the first cone in the three-point stance starting position, sprint forward 5 yards, maintaining medium speed control and a low center of gravity. Touch the line at the center cone. Then immediately sprint back to the first cone and touch the starting line with the same hand. Then turn around and sprint back around the center cone, planting off your inside foot for a sharp turn. Figure-eight around the last cone, planting your inside foot again.
Make a sharp turn around the second cone, again turning on your inside foot, and sprint back to the starting cone. Repeat three to five times. Be sure to practice with the third cone placed both to the right and to the left of the second cone to alternate turning directions.
Why it's so good: Backpedal sprints are for the more advanced agility trainer, as they take a lot of precise skill and strength. This popular drill strengthens the leg muscles, increases speed, and hones the crucial skill of backward running needed for specific sports like basketball, baseball, and soccer.
How to execute: To set up, create a start and finish line that's several paces apart. From the start, sprint forward to the finish, abruptly stop and then backpedal as quickly as you can back to the starting line. Backpedal sprint with explosive starts and fast stops and maintain top speed for the duration of the drill.
If you love a challenge and massive strength building, you can add a long resistance band attached to you with a belt and the other end secured to a fixed object.
Additional Tips for Successful Routines to Increase Speed and Agility
For optimum muscle recovery after the high-intensity training of speed and agility drills, it's essential to cool down and reduce your heart rate with moderate cardio like some light cycling or walking. Then be sure to stretch thoroughly. If you prefer to keep moving while stretching, try yoga sun salutations which will stretch out all your major muscle groups and slow your heart rate.
Keep your speed and agility routines fresh by varying up your drills and trying new patterns. Once you excel at a routine, level up to a more advanced one to challenge yourself and stay in top shape.
For more ideas and routines to increase speed and agility, check out the Zoid Academy and learn a variety of drills tailored specifically to your sport and workout needs.