Top 3 Ways to Improve Your Agility and Reflexes in Sports

If you own a car and you have been driving for some time now, you already know that always being alert is very important while on the road. It’s essential that your eyes stay focused on the traffic, while also checking the rear view mirrors from time to time. A lot of reckless drivers would cut in front of you, so if you don’t have a quick reflex, chances are you will find yourself in an accident sooner or later.

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Similar with the essential skills in driving, alertness, concentration and quick reflexes are also badly needed across all sports. The ability to react to unexpected changes in the situation we are in is called agility. When you are dribbling the basketball and the defender suddenly lunges in front of you for a steal, you would want to immediately change direction by shuffling your feet then twisting your body to avoid the ball being stolen from you. Your level of agility will dictate how fast you will move in those 2 to 3 seconds that you need to change pace. If you are not agile enough, you will lose your balance and stumble or you can’t even make the correct split-second decision in that situation.

So, if you want to envision how a specific play will develop, accurately guess what your opponent’s next move will be, or figure out what strategies and deceptions the other team has up their sleeves, including agility drills on your workouts will definitely do the trick! Agility training doesn’t just help you to physically move faster, but it can also enhance your focus and increase your mental flexibility. Working on your agility will improve the strength and balance of your lower body, develop your bodily coordination, and fine-tune your ability to stay alert and accurately anticipate.

If you are a fitness enthusiast, a soccer player or a combat sports athlete, boosting your agility will absolutely put you in prime position to be successful. Or maybe you are planning to build your own gym or personally train an athlete? Then here are three important ways for your client and player to improve their agility and reflexes!

1. Start with enhancing mental flexibility to improve your reaction time

Of course, we all know that our mind dictates what our body should do. Even if you can jump really high or run very fast, it’s not a guarantee that you will outsmart and outperform your opponents. Take for example the game of basketball. While being taller is a big advantage, there are smaller, less physically-gifted players who can dominate the ballgame. The question is: how do these players outclass their very athletic opponents? The answer is all in the mind. Basketball players who possess high-level mental agility can see how a certain play will develop before it actually happens. With this unique attribute, they will know what to do in the next move they have to make and outsmart their more athletic opponent in the process.

However, maintaining a high level of concentration is actually a difficult thing to pull off when you are already physically tired. For example, a lot of boxers tend to lose focus at the later rounds of the bout when exhaustion creeps in. This causes their body to react slower, and be more exposed to their opponent’s punches. Therefore, a boxer or any kind of athlete should be capable of having mental endurance which can be enhanced through agility training.

An important point to remember is that your mind should be able to adapt to various types of stimuli so that it can precisely instruct the body what to do. To be mentally agile, you have to reduce the time gap between the starting point of the change in the situation and the onset of your response to it. So, how would you do that? Here are some effective drills and exercises for you to enhance your mental agility.

  • Read regularly and play brain teasers – While this won’t be exactly an exercise that you would include in your workout routines, the practice of reading books or newspapers during your leisure time will be a big help towards boosting your mental agility. It is healthy for your brain to process new information, instead of it being stagnant. We have to remember that our thinking skills do decline when we get older, all the more important that we actively work out our brain regularly. Also, playing brain teasers and even some intellectual games on your smartphone can be healthy for our brain as these games improve our memory and thinking abilities.
  • Dive into meditation and yoga sessions – One of the keys to having mental flexibility in sports is to have a relaxed and free mind. You cannot expect your brain to function at its very peak if there are so many worries and problems that occupy your mind. While meditation’s priority is to ease the stress you are feeling, tons of studies have shown that it can also help increase your attention span. Being attentive could be defined as having the willingness to receive information while also staying ready and alert to act when needed. In sports, being mindful and aware of the little things could be the great difference maker that can win you games. Yoga sessions can also help you preserve your mental energy. When you spend most of your day critically thinking and brainstorming, the cells in our brain also get drained. Through meditation, you’ll have an effective way of protecting your mental energy while also building it up to be active again.

2. Build up your core and lower body strength

Now that you are mentally ready to perform at your highest, the key to unlocking your overall agility is to build up your strength and flexibility. Without enough core stability and lower body strength, chances are you will overstretch your muscles when you change directions, which will possibly result in injuries. Take the best professional tennis players as a concrete example. Tennis greats like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal don't just rely on the force on their arms to hit the ball with great power and speed. Most of the time, they have to chase the ball to the other end of their court, and then smash it without getting off-balanced. To be able to pull this off, they work on strengthening their legs so that they could swing the racket in full pressure and hit the ball to wherever direction they want to.

For you to develop power on your legs, it's also vital that you increase the stability of your core. When quickly changing directions, it shouldn't be just your lower body that will do the heavy lifting. Otherwise, the full force of your weight will be placed on your ankles, one of the main reasons why athletes have recurring ankle injuries. To avoid these types of injuries, you should also work on your core so that your hips will be able to dictate your movement and provide support to your lower body.

While power exercises like deadlifts and leg presses can develop your strength, there are a number of other drills that can both improve the flexibility of your lower body up to your hips and core. Simple conditioning routines that involve squats and lunges should be a great way to start. Both these exercises will fortify the stability of your ankles up to your knees while also developing your core and upper body strength. More importantly, it will also increase the range of movement of your ankles and hips that will allow you to exert more flexibility when you change directions.

To attain a high level of moving agility, you need to repeatedly do these exercises so that you'll establish an excellent base of strength, power, flexibility, and balance.

3. Develop your movement speed

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Now that you have worked on your mental agility and lower body strength, you now have the proper foundation to develop the speed of your movements. Remember that the essence of being agile is the speed by which you will move from left to right or vice versa. Aside from hard-pressed workouts, there are a number of fun exercises to improve your movement and reaction speed. Playing dodgeball can be a great way for you to improve your agility while also having the pleasure of bonding with your friends.

But if you are really serious about your endeavor as an athlete, you might want to try doing these drills below on a regular basis.

  • Plyometrics - While plyometrics is most often used to increase an athlete's leaping ability, it can also be a perfect way to boost your movement speed. Because plyometrics is best suited to unlock your maximum strength and power, it will also give you the ability to move faster as you now have more freedom to stretch your muscles and joints. Furthermore, plyometrics will also build up your endurance and stamina. This will allow you to maintain your quickness even in the later stages of a game when you have already spent most of your energy.
  • Agility Ladder Drills - Always bear in mind that agility is measured on your ability to perform quick yet controlled sudden burst of movements. Doing agility ladder drills will definitely help you elevate your footwork and speed, while also promoting muscle memory so that you can be aware of where and when your feet will land on the floor. Also, you can optimize your agility ladder workout by performing the drills while carrying a kettlebell to further improve your strength and balance. Just be sure not to use a kettlebell that is too heavy for you!

By making sure that you include these three workouts on your routine, you can be assured that you'll be able to improve your agility and reflexes in no time! Whether you're into tennis, soccer, basketball, boxing or football, performing movement exercises on a modernized, much-improved agility ladder like the ZOID Fitness Agility Trainer is the best thing to do!

With twelve trapezoid-shaped pieces, it is unlike any other old-school agility ladders. The best part of it is that the pieces can be separable, so you can form an "S" shaped configuration or a circular one to give a whole lot of variety on your agility training!

More importantly, you can use the ZOID Fitness Agility Trainer on just about any surface. So if you are into football, basketball, tennis or just doing basic workouts at the comforts of your own home, you can use this training tool to work on your explosiveness, while still being flexible enough to absorb the impact. Players, trainers, coaches or gym owners, getting the ZOID is the right thing to do!

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