What exactly is agility, and how can you improve it?

No matter how old you are, physical and mental agility are important qualities that you should continue to hone and develop. Agility has the power to give you an edge as you go about your daily life, in the gym, or on the sports field.

Whether you work out casually or you're dedicated gym rat, a recreational sports player or an NCAA athlete, working on your agility levels is something that you should never be complacent about. You'll always need physical ability to keep up in this fast-paced world, and more importantly, you need a sound mound to be able to unburden yourself of stress and handle the physical demands of your active lifestyle. It's all about having the proper mindset and a healthy body, so you can excel in all aspects of life.

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What is agility?

Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily change direction without losing control. It requires lightning fast reflexes, beautiful coordination, seamless balance, blistering speed, and the appropriate response to a dynamically changing situation.

Some people are born more agile than others. This naturally agility makes them move nimbly with ease. Those who are gifted with physical agility will excel in sports and other physical activities. With that being said, even if you are not born with this intrinsic high level of agility, you can always choose to work on increasing it.

You can approach agility training in two ways: by focusing on both mental agility and physical agility. Mental agility requires training the mind to absorb more information. Improving physical agility needs a lot of physical preparation and training. Often, these two are synchronized and work harmoniously to complement each other. However, as people become too complacent with routines, both forms of agility can take a back seat.

It's important to recognize what agility is and how it can impact your life, so you can make the most of it and improve upon it to keep up with your competitors both on and off the field. Often, improving your physical agility will help in giving your mind more focus. The rigorous training workouts that are involved in increasing physical agility also improve levels of concentration and mind conditioning as you become more motivated to reach your goals.

There are a number of ways to increase your agility. Most of them include agility training and physical exercises that benefit both the mind and body. Incorporating drills a few days a week into your workout program will help your mind focus, boost mental endurance, increase foot speed, improve your coordination, and refine your sports techniques.

Ways to increase agility

Improving your agility will give you an advantage in most things you do, whether it's day-to-day life, workouts, or athletic competition. There are many different methods of increasing agility, and it's not about just hitting the gym more often. Below are some specific ways to increase agility, which you can do to help you achieve the best possible results:

Improve your diet

Physical agility drills won't be nearly as effective if you don’t also work on your diet, because the food you put into your body serves as the primary fuel for your physical activity. If you feed your body junk, you're doing yourself a disservice. You won’t be able to focus and think properly, and you'll feel slow and sluggish. If you want your body to perform optimally, start with good nutrition by eating a balanced diet with the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and most importantly, fruits and vegetables.

Drink Plenty of water

The body is made up of two-thirds water, and that water is constantly being excreted from the body. During physical activity, you lose a significant amount of your hydration through sweat. It is vital to maintain your water intake to keep your body and mind primed. Agility workouts will not work as well if you are not properly hydrated, not to mention when it comes time to actually perform on the field. Agility workouts and gym routines can be rigorous, so you need to be properly hydrated.

Get proper sleep

Never underestimate the importance of good sleep. Rest is always a pivotal component of a good fitness program. Sleep is a time for the cells to regenerate and heal themselves. If you don’t get the right amount of sleep, how will you feel refreshed enough to hit the gym, or get ready for your next big game? You will just be sleepy and unable to focus if you don’t go to bed early, especially the night before a physical event.

Wear the right workout clothes

Sometimes, what you are wearing can literally drag you down. Start your fitness game right by putting on the right set of dry-fit clothes that keep sweat and moisture at bay. You won’t be able to do agility drills well if you are uncomfortable or restricted by your clothing. Most importantly, wear the right footwear, so you can be quick on your feet.

Perform agility drills

Once you've taken the right steps to prepare for improving your agility, it's time to take physical action to actually do it! Agility drills are, of course, the best way you can increase your agility.

These high intensity movements are designed to work all muscle groups. There are actually many different types of workouts, exercises, and drills that you can do to boost your agility. The key is to do each one properly, and with the right form to avoid injuries. Give your best effort with each drill so you can fully reap the rewards. As the popular saying goes, "No pain, no gain."

Below are a few examples of effective agility drills:

Ladder Drills

Utilize an agility ladder tacked onto the floor. Then, choose some movements you can use to navigate that ladder. For example, you can begin with a high-knee march going forward through each box. Later, you can vary up this move and do jump cross kicks as you make your way forward. You can also choose to target your upper body by moving through the ladder in a push up position. Once you feel comfortable with each move, you can challenge yourself and speed things up. Do several sets of these moves as you go back and forth across the length of ladder.

Don’t underestimate this humble piece of workout equipment. It might look easy, but working out with an agility ladder is a lot harder than it seems. These drills will get your heart rate pumping and your brain hard at work to keep you focused and up-to-speed with your fast-moving feet.

Hurdle Drills

The hurdles used for agility drills are not like the ones you typically see in the Olympics. They're actually shorter, typically between six to twelve inches in height. You can make your own agility hurdles out of small orange cones, yoga blocks, or even gallon milk jugs. Set up these baby hurdles in a row and then move throughout them with a lateral motion. To up the ante, make sure your steps are high and your dips are low, akin to a squat, so you can feel the burn. Count your steps loud and clear as you make your way through the hurdles, and make sure you clear each with the right speed and precision.

Agility Ball Drills

Agility balls look like baby tennis balls, and you can bounce them with a partner or up against a wall if you don’t have a workout buddy with you. Toss the ball and catch it. Play around with your dominant hand, then your weak hand, and then both. Vary the strengths of your throw and the speed at which you throw the balls, so you can get a nice well-rounded agility workout in. This type of activity makes use of your hand-eye coordination, which not only helps with your physical agility, but also serves as a mental stimuli because you have to keep your eyes focused on the where the small ball is going and anticipate how you will catch it. Aside from the hands and arms benefitting from this type of drill, this is also a good workout for your leg muscles. And as with any cardio activity, working with agility balls will keep your heart pumping, which good for your cardiovascular health.

Balloon Drills

Take three balloons and throw them up in the air, one after another. Similar to juggling, the goal is to never let the balloons drop to the floor. So as two balloons are up in the air, the third should be in your hand. You can make this drill even challenging by performing a deep squat in between throwing the balloons. Similar to agility balls, this is a great way to hone your hand-eye coordination and improve your agility.

Side-to-Side Drills

Work on your leg and ankle stability and quickness by doing lateral runs and side-to-side drills. These drills are great for athletes because they require quick coordinated steps as well as mental sharpness to ensure you don't trip over your own fast-moving feet. The key here is to maintain the right form by staying low, so your center of gravity is also low, which will keep you more steady and stable. Swing your arms and aim to lead with the balls of your feet.

One of the reasons this drill is so effective is because lateral movements are totally different than the standard form of running forward. It's a great way to mix things up and keep your body ready to perform in any situation.

Jump Box Drills

These drills consist of standing on a stable box, jumping, landing safely on the balls of your feet, and then getting down from the box and quickly repeating. Be sure to jump as high as you possibly can, and keep your knees over your toes to avoid lock-in injuries.

This workout is ideal for your glutes, quads, and hamstring muscles. Repeat as many of these jump box jumps as you can in twenty seconds spans before taking a breather.

Improving your agility

There are a wide array of ways in which you can improve your physical and mental agility. You have strong spirit and stay highly motivated to get it done. Whether you're a gym rat or a seasoned athlete, there's always room to improve so you can continue to excel.

Following the lifestyle tips and trying out the drills outlined in this post is a good place to start, but if you need additional guidance or you're looking for other ways to improve your agility, check out the Zoid Academy to view a variety of different videos and other drills to increase your agility.

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