Agility has been described as the ‘Rapid whole-body movement with a change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus’ (2). The ability to improve agility will help athletes of every level from weekend warriors to full-time professionals.
There are several movements considered to be the back bone of all agility including; acceleration, deceleration, cross over step, drop step, side shuffle and back pedal (1). These foundation movements should be practiced until an athlete has gained technical competency. It is of interest that while acceleration is a fundamental part of speed and agility training straight line acceleration doesn’t significantly improve agility performance nor does training agility improve acceleration (4).
Once these foundation movements have been mastered combining them into closed skill drills, where the athlete knows the path, distance, speed and movements before beginning the drill and they replicate the sports demands. An example in basketball is a defensive lateral shuffle combined with acceleration into a passing lane drill. Exacting attention should be paid to the athlete’s stance, position of hands and arms, where their vision is and differences in between directions of movement. Athletes should aim to quickly transition from closed drills to open drills where there are varying movements, distances and speeds upon reaction to a stimulus. The stimulus should be the same type that the athlete will encounter in their sport based on sight, sound and feel. The closer you can replicate the stimulus the greater the proposed carry over (1,4). This progression from movement to closed drill to open drills has been suggested to be the most efficient way to train agility within athletes (1).
There are many considerations in programming an agility session to achieve the highest level of transfer, to the sport being trained for. For novices the sessions should start in a block practice formation, but quickly progress to random practice for the greatest carry over possible (1). Increased transfer to sport has also been shown by replicating the surface the sport in played on, using implants such at a racket during the drill if it will be used during the sport, and using stimuli which closely replicates the roles of perception which will be used in the sport (1). It has also been suggested that static stretching with negatively effect agility testing results, but that this can be overcome by the use of dynamic stretching exclusively or post static stretching (3).
- Jeffreys, I., (2006) Motor Learning- Applications for Agility Part 1. National Strength and Conditioning Association. 28(5) 72-76.
- Sheppard, J., Young, W., (2006) Agility Literature Review: Classifications, Training and Testing.Journal of Sports Science. 24 919-932.
- Van Felder, L.,H., Bartz, S., D., (2011) The Effect of Acute Stretching on Agility Performance.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(11) 3014-3021.
- Young, W.B., McDowell, M.H., Scarlett, B.J., (2001) Specificity of Sprint and Agility Training Methods. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 15 (3) 315-319.