If you grew up in the era of the Presidential Fitness Test, the simple words “nimbleness training” might send shivers up your spine and give you flashbacks to the dreadful 30-foot shuttle run. During the evaluation in the sweaty school gymnasium, you had to sprint back and forth between two lines, picking up and setting down blocks while slipping on the slippery floor, in order to measure just how nimble you were as a tween.
Given how much pressure the test created, it’s understandable if that somewhat distressing event turned you off from agility exercises for the last few decades. But considering all the benefits this training style has to offer, you may want to reconsider your stance.
Here’s your comprehensive guide to agility training, including what it entails and its biggest health perks. Plus, fitness trainers share agility exercises worth incorporating into your workout schedule for both mind and body benefits.
What Is Agility?
Simply put, agility is the ability to control your body’s position while swiftly changing direction in response to a stimulus, and in order to do so effectively and safely, you’ll need to utilize your balance, coordination, power, and speed, according to the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development (JRRD). To get a better understanding of its use cases, think about sports: When a baseball is hit into the outfield, for example, a player needs to be able to suddenly change direction in order to chase after it. And a soccer goalie must be able to rapidly leap sideways and catch the ball before it touches the net. Translation: Being agile is crucial to perform well in any recreational or competitive sport.
But agility training isn’t reserved solely for athletes. “Everyone benefits from speed and agility,” says Liz Fernandez, a certified personal trainer who specializes in strength and agility training at Dimensional Training in New York. Most individuals are accustomed to moving in one direction — forward — but learning how to move in a complete circle and react promptly to stimuli can be advantageous in your everyday life, she explains. Parents need to pursue and seize their toddler who’s wandering behind them, casual joggers have to swiftly maneuver around pedestrians, and hikers must quickly step around fallen rocks and large roots to avoid tripping.
The Benefits of Agility Training
Reduces Risk of Injury
By regularly incorporating agility exercises into your routine, you’ll be able to react faster and move more efficiently in response to a stimulus, which, in turn, minimizes your risk of injury, says Fernandez.
If an individual strolls onto the pavement ahead of you while you’re engaging in a jog, for example, you’ll have the capacity to swiftly shift to the side and jog around them — not collide bodily into them. “If you’re consistently practicing your capacity to alter your course, your physique comprehends how to enlist further muscles and react swiftly to anything that might approach you,” she clarifies. “…[Therefore, it aids you] evade harm or decrease the extent of harm should you become injured.
What’s more, flexibility training necessitates you to relocate your body in various directions (consider: sideways, diagonally, backward), instead of going straight forward. As a consequence, the pressure exerted on your musculoskeletal system is more evenly spread throughout the body, leading to a decrease in the risk of injury, according to research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Enhances Coordination and Stability
Aside from keeping you free from injuries, executing agility exercises may also enhance coordination, says Fernandez. More specifically, agility training can enhance intramuscular coordination, or the capability to recruit all of the motor units within a specific muscle, according to the JRRD research. And being capable of enlisting all of the available motor units (aka motor neurons and the skeletal muscle fibers that provide them with nerves) enables you to generate more force during your sport or activity, according to the American Council on Exercise. (P.S. Try this jump rope workout to enhance your coordination.)
By practicing swift changes in direction, agility drills can also boost stability (concerning your ability to stand upright and steady), says Fernandez. For instance, a small study of school-aged children found that the participants who completed a six-week program focused on speed, agility, and quickness training displayed notable enhancements in dynamic balance (the ability to stay upright and stable while performing movements or in motion), as well as hand-eye coordination.
Helps You Establish a Connection Between Mind and Body
Agility training is not just a workout with physical benefits — it also aids in improving the connection between your body and mind, says Adrina McCreary, a certified personal trainer who specializes in strength and agility training at Dimensional Training. Since agility involves controlling your body’s position and movement in response to a stimulus, it also relies on your cognitive functions, including visual processing, timing, perception, and anticipation, according to research published in the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health.
By engaging in dexterity exercises, you’ll instruct your mind on the appropriate and secure management of the physique when confronted with a stimuli in real life, whether it’s a tin can dropping from a cupboard, a crevice in the pavement, or a softball tossed by your offspring, according to the periodical.
6 Flexibility Exercises to Include In Your Routine
Ready to start incorporating flexibility training into your fitness regimen? Consider testing out these flexibility exercises, as demonstrated by Fernandez. These flexibility drills can be performed with flexibility ladders and penalty boxes — accessible, compact pieces of equipment that are essentials in flexibility training routines — and allow you to train your body in multiple directions, says McCreary. If you don’t have access to ladders or penalty boxes, try using cones, hurdles, rope, or other household objects to DIY the flexibility drills. (
A. Stand facing forward at one end of the flexibility ladder with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides.
B. Quickly drive left knee up to waist, simultaneously bringing right arm up to chest, and move forward, making sure to keep hips square. Continue, alternating legs and running forward through the ladder.
A. Stand facing forward on the left side of the flexibility ladder with feet hip-width apart and arms resting at sides.
B. Quickly tap left foot inside the ladder, then press off the floor to bring it back to the outside of the ladder, all while moving forward and swinging arms. Make sure not to touch your foot on the ladder itself.
C. Continue tapping left foot inside the ladder and moving forward through the ladder. Switch sides and repeat.
In and Outs
A. Stand facing forward at the base of the flexibility ladder with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides.
B. Keeping hips low and arms moving sharply, quickly step right foot into the ladder, immediately followed by left foot. Step right foot out to the right side of the ladder, then immediately step left foot out to the left side of the ladder.
C. Continue bringing feet into and out to the sides of the ladder one at a time while moving forward.
Penalty Box Heisman
A. Stand on the left side of a row of penalty boxes with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Drive right knee up to waist and left arm up to chest.
B. Keeping hips squared forward, hop laterally over the first penalty box, then quickly drive left knee up to waist and right arm up to chest and move laterally over the next penalty box
- Continue, alternating legs and running horizontally through the areas of punishment.
- C. At the end of the line of punishment areas, pause, then repeat in the opposite direction.
Speed Skaters of the Punishment Areas
- A. Stand on the left side of a line of punishment areas with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Shift weight into left leg and lift right leg off the floor, knees slightly bent.
- B. Keeping chest upright, push off the floor through left foot and swing arms to the right to hop horizontally to the right side of the punishment areas, landing on right foot. Stabilize through right leg, sweep left leg behind body, and pause, holding right leg in the air. Repeat, alternating sides.
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