Speed and Agility Training
4 Simple Movements for
Three Dimensional Agility
by Jesse Seal

Speed and Agility Training

Every training program is developed with a certain goal in mind. Maybe your goals are as simple as losing fat, being stronger, or hitting a new PR on your overhead press. While many programs include movements on varying planes (horizontal pressing/pulling, vertical pressing/pulling, knee/hip extensions, etc.), there's another area that often gets left behind: speed and agility training.

Agility is the ability to change direction quickly. It mostly involves the muscles in your legs and around your hips. Most athletes would benefit from such an addition to their program, and no equipment is necessarily required. Furthermore, it would hardly take any extra time and can be added in as a finisher or even replace a cardio session.

Three Dimensional Movements

Let's talk about which planes of movement we'll be training: there's left to right/right to left movement; forward and backward movement; and vertical movement. While these may seem fairly logical, training these movements may not come so naturally. Following are some of my favorite speed and agility training exercises that require no equipment, but a sufficient amount of space:

  • Power Skips - You may feel funny doing these in front of an audience, but they're great for training forward and vertical movement. This isn't a high jump, but the goal is to get as high and far as possible. Use your arms for momentum and this becomes a full body movement. 
  • Side Shuffles - Great for your glutes, particularly the underworked gluteus medius and minimus, the smaller muscles surrounding the hip joints on your sides. Stay low with a slight hinge, and move the length of your space (our area is a little longer than the width of a basketball court). Make sure to work both sides (left to right/right to left) equally.
  • Carioca - These are perfect for hip mobility and warming up the knee and ankle joints before sprints or running. This movement is a bit unorthodox, because as you move side to side you're criss-crossing your feet, alternating which foot crosses in front or behind. Your arms should stay out to keep balance, and you should rotate your hips with each step.
  • Reverse Runs - These are pretty self-explanatory. Run backwards as fast you can, without tripping and falling over yourself.

As for moving forward, we do enough of this with sprints and walking. When it comes to sprinting there are two basic ways to do it without injuring yourself. Generally, track sprinting should be left to the actual sprinters (that is, those who do it for sport).

For the rest of us, do hill sprints or use a sled. Both force you to lean forward and drive with the hips, putting you in correct sprinting form almost automatically. The resistance (either from the sled or steepness of the hill) will shorten the range of motion, reducing the chance of your hamstring leaving town or any other possible injury. 

This sled from Rogue Fitness is collapsible and small, making it easy to transport. Now you can do sled work anywhere. Check it out in the link below. 

Rogue Fitness S-35E Sled

One way you can implement the four basic movements listed above is by putting them together into a ladder circuit. Using the width of a basketball court or something similar, do a lap (back and forth) of each one once, then twice, then three times, and so on. Your hips and legs will experience fatigue within five minutes of max effort with these speed and agility training exercises your first few times.

If you feel like you want to increase the work without increasing invested time, wear a weighted vest. Otherwise you can ladder back down once you've laddered up as far as you can go, completing a pyramid set. If you already to some sort of sprinting once or twice a week, use this agility circuit as your warm-up. 

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About the Author

Jesse Seal is the assistance Combatives Instructor, and has been training in Combative Sciences since 2008. He has also been training and learning through Bullock's Irondom Performance Systems since 2010.

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