The ability to move in multiple directions quickly and efficiently a key to success in speed and power sports (i.e. football, soccer, basketball, baseball, etc.). If you have ever watched Barry Sanders or Michael Jordan play, you will quickly see how important agility is. These athletes, like many professionals, possess an amazing ability see things around them, react to what they see, and move quickly in any direction to avoid defenders. Understanding the factors that affect agility and training to improve where you are deficient will dramatically improve your ability to compete within your sport.
Definition of Agility
Agility can be defined as an athlete’s ability to move quickly and efficiently in any direction while being graceful and nimble.
Factors that affect Agility
- Strength: Strength is the fundamental basis of all athletic movement. If you aren’t strong, you will struggle to be fast, jump high, or move laterally quickly. That isn’t to say that you have to be able to squat a house to move quickly, but you must have adequate strength to propel your body explosively.
- Power: Power is very closely related to strength. Power, however, has a time component to it. That is, strength is the ability to lift a heavy object, no matter how long it takes you. Power is the ability to take a weight and move it as fast as possible. Strength is usually evaluated by lifting heavy weights in the weight room. Power is tested with the vertical or broad jump.
- Neuromuscular Control: This is your brain’s ability to control the muscles in your body. This acts as the “software” which controls the “hardware” of your body (i.e. muscles, bones, tendons, etc.). Without the right software programs, the best hardware is useless.
- Deceleration: The ability to stop on a dime is usually the most overlooked component of athletic enhancement. The best athletes in the world not only run past and around their opponents, but sometimes they stop faster than their opponents to let them run past them to create space. Performing deceleration correctly will also allow you to minimize the risk of injury.
- Core: Your abs and low back muscles are what controls your pelvis and hips, which is the foundation for athletic movement patterns. Strength and Power don’t matter without a good foundation from which to work from. A good solid core will help keep your upper body in a good, neutral position during agility training.
- Technique: Unfortunately, agility technique is oftentimes overlooked. It is not well understood by many athletes and coaches, so it is much easier to run through drills over and over, hoping to get faster through repetition. Understanding the details surrounding agility training will help you to refine your agility training and take it to new heights.
- Flexibility: If you are restricted in a joint or muscle, you will not be able to place your body in the most advantageous positions to perform. Muscles may not be allowed to fully activate when there are flexibility deficits.