Speed and Agility Training
By: Adrian Quimbayo-Cipric
What are Speed and Agility?
Speed and agility are two of the most important aspects in a majority of athletic sports. In the athletic world, speed is defined as how quickly, or fast, one is able to move in a certain direction while agility is defined as how efficiently a person is able to change directions as well as changing the position of their body in a controlled manner. A good example of speed would be an athlete running the 100m dash, while a good example of agility would be a soccer player quickly dribbling back and forth through a set of cones. Both speed and agility can be developed and trained, and are essential assets to one’s athletic ability.
How Can I Get Faster?
In athletics, most of the time when speed is referenced, it is going to be an athlete’s sprinting speed. Regardless of whether they are slow of fast, an athlete’s top speed can be improved upon; seldom will you hear of athletes complaining that they are “too fast.” So how can a person increase their speed? There are several ways backed by research to increase sprint speed, and is currently being used in the training of top athletes today. The three main methods used to increase sprint speed are assisted running, resisted running, and strength training.1 Assisted running allows an athlete to run beyond their top speed for brief periods of time, thus allowing their body to get used to running at higher speeds. Examples of this include downhill sprints and towed running. Resisted running forces an athlete to run with an outside force resisting them, making them have to work harder to sprint. This increases their sprint speed and acceleration. Examples of resisted running include uphill sprinting, resisted towing, or sprinting in sand or water. The final method is strength training. Strength training increases muscular strength allowing for greater explosiveness and higher top speed while running. Examples of strength training for speed include jump squats, clean and jerks, lunges, and glute-ham raises.
How Can I Get More Agile?
Now that you know how to get faster, how can you learn to use that speed in a way that’s not just getting from point A to point B. Combining speed with agility can be tricky as at first a person has to get the movement patterns down before speed can be increased. The body has to get used to performing these actions in order to not only be more effective and efficient at them, but to reduce risk of injury as well. Most agility drills focus on either changing direction as quickly as possible or keeping ground impact as short as possible.2 Some exercises to enhance agility include jump rope and lateral jumps. Heavily used methods of agility training also include ladder drills as well as cone drills. Ladder drills are great for both rapid foot movement as well as rapid changes in direction. Examples of ladder drills include fast feet, sideways fast feet, the Ali Shuffle, and the Ickey Shuffle. Cone drills are great for changes in direction while running at high speeds. This allows athletes improve their changes in direction during a full-on sprint. This is great for sports such as football, basketball, or soccer where change of direction at top speeds is vital to performance. Examples of cone drills include the X-Cone drill as well as the W-Cone drill. Below is an example of a quick speed and agility workout
Sample Speed and Agility Workout
Why is it Important?
Speed and agility both complement each other well, as an athlete with speed and no agility would be almost useless in most ball-based sports as they could not efficiently move in multiple directions and are more prone to injury. On the other hand an athlete who is agile but has no speed, would be slow and easy to keep up with. It is important to balance the two and to strive to keep on improving both. Speed and agility in sports is absolutely vital for performance and is an essential tool for any athlete’s arsenal.
1. Behrens MJ, Simonson SR. A comparison of the various methods used to enhance sprint speed. Strength Cond J. 2011;33(2):64-71. doi:10.1519/SSC.0b013e318210174d
2. Miller JM, Hilbert SC, Brown LE. Speed, Quickness, and Agility Training for Senior Tennis Players. Strength Cond J. 2001;23(5):62-66. doi:10.1519/00126548-200110000-00017