The 5 Components of Agility

Many athletes don’t have the right idea when they try to train for agility. They think of their feet flurrying through cones, or dashing through ladders. When I think of agility, I think of balance and coordination, someone transferring their energy on a dime, and clean and efficient movement.

In this post, I want to share 4-5 components you can add into your routine to become a more agile athlete.

What are these components? The 5 components of agility training are:

  • Explosiveness
  • Lateral Change of Direction
  • Integration/Balance
  • Footwork
  • Reaction

Below I’m going to dive deeper into each component of agility so that you can get a better idea of what your weaknesses are and what you need to train to become a better athlete.

1. Explosiveness

If you want to be agile, fast, and quick, you need a foundation of explosiveness and power.

When most athletes picture themselves as “agile”, they picture themselves stopping on a dime, or dashing past an opponent with an explosive first step. Both of these movements require a base of explosiveness.

In this case, explosiveness has two components.

The first is force absorption. Force absorption is your ability to efficiently absorb force efficiently. When you think of an athlete stopping on a dime and changing directions, or quickly stopping and juking an opponent, force absorption is at the center of these movements.

Many athletes skip this component of their training, and as a result a lot of force they could potentially put to use dissipates as heat. This dissipated force could’ve been used to drive another powerful athletic movement.

As a general rule, the more force you absorb, the more you can produce. That means you must be efficient in your force absorption to MAXIMIZE your explosiveness.

This leads me right into the next component of explosiveness, which is force production. Force production is the component of explosiveness most athletes focus on in their plyometric training.

The goal of force production focused plyometric training is to produce MAXIMAL force in as little time as possible. This will help you develop a faster, more explosive first step. It will also play a role in your ability to juke, and quickly change directions.

Reactive Plyometric Training

The main “category” of plyometric you’ll need to build explosiveness for agility is reactive plyometrics.  Reactive plyometrics are essentially performing some kind of jump, making contact with the ground, then performing another jump in a different plane of motion in rapid succession.

An example of this is a single leg broad to 90 degree jump. In this plyometric, the athlete performs a single leg broad jump, quickly makes contact with the ground, and explodes out laterally.

Below, I’ll share three plyometrics you should perform to build an explosive base.

3 Plyometrics for Agility

Lateral Broad Jump

Ascending Skater Jumps

SL Broad to 90 Degree

2. Lateral Change of Direction

Lateral change of direction has to do with cutting and changing directions while running or shuffling. To become efficient in lateral change of direction, you need the ability to accelerate and decelerate efficiently.

Footwork can play a huge role in this, as can the base of explosiveness I spoke of in the previous section.

In general, there are three foundational movements I like to use to build an athlete’s lateral change of direction. They are:

  • Carioca Quick Step
  • Lateral Shuffle
  • Crossover Run

These three movements help athletes enhance their lateral gait, lateral force production, and lateral deceleration. They also help the athlete with their footwork, and lay a foundation for more advanced agility movements to come.

3. Integration/Balance

Integration has to do with moving the body as a unit. Many times, I will see an athlete go to change directions and his upper half, or torso, will go one way as his lower half goes another, or lags behind. This is due to a lack of integration and balance.

Lack of integration will result in a harder time cutting, changing directions, juking, or whatever else you need agility for in your sport.

The body moves best as a unit. One of the ways you can integrate the body as a unit is through training core stability.

My favorite core stability movements are plain jane, old reliable movements that include:

  • Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Prone Cobras

These movements stimulate the entire trunk and build adequate stability the athlete needs to transfer high amounts of force through his core when sprinting, jumping, or cutting. This increased stability will allow to the athlete to cut more seamlessly and avoid the awkward, excessive movement many athletes have when they’re trying to move fluidly.

4. Footwork

Footwork is another critical component of agility training. Many athletes get carried away with ladder drills that look cool, but don’t transfer to the field, simply because these athletes aren’t focusing on the essence of the drill.

In truth, ladder drills CAN help your agility, if you’re emphasizing on the right components of those drills.

In this case, I’m talking about footwork.

Footwork is simple, but not easy. The main thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to footwork is to pick your feet up and put them down as fast as you can. The longer your feet are in the air, the longer it takes you to shift directions, decelerate, move laterally, and more.

When you can quickly pick your feet up and place them down, you have more contact with the ground. That will allow you to change directions, juke out an opponent, or whatever else.

Keep this in mind next time you’re moving through your agility ladder.

5. Reaction

The last component of agility is reaction. Reaction is what puts everything together.

Above, we talked a lot about your ability to cut, accelerate, decelerate, and more… But, none of that matters if you can’t perform those actions in the appropriate scenarios of a game setting.

Reaction is the piece that brings that together.

Simply, reaction training is creating a stimulus the athlete must respond to with an appropriate action. The stimulus presented to the athlete can be visual, such as the pointing of a finger. It can also be auditorial, such as the coach shouting “stop” and “go”.

Either way, the point is to force the athlete to react mentally so that he responds in the same, appropriate way when he’s reacting to stimulus in a game setting.

One important factor to keep in mind as far as reaction training goes is that the athlete REACTS, and doesn’t anticipate. Anticipating is guessing. Reaction is seeing what is unfolding and responding with the appropriate action.

Agility Workouts for Serious Athletes

As you saw above, agility training is more than just ladders and cones. It takes an in-depth approach to be fluid, quick, and agile. Particularly with a combination of plyometrics, focused change of direction work, and even weight training.

If you’re serious about becoming more fluid, quick, and fast, you can find this approach in my new Agility Program: Game Speed.

It’s my 14 Week Agility Training System that helps athletes all over the world display their speed in game situations.

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