What Does Research Say About Improving Agility?

Agility is probably the most desired attributes of field and court sports out there behind speed only. When it comes to actually training agility however, many people miss the mark. The questions we have to ask when training any attribute are what factors are we actually trying to improve, and what physical adaptations will actually impact those factors? Agility is described as the ability to change the direction the body is moving as quickly as possible. Factors that influence that include how well the body can decelerate going one direction (eccentric contraction of the muscle), stabilize and control the limb that is in contact with the ground (isometric contraction of the muscle), and then rapidly propel the body in another direction (concentric contraction of the muscle). For each factor, the greater magnitude and speed by which the muscle can contract will determine the outcome.

The researchers White et al. discussed contemporary methods of developing strength for agility. Complex training, or supersetting a heavy resistance exercise with a ballistic exercise is one method. An example would be full depth back squats for 5x5 followed immediately by box jumps 5x4. They also discussed previous research supporting Olympic lifts and agility. The present study looked at lateral squats (Cossack Squats) on an agility test consisting of a 90 degree turn into a 10-meter sprint. The subjects were collegiate baseball players. The results indicated that the subjects that trained the weighted lateral squats improved the time they could complete the agility test significantly compared to the control subjects.

As opposed to many typical exercises such as speed ladders and plyometrics on their own, improving agility through strength training ensures that actually adaptations to the neuromuscular system are taking place which will translate into improved metrics in agility.

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