Want to Increase Your Agility? (But Don't Know Where to Start...)
This is a question we get asked all of the time, and rightly so. Good agility is vital for any footballer to be successful.
Agility is the ability to quickly react to a situation (which may or may not be predictable) with controlled movements and speed. In football you may never get to full speed before the next change of direction arises, so it's vital to be fast in your stop-start movements in a number of directions not only to keep up with play but also to create space and avade opponents who are trying to close you down.
Creating and defending space is a constant battle in football and the most affective players in terms of this usually possess high levels of agility. The great news about training for agility is that because you are largely conditioning your neuromuscular system, you will notice improvements within just a few days. This includes foot speed, reactions and actual running speed.
You may have seen players on the internet who have phenomenal foot speed through ladders or slalom poles, and the key is to only increase the speed of what you are practicing once you have mastered the technique at a sub-maximal intensity. This will deter you from repeating and rehearsing bad technique at speed, which will produce more limited results.
Agility exercises can either be:
- Reactive (you are required to react to a stimulus and make a split-second decision)
- Non-reactive (you can anticipate what is about to happen)
Both of these elements should be trained, but reactive exercises will have the greatest transfer and impact on your game and slash your reaction times.
Non-reactive for example would be running through an agility ladder or pre-planned agility course as fast as possible. Reactive would be performing the relevant action when a training partner holds up a particular colour cone which has a command associated with it.
Balance is a key element of being able to move and react at speed, and when changing direction you should practice having your centre of mass positioned just over your feet. Your centre of mass is typically just above the hips, those of you with thicker trunks and legs relative to height may have a slightly lower centre which will naturally aid your performance. We can see this in players such as Wayne Rooney and even Lionel Messi.
The ability to stop within a short distance will aid your agility, the fastest players are always also the fastest players to stop, the ability to do this is strength dominated - which is why it's important to include gym work in your schedule.
When putting together an agility session here's a few things you could focus on:
- Changes of direction
- Hurdle work
Perform 2 or 3 sets of any chosen exercise, performing as many reps as possible in a 10-second time frame. For one complete session you should look to focus on only 4 different exercises max. Remember to keep the speed, once the tempo starts to slow it's time to end that exercise or end the session.
Agility exercises are a great way to stimulate the brain and muscles just before a match to make sure your neuromuscular system is fired up!