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Agility: How to move quickly and easily


By Cierra Washington, ATC

Agility: the ability to move quickly and easily. When you think about the definition, ask yourself “Which sports don’t involve agility?” The answer: NONE!

From golf to swimming to synchronized diving to football to skiing to wrestling, every athlete must conquer the concept of agility. Imagine a wrestler who has a significant amount of strength, but doesn’t move easily or quickly. Now imagine that same wrestler, moving faster and using less effort to overcome his opponent. Agility is that “next level” of training that sets the elite athletes apart from those who are simply mediocre.

Although agility is a major component of any training program, it is important to incorporate agility training only after the athlete has demonstrated the needed strength, core stability, muscle endurance and cardiorespiratory endurance. If an athlete is lacking in any of these areas prior to beginning agility work, he or she becomes more at risk for injury or re-injury to a body part.

Let’s look at swimmers as an example. Swimmers are known to sacrifice their shoulder strengthening to increase their range of motion, especially those who swim the butterfly stroke. While the athlete has significantly increased their shoulder range of motion, they have weakened their muscles, which often times leads to bad postural behaviors and insufficient joint stabilization. When the joint lacks stability it is impossible to add agility exercises without increasing the risk of injury.

Now, let’s put that into perspective. You’re working with someone who is still having trouble stabilizing 10-15 pound dumbbells overhead. They need to be progressed and challenged a little more, so you’re thinking about upper body agility exercises such as pushups on a bosu ball. All seems well and dandy until that person who was having trouble stabilizing 10-15 pounds, now has to stabilize their entire body weight on a rounded object…BOOM! There goes a re-injury mechanism or a brand new injury mechanism.

It is important to realize that there are steps that must be taken before excelling to the more advanced agility exercises even though they may seem simple. For example, box jumps at a low level seem rather easy, however, one must be able to perfect the action of a squat jump on the floor before adding additional height for explosive measures. If an athlete is still lacking general squatting techniques, it’s impossible to advance them to explosive squatting exercises without increasing their risk of injury.

All in all, agility emphasizes the ability to accelerate, decelerate and change directions quickly, while keeping control of your balance, strength and overall body control. Although there are many exercises that can be used to introduce agility, it is vital that the exercises mimic the athletes’ sports, so they are training their body to handle the demands of their sport, resulting in a lower chance of injury.

Basketball → Box Jumps, Speed Drills, Ladder Drills, Quick Direction Changes
Wrestling → Medicine Ball Throws, Burpees, Ladder Drills, Functional Core Strengthening
Soccer → Quick feet with Directional Changes, Acceleration/Deceleration drills, Box Jumps

If you’re an athlete, a coach or a parent and are looking for ways to improve agility, strength and overall performance, CALL TODAY at 703-450-4300. We can set you up for a personalized evaluation with one of our therapists and they design a plan of care focused on helping you achieve your goals. CLICK HERE to watch a short video about some common injuries we see in athletes.

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