Speed/ Plyometrics/ Conditioning

2 Essential Training Methods for Improving Agility

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We’ve all seen the endless “agility” videos on Instagram and Youtube. They go something like this…

An athlete performs the “Icky Shuffle” through a “speed ladder”, then quickly transitions into a few figure 8’s around some strategically-placed cones…next comes the salsa-dance-looking moves around a few more cones…and finally there’s a hop, skip or a jump over a handful of perfectly-organized mini hurdles. Of course the video concludes with the trainer yelling something to the affect of, “Quick feet, baby, quick feet…Dat’s how we do! Represent [insert cheesy gym name here]!!” 

Although many of those videos are entertaining to watch, they are better suited for Dancing with the Stars – NOT  for improving an athletes on-field agility!

Below you will find two of my favorite – yet commonly overlooked – training methods for improving an athlete’s agility. In my opinion [outside of actually playing one’s sport], these two methods will help any athlete become more agile. Make sure you’re incorporating them into your program.

 

#1 – Agility drills where the athlete must REACT to a visual stimulus.

Most sports require the athlete to REACT to an unpredictable [visual and/or verbal] stimulus in a split second. This is in direct opposition to the predetermined movement patterns commonly performed with the “speed ladder” and/or cones.

Here are two examples of drills that require the athlete to react (multiple times) quickly within one drill:

 

Football running back agility drill – Catch football, avoid “defender”(aka, stability ball), avoid defender #2 

Football linebacker agility drill – Take on defender (aka, stability ball), intercept football, react to tackler

 

#2 – Eccentric & Isometric lower body exercises

In order to make “sharp cuts” and change direction rapidly, athletes need the necessary strength to absorb (and accumulate) force, as well as overcome inertia.

Enhancing eccentric strength improves an athlete’s ability to absorb force (while decelerating), whereas isometrics will improve an athletes ability to overcome inertia.

Here is an example of isometric training. Notice how the athlete lowers the weight and comes to a dead stop before performing the concentric portion of the lift. This builds tremendous starting strength because the athlete has to overcome inertia in the bottom position in order to lift the weight.

 

Here’s an example of eccentric training. Notice how the athlete controls the lowering of each rep. Developing this type of strength greatly improves an athlete’s ability to absorb force & decelerate (among many other things), which are key components to changing direction rapidly.

 

NOTE: Make sure you’re incorporating some unilateral exercises when performing your isometric & eccentric training (as shown in the videos above).  Remember that most athletes are planting and cutting off one leg most of the time on the athletic field – so it’s important to address each limb individually in the weight room.

Hopefully this blog post sheds some light on a very misunderstood aspect of training.

Thanks for reading!

Joe D.

 

PS – If you liked this article and/or have any feedback, please drop me a comment below and let’s strike up a conversation!

PPS – If this type of “next level” training information interests you, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking action and attending one of our CPPS certifications. Come see why Muscle & Fitness magazine recently reported the CPPS certification is “setting a new standard” and “It’s the best curriculum for trainers we’ve ever seen.”

The next cert is being held at the one and only DeFranco’s Gym at the Onnit Academy…and there is still space available! I hope to see you there!!!

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27 Comments

  1. Hi Joe,

    Love your work, and much appreciated. How can I do some of your stimuli drills by myself? Also, do most of these exercises and drills translate to baseball or do you have other suggestions.

    Thanks!

  2. I have really found a lot helpful information with this set of videos. I am “bastardizing” them to use for our lacrosse players– which we’ve got a lot of. Great ideas, and easy to adapt with a few changes.

    I already own your set of training DVD’s, these drills are a nice addition to the ones we’re using already.

  3. Another awesome blog post! Since I started watching your videos and listening to your podcasts I’ve learnt so much. So thank you for that. I will come do the CPPS certification as soon as I have time – I can’t wait!

  4. Joe, I would like to share with you my excitness when i read that your CPPS course becoming availible online. Your video are just Awesome. My partner and i additionally like the unconventional & Isometric exercise. Its great that how u keep things simple but VERY effective. The majority of people actually designed a lot more agility tap into dancers.

  5. As always, complex info made simple and actionable and delivered with a dose of humor. Thank you, brother. Looking forward to joining you from NY for CPPS in Austin, in September! #thebrisketisonyou

  6. As usual great infos by Joe!! Thanks a lot!

    When you are working eccentrics, how do you determine load ?

    My only doubt, do you think that exercise alone works to improve absorption and deceleration or is this working together with faster executed exercises to give you the final results?
    I’m asking this because the speed of the eccentrics is very very slow compared to normal sport movements.

  7. hi joe
    im excited to hear about your CPPS course becoming availible online!! i was saving to come to new jersey/austin since i heard about your course.im based in Australia but hopefully il get over there to learn from the master himself
    thanks for the great knowledge bombs
    tad

  8. Phenomenal article. Loved how concise it was. Quality information with no fluff. The practical examples really brought it together.

  9. Awesome…great read. Not only an excellent way to improve an athlete’s agility and athleticism but also a great way to decrease an athlete’s chance for injury. I can’t wait to read the next article.

  10. Great blog! It seems so logical once you read through it. The visual and verbal cues have much more carry over onto the athletic field, yet so many coaches first instinct will be to get the ladder out.

  11. Joe, great article and easy to follow, are you familiar with GAA, Irelands national sport, would be interested in your take on football discipline and maybe advice on tailoring some agility drills…

  12. Great article and great vids. Good use of sports specific stimuli instead of running round poles. Eccentric and isometric strength are good predictors of successful change of direction speed performance

  13. Excellent article. Quick, to the point, and to the point. I love articles that aren’t filled with fluff and have readily usable information. The opening paragraph was pretty excellent too 🙂

  14. Awesome article, and a good eye-opener to the real basis of building effective agility relative to the athlete. Due to the DOMS accumulated as a result of Isometric & Eccentric contractions would you use lower weights with this form of training and work instead on the explosiveness?

  15. I understand that eccentrics result in increased soreness. How about isometrics? I figure it’s giving a longer time under tension so this should result in more soreness as well? I’m just wondering if these movements would still be applicable for athletes during there season!

    Thanks for the awesome article! Your representation of “agility” videos was spot on and hilarious!

  16. Marijn,
    I have good news – within a month we will be offering our CPPS course online! So you don’t have to settle for a “similar” course…you can take the REAL THING! Keep checking this site for updates. The online course should be available in August.

    Thanks for the feedback on the article as well.

  17. Hi Joe,

    Love the article.
    I want to do the cpps curse but i live on holland. Do you also have a European calendar? Or what course would you advise that has the same value?

    Thanks!

    Marijn

  18. Joe,

    I’ve been incorporating so many of your training methods with my athletes for years. Your content helped me get squared away to train my first group of high caliber athletes years ago. Guys like you make the industry better. Never change man and thanks for the great content!

  19. Joe,

    Awesome video, I like the eccentric & Isometric exercise for the lower body how it helps explosiveness, great how u keep things simple but VERY effective.

    Thanks Boss keep them coming

  20. Great post Joe, it baffles me sometimes to watch the videos that you described on social media or youtube. It seems to me like a lot of effort is being spent for the athlete to cover 10 yards. That’s also a lot of time devoted to one specific sequence that could be used developing actual agility or strength. If the foot speed drills that are popping up to impress people actually created more agility tap dancers would be the most agile athletes in the world. I have heard about some coaches using foot speed or quickness to determine if an athlete is close to overreaching/overtraining is that something that you utilize with your athletes Joe?

  21. This is why you are the greatest of all time coach Defranco. You just took a topic that has always confused me, yet it only took you 5 minutes to explain it perfectly. I totally get it now. Thank you for writing such a concise yet informative article.
    Looking forward to taking the cpps course when it becomes available online.
    Jon

  22. Having been a pro athlete and having training in multiple sports disciplines I know what Joe is talking about when he says a lot of trainers don’t have a clue. LISTEN TO HIM…he knows!!!

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