Agility Training: Set Up Progressions for Reaction Success

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Agility training is more than setting up a few cones and running around the field. You wouldn't go into the weight room and slap on a few random plates for the Bench Press. Instead, you'd create and follow a plan, one that includes a progression for increasing the weight, changing your reps/sets and adjusting your intensity over time. Similarly, you shouldn't approach quickness and agility training with a lackadaisical attitude. To make improvements in these areas, you also need a plan and a progression. With them, you'll see huge gains in your "action to reaction" times.

Below, we break down how you can set up your program.

Level I: Change Directions
First, you must learn how to move your body in different directions—forward, backward and laterally.

• Run forward and break off at different angles
• Run forward to a set point and backpedal when you reach the marker

Begin with easy moves and progress to more difficult ones. Start at half- to three-quarters speed and perform only two to three reps per drill. Keep the distance short at five to 10 yards.

Level II: Increase the Duration
Increase the number of reps per drill—go up to four or five, keeping the movement short.

Level III - Increase the Distance
Build up your distance to 15-20 yards.

Level IV - Increase the Speed
Move intensity up to full speed. Make sure to maintain proper form and technique. If technique starts to break down, slow down! The key is to practice the way you want to play—not just go through the drill to finish it. Train with a purpose.

Level V - Add External Resistance
Once you are running at full speed with high intensity, add outside resistance so you'll have to work harder. Try med balls, light dumbbells, tubing, etc.

• Sprint to a cone
• Partner or coach throws med ball to you
• Catch and throw back before you move

This increases the intensity of the drill, forcing you not only to move and change direction, but also to absorb force, move resistance and get your body to work as a unit—just like in a game.

Level VI - Progress from Closed to Open Skills
Closed Drills have set patterns, such as going from cone A to B to C, etc. Even when you change the distance and amp your speed, it's the same pattern every time. An Open Drill has you sprint to a cone, then react to a visual or audio cue that signals your next direction. You might not even go to a cone or mark, but in an indicated direction. By truly reacting to a stimulus, you will be preparing yourself for the chaotic environment of sports.

Do not progress faster than what you can handle. Focus on form, technique and the ability to accelerate, decelerate and load the body in the proper sequence.

By following a progression, and making sure the pattern of movement stays in place, you'll see huge improvements in your drills, excel in practice and be more successful in your sport.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock