Be reactive in your agility training

By Sam Thielen, MS, CSCS

Agility training is a cornerstone for nearly every athlete’s training program, but it can be easy to fall into a routine with the drills and movements. One simple way to change up and step up your agility training is to implement a reactive or cognitive component.

Certified strength and conditioning specialist, Sam Thielen, at Sanford POWER in Fargo, NDIn sport, changing your movement direction is almost always a reaction to what you see, hear, or feel. Why not involve those cues in your agility training? By simply adding some visual, audible, or sensory cues, the difficulty level and specificity of common agility drills can be increased tremendously.

Adding Reactive Elements to Your Training

The easiest way to add a reactive component to a drill is to do so from the start. Initiating a drill with a different command other than the word “GO” or a whistle can make it far more realistic for the athlete.

An example of this would be directing an athlete to begin a Pro-Agility (5-10-5) drill. Athletes move to the left with an odd number or the right with an even number. Numbers are shown or called out randomly number. Athletes then must react to that cue and begin the drill in the corresponding direction. Other methods include beginning on the drop of a ball, touching one of the athlete’s shoulders to signal a start direction, or using colored cones for destination points.

Another way to utilize a reactive/cognitive component within an agility drill is to use visual or audible cues to change direction. A classic example of this is a basketball defensive shuffle drill in which the coach points different directions and the athlete shuffles accordingly. While this is often used as a conditioning drill, the concept can be applied to a variety of high-speed movements, and it can be used as a substitute for cones to signal a direction change.

Increase the challenge by using odd/even numbers, fruits and vegetables, or NFL vs. NBA team names for cues (example: shuffle right on fruits, left of veggies. Sprint forward on NBA teams, backpedal on NFL). Each of these require a little bit of thought by the athlete as to which direction he/she must move, making it similar to a decision within the flow of a game.

Making agility reactive is a great way to change up your approach to agility training. Not only can adding a reactive or cognitive component to agility drills increase the difficulty and practicality of the drill itself, but it also can add some variety to necessary but repetitive movements like shuffling and cutting. The variety and cognitive challenge can make it more fun and engaging for your athletes as well. This alone may be worth giving it a try to keep your athletes’ working at 100 percent.