Speed and Agility Training

Speed exercises and agility training – The true story.


Speed and Agility Training is a Loooong Term Process

Monday 12 April 2010 @ 12:39 pm

People always like to hear the secret, the quick gains how to, the massive improvements in just 3 short weeks and I am going to give to you straight: Massive gains in a couple of “short” weeks are quite possible BUT, they are not for newbies.  Let me elaborate on this, when you are first starting any endeavor, both physical and mental, you can expect to get easy increases at the beginning. Training for speed and agility is no different. This is despite improper training, unoptimal eating habits, drinking, yes, a newbie can get past all of these simply because there is so much untapped potential in his body.

Harsh lesson: most newbies won’t get that far after that, and then, frustrated, they will quit.  I will wager that this is especially true for speed and agility training. There are some very different approaches in the world: some people, called information junkies, like to read up and know everything there is to know about a subject before doing anything at all. At the other extreme, there are those people who jump in and just start doing. Neither are doing it right. The information junkie people are wasting time, they are throwing away time that could be used to start molding their minds and bodies into a machine of explosive speed and agility for the sake of the most quantity of information.  I am not going to even address the topic of lousy information and people teaching stuff that simply is not effective, just to throw you a bone.  Then when frustrated and plateauing, get you to buy their products – that don’t work.

The people who just jump into speed and agility training seem to have an advantage in the beginning, this is because if you do anything, just getting off your couch and doing any speed and agility training, you will get some results. This is due to the untapped potential I’ve mentioned earlier. But, the problem with this approach is that they will tend to flatline pretty fast and after that, doing more of the same thing will unlikely produce any more improvement. This is why people who run laps every day will not improve their speed, they will just build more and more endurance, which is fine, as long as that is what they are going after. This is where the info junkies have the edge, this is because:

Practice does not make Perfect, Perfect practice makes Perfect
…and info junkies have the best chance of eventually coming across the good information and getting the right speed and agility training.

Another problem for people who just jump into things is that they may learn improper techniques. Tiger Woods had to relearn his whole swing, because it was not a sustainable swing and would have eventually led to carrier ending injuries. This is the problem most frequent with people who train without guidance. So the best thing is to get the best of both worlds, you need proper guidance and you need to take action. In the world of speed and agility training this is even more true due to the high risk of injury.

Speed and agility training has a higher incidence of injuries and a higher severity of injuries than training for strength, endurance, muscle size, etc. Take a good look at my ankle and learn from my mistakes. Six screws, a titanium plate and 2 months in crutches. Hope you’ll be smarter than me.

This is why I must caution you to be aware than speed and agility training is a long term process. If you want to get anywhere worth going in the shortest amount of time, then think of things in terms of a two year process. This is just a guideline. I don’t want to make this article any longer so let me tell you that I hope you have enjoyed and got something out of it.

Leave a comment and tell me what you though of the article: here.

All the best,
Damian

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Speed and Agility Training with Sports Vision Training

Saturday 10 April 2010 @ 1:28 pm

There has been arguably the biggest breakthrough in speed and agility training in 50 years.    What was once considered to be untrainable, is quickly becoming a must in the training of elite athletes and those wishing to become as much.  Think of the obscure skills such as reaction speed, sport intelligence, anticipation, game tempo, field vision, timing , focus and concentration.   It all starts with the fact that our body reacts to what it can see.  The better the body can “see” the better reaction time, the better it can anticipate the next move of the opponent.   What we are talking about is the breakthrough of sports vision training.

But even the quickest players around will be beat or make mistakes if their minds or sports vision is not up to the challenge. This is what traditional speed and agility training has not been able to do and that is why speed exercises for the mind are crucial. Most often, these are called speed and span of recognition training.   These exercises help with reflexes and reactive ability, it is just one of the sports vision skills an athlete can train for in order to become the best.   Using sports vision training, athletes process greater amounts of visual information faster and more precisely in order to make better decisions making their physical reactions  faster and more precise, especially when under pressure. Other vision skills included in this type of training,  but not entirely exhaustive include:

  • peripheral awareness – while focusing on a fixed point, seeing people and objects out of the of  the corner of the eye
  • visual reaction time – is the interval of time between when a change or stimulus is seen and when you react to that change or stimulus
  • dynamic visual acuity – the visual strengths and weaknesses of players with regard to moving objects
  • eye tracking – the ability to to watch or follow the ball carefully no matter how fast it may be traveling
  • eye focusing – changing focus quickly and accurately from one distance to another
  • depth perception – the visual ability to perceive the world in three dimensions to speedily and correctly judge the distance and speed of objects
  • fusion flexibility and stamina – the ability to the eyes working together under excessive speed and  physically demanding situations

This breakthrough in speed and agility training answers the question of having two athletes; same height, same weight, same strength, same training, same times in speed exercises, but one plays the game noticeably better than the other.

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Speed and Agility Training and the Benefits of Using a Protein Supplement

Thursday 8 April 2010 @ 3:51 pm

Speed and agility training is a dangerous business, unlike strength training workouts or other muscle building programs there is a high risk of injury.  This is because while strength deals mainly with high force and low speed, speed and agility training often involves high force AND high speed, resulting in very high power. Misapplied forces executed at high speeds can lead to serious injury. I should know, this is a picture of my ankle. It has 6 screws and a titanium plate in it. You gotta have real passion for what you do and there’s nothing that shows real passion more that the ability to suffer trauma and then get back up on the horse.

But I digress, the purpose of this article is to show you some ways that your speed and agility training can benefit from what other sport cultures have discovered and how you can apply this knowledge to your speed and agility training.

The short story is this:

-> a protein supplement can help out tremendously with your gains.

I have touched on the subject of speed and agility training and creatine before.  Today I will turn my attention towards speed and agility training and a protein supplement.This is a great aid in improving speed and agility.

A protein supplement is important for maximizing your results for the following reasons:

It allows you to recover from the micro injuries that any training session worth it’s salt will inflict upon your body.  Basically this means that each time your body is damaged, if you give it the right nutrients (and yes proteins are a macro-nutrient that is critical to your body) it will recover and build itself up stronger each time. If you fail to do so, you will reach plateaus or worse yet, regress. Regression happens when your body is in a negative repair mode, or a deficit repair mode. This basically means that your body can’t keep up with the damage you inflict upon it and each training session will leave you ever more weaker.

Another problem you might encounter is improper repair.  Basically your body will patch itself up with whatever it has on hand but it will not build itself back up as strongly as it could. This is influenced both by the quality of the food you intake and of the specific tolerance of that food with your body. Believe it or  not food allergy exists in every living individual, the problem is that when we are healthy we barely notice this and we keep right on trucking.  But this is not at all smart. Just think of the gains you could be making if you were to feed your body properly with foods that don’t harm it.  If you provide ample micro-nutrients and cofactors and supply high quality macromolecules.

See the whole Gallery:

Click on the images below to zoom in.

Don’t get me wrong you can still benefit from speed and agility training if you just eat from the 1 dollar menu.  But you will recover more slowly, you will repair yourself more badly and you will be affecting your ability to train correctly and increase your chance of suffering an injury. So this basically takes care of why you should use a protein supplement in your speed and agility training program.

This brings me to another topic which I have discussed somewhere else: the protein supplement issue. What, why and how to select the best protein supplement.

Leave a comment and tell me what you thought of the article: here.

All the best,
Damian

PS: Here is a great speed and agility exercise for you to use.

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Speed and Agility Training and Plyometrics

Wednesday 7 April 2010 @ 7:41 am

Speed and Agility Training is fast becoming a focus for more and more athletes as they find that strength training is just not enough anymore — not that it ever was, but as times get more competitive you are going to need all the edge you can get.

The purpose of this article is to function as an introduction into the relation between speed and agility training and a practice known as Plyometric training. You will learn what plyometrics are, what role they play in your speed and agility training.  You will also learn and what are some of the benefits you can expect when corectly introducing plyometric drills into your speed and agility training.

So what are plyometrics anyway?
Plyometrics are simply a type of exercises whose purpose it is to link strength with speed of movement in order to create a lot of power. The objective is to be able to use more of your strength — faster — thus producing more power. An example of application of plyometrics in a sport that requires a lot of speed and agility is doing a vertical  jump for height in basketball.

Plyometric execises are simple in purpose, they are meant to:
– increase your bodies ability to absorb and store force;
– teach you how to release that force — creating a movement which has a lot of power behind it.

Traditional sports endeavors who have benefited a lot from these types of exercises are those that involve throwing, kicking, jumping and lifting.

Purpose of plyometrics as part of a speed and agility training program
Plyometric drills are meant to train your muscles and tendons to absorb high amounts of force and teach your nervous system how to control and stabilize that force. Speed and agility can be developed very quickly with such practices – the best gains come if you have already strengthened your muscles and tendons.

The short term gains in speed and agility that result from incorporating plyometric exercises come from the education of your nervous system. This is why it is critical to perform plyometric exercises following these guidelines:

  • only perform when rested
  • perform with maximum concentration and focus for each rep
  • keep the rep number low (no more than 20 regardless of the exercise used)
  • keep the set number low (no more than 3 sets regarding the exercise)

Gains in the long term will rely on body composition — this is why a focus on nutrition and avoidance of injury are critical with regards to plyometrics. Plyometric training will change the structure of your muscles and tendons. You should be aware that practiced over a longer period of time, the result of plyometric training will make your muscles and tendons and make them have more spring.

Plyometric movement works like this:

  • first the body absorbs and stabilizes the force from a negative (eccentric) contraction
  • as it does this, it  loads up your muscles and tendons with force (think of it like a compressing a spring)
  • your body releases this energy in the opposite direction
  • the spring unloads and the body (for legs) or an object (for arms) is propelled with astounding speed

Here’s an example,when you cock back your arm to throw a rock the natural thing you do is to first cock your arm backwards.  The effect of this is that the muscles of your arm and shoulder muscles lock, forcing your tendons to stretch thus storing a lot of force in those tendons and essentially turning them into loaded springs. When you throw, the stored force is released, allowing the rock to be accelerated at a rate which is higher than your normal rate of force development.

The reason plyometric training was so big when it came out in the 70 ‘s is that it allowed athletes to specifically train their muscles and tendons to be more spring-like. You naturally use plyometric movements but before plyometric training came out there was no clear cut way to train for this. That is why it was thought for so long that jumping for height for example was an innate ability.

As I said before, the more you use this type of training the more you will also develop an inherent springiness in your muscles and tendons.  Coupled with an increased nervous system learning on how to corectly perform the movement at higher speeds, you can expect to see massive improvements in your speed and agility. The question is: how do I adapt the principles of plyometric training to my speed and agility training? The answer is, and you aren’t going to like it, by tailoring your plyometric training to the specific speed and agility requirements of the sport that you are practicing. This is a long discussion and goes way beyond the scope of this article.

In this article you have learned:

  • what plyometrics are
  • how plyometrics work
  • the role of plyometrics as part of your speed and agility training
  • the benefits you can expect when introducing plyometric drills into yours speed and agility training

I also recommend you check out this article on exercise for speed and agility training and preventing injuries.

All the best,
Damian

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Speed and Agility Training – Benefits of a Sound Training Journal

Monday 5 April 2010 @ 7:06 pm

Speed and Agility Training StopwatchThe majority of us have trained at some point in our lives. Odds are that if you have ever taken your training seriously you  may have used a training journal or a training log.  No matter if you are training casually for fitness and recreation or if you are earnestly involved in speed and agility training, you can benefit from maintaining a journal of this sort.

The major difference between training journals and training logs, is what you write down in them following each workout session. Training journals are just that. They are more of a journal rather than a log. They will typically consist of things like your mental outlook at the time and how you felt over the course of the day or during your workout. You may want to include information about climatic conditions, training location, workout partners, and things of that kind. They can reach a bit into some statistical information but this is normally kept for a training record.

Training logs are usually shaped off of some type of a outline. For instance, everyday you fill out a sheet containing the same fields. Things like current weight, what physical exercises were being completed, diet information, are all things that might be put in a training log on a day to day basis. Distances run, amount of weight used, length and number of reps done and other sorts of training specific information is often included.  A log of speed and agility drills would probably include all the various drills that were done in previous sessions.

I would not suggest going exclusively one route or the other, both journaling and logging are important to keep an effective account of your past. You will discover through experience that for convenience sake, it’s good to have the two combined together in some way.  This way it’s always easy to remember to do both.

Advantages of Documenting Your Work Out

The number one benefit of documenting your training is to have a complete history to look back on. This could be extremely helpful in terms of planning for example to discover what has worked for you and what hasn’t. It’s very helpful for determining reasons for injuries or for times of burnout. The idea is to discover more about the things that influence your training and performance over time and adapt your current training regimen or behavior by taking those factors into account. Speed and agility training can benefit a lot from these. They are especially beneficial if you are keeping up with a specific speed and agility program that has several components.

Have you ever sat down and tried to plan out training with nothing to work with? If you have something to look back upon with a complete description of what you’ve done over the past few weeks it’s simple to plan ahead.  It will effectively enhance your workout intensity, etc to improve for the future.  A good illustration would be speed exercises.  Documenting distances, times, and coaching observations will help keep you focused on the vital elements of the training and provide you with a road map of sorts.

A complete journal is also really nice to have just for personal use, and to be able to look back on past months and years, to remember different accounts. You may even elect to create a blog or some articles someday and it will make a great source of information about your experiences.

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How Athletes Set Goals

Monday 5 April 2010 @ 7:32 am

If you want to reach any level of success in athletics, it is important that you set goals. When you set a goal it gives you a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. This is even more true in such a complex field as speed and agility training.

Where Do You Start?

First we need to start with the big picture, an overall view that guides you in your decision making and helps you to see that you have your whole life ahead of you, no matter what happens today.  You need to establish what you want to achieve in the next season and then over your entire career.  Then we move down to things you can do today in order to begin moving in the desired direction.  Note that long-term goals assist you in where you want to go.  Short-term goals show you how you are going to get there.  In setting your athletic goals, keep in mind that if you are on a team, work with your coach to include team goals as well, but that is for another article.

Long Term Goals

First, you need to figure out your long-term goals.   Ask yourself what you want to accomplish in your athletic career?  Note, your long-term goals are not meant to be obligatory, they simply are there to make you aware of the long life ahead of you and to help you see that you have options as well. Do you want to take up this sport only for the early part of your life or do you want to make this sport your career? A suggestion for a goal in your training for speed and agility would be to decrease your 50 yard dash by half a second.

Short Term Goals

These goals are the ones you will achieve today, within a week, etc.   They are more easily accomplished and progress you towards achieving our long term goals.

Breaking Down Long-Term Goals To Get To Set Your Short Term Goals – Questions To Ask

  • What are the skills needed to accomplish your goals?
  • What can you do between now and the end of the season to develop those skills?
  • What will you do this week to develop those skills?
  • What can you do next practice to develop those skills?

Important Things to Know

  • Written Goals

Note that you need to write down your goals.  Once you have written your goals down on paper,  they become real and solid.  It is what separates goals from dreams.   They increase your motivation and your mental picture of that goal is clearer.  The process of writing down goals get them “out of your head” to free up your mind from having to always think and remember them.   You will also be affirmed that you are on a mission of pursuing your goals.

  • Positiveness

Set each goal as a positive statement.  For example,  “I will be diligent and careful when doing agility ladder drills”   instead of “I will not fall on my rear end when doing speed and agility drills”.   This focuses on success rather than failures because you want these behaviors to be present rather than behaviors that should be absent.

  • SMART

Make sure that your all your goals are smart goals. Meaning they are specific (detailed), measurable (progress assessable), attainable (within reach), relevant (towards your purpose) and time-sensitive (make deadlines).

Keep a copy of your goals in plain sight.  Review them daily.  Setting goals will bring you success.

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Set Goals or Sit Out in Speed and Agility Training

Sunday 4 April 2010 @ 8:50 am

A goal properly set is halfway reached.

Zig Ziglar.

What do elite athletes, successful business people and consummate professionals know about setting goals?    They all know that goals give them the ability to accomplish a great deal.  They also know that goal setting gives them an advantage.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is the act of putting processes in motion in order to ensure specific outcomes and accomplishments.  Athletes position themselves for success using this mechanism.  It gives them a finite direction in their lives, careers and sports. You should not begin any speed and agility training without establishing your goals.

Why Set Goals?

Goals help direct an athlete to take the appropriate steps and maintain the appropriate behaviors necessary for success.  They also keep an athlete on course in the face of disappointment, difficulty or adversity.   Most importantly, setting goals helps with motivation.  The process helps attain and retain the motivation to reach higher levels of performance and it also clarifies expectations involved.  Goals make for more effective and efficient practices.   Psychologically,  goal setting gives an athlete improved self confidence, helps their motivation, feeling of pride and satisfaction in achievement.  It gives them a  willingness to take on future challenges and  increases the athlete’s likability of the sport.  Physically, setting goals helps improve athletic performance such as strength, weight and speed and agility.

Role of Coaches

With speed and agility training, a coach is highly recommended. Coaches are experienced goal setters.  They also know that goals can give athletes an edge over their opponents and most have had many years of experience in helping athletes set goals.  Coaches need to help athletes with performance goals.  They also need to help the athlete set practice goals as well as game goals.  Practice goals help the athlete achieve the most that they can in practice so that they are better prepared for the game or match.  While there are many areas involved in goal setting, the areas in which coaches can help their athletes are in fitness, technique and strategy.  Coaches help with measures, speed exercises and evaluations of progress.  In fact, studies have shown that specific, difficult, yet attainable goals tend to enhance performance.    If your coach cannot help you with goal setting or does not find this process important, find another coach.

In summary, goals are mainstay for top performers whether they are athletes or CEOs.   The ability and willingness to set goals is the master skill of success on the court, field, track, rink or diamond.

I recommend you check out this speed and agility training exercise.

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Increasing Aerobic Endurance

Saturday 3 April 2010 @ 12:19 pm

Aerobic endurance and how to increase your aerobic performance is a pretty big topic.  There is an endless amount of data and advice on the subject and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of that information.  To make it simple, let’s look at the basics of increasing aerobic endurance that you can use to increase the effectiveness of your speed and agility training and overall performance.

What is Aerobic Endurance?
To put it simply, aerobic endurance is the body’s capacity for processing oxygen and circulating it through the body within a set period of time.  The higher the capacity your body has to circulate oxygen and convert it to energy – the higher your aerobic endurance.  Think of the aerobic system (also known as oxidative system) as the energy system that uses oxygen.  Aerobic capacity applies to all athletes, regardless of the sport they are involved in.  The more aerobic capacity you have, the more oxygen your system is able to circulate through the circulatory system and the better you will be able to perform.

I should also mention at this point the anaerobic system (also know as glycolytic system) is the the short burst system that doesn’t use oxygen.  This comes into play when your body is working so hard that it begins to experience an oxygen deficit.  Anaerobic endurance is needed by sprinters and other athletes that must perform at an all out level for a short period of time, usually less than one minute.

The aerobic system is the one that processes oxygen and circulates it through the system and the anaerobic is the system that operates without the use of oxygen — by creating an oxygen debt. Depending on the level you are exercising at, both these system come into play for speed and agility training.

Increasing Aerobic Capacity

Increasing aerobic endurance is achieved in the same way you would increase muscle endurance, through exercise.  Speed exercises and endurance exercises make your heart stronger and your muscles more efficient.  You gain the ability to acquire and process oxygen in greater volume and more efficiently, making all of your metabolic functions operate more efficiently. In speed exercises and agility training your oxygen cycling capacity is critical.

Cardiovascular exercise builds aerobic endurance.  Things like running or swimming for longer periods build up endurance and the capacity to process oxygen.  When you work at a pace that gets your heart rate up to 80% or 90% of it’s maximum, you are working at a level that is building more aerobic endurance.  Beginners may want to work at 70-80% of their heart rate and build up from there.

Running at a moderate pace for 30-45 minutes at a time is as good an aerobic exercise as you can do.  Do it three times a week and build up speed and heart rate as you progress.  You want to get to the 80-90% level of your heart rate as you build up endurance to get the greatest benefit over time.

The basic premise of building aerobic endurance is to work at a moderately high level over a longer period of time.  This builds endurance and increases the body’s capacity to take in oxygen and deliver it to your body systems more efficiently.

PS: Click here for an anaerobic exercise for speed and agility training — it’s a really nice one.

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Speed and Agility Training – The One-Legged Squat Part 2

Friday 2 April 2010 @ 3:57 pm

In this article I will continue my discussion of the 1-legged squat as it pertains to your speed and agility training protocols. If you have not read the introductory first article you can do so here: Speed and Agility Training – One Legged Squat: Part 1

Article breakdown:

  • the criteria important in your speed and agility training
  • how to perform the 1-legged squat specifically in order to develop your speed and agility

…as a bonus I will also be including some tips on how to make this exercise even harder and a video of its performance.

My Experience – Your Gain
In taking from my experience of overcoming an injury, as well as the things I learned testing different variations, the training protocols as applied to the 1-legged squat are very impressive.  I will also offer you ways to incorporate this exercise in your speed and agility training. Give this exercise a trial period of two weeks.  Focus on no other exercise and use the variations as I show them to you.  I promise you are going to be VERY impressed with the results.

As we all know there are some things that you can feel or be aware of but are difficult to measure. Some of the benefits of this exercise are like that. One benefit of this exercise that you can both feel and measure are: increased rate of force development — ie explosiveness, the ability to generate a high amount of tension, read force, in a short amount of time, the result of this is that you can use your legs or leg to propel your body in any direction you want VERY FAST, something that can really show up in your speed and agility.

Something You Won’t See Anywhere Else
There is something that should make the variations of this exercise more appealing to the “looking for a secret” person.  These variations are not something you will find anywhere else.  I have  been involved in amateur athletic endeavors for 9 years.   I am an information junkie as well.  I have researched and studied the areas of bodybuilding, strength training, vertical jump development, speed and agility training, dietary supplements, isometric training, as well as others too numerous to name.

Why is this important?
In our hyped up marketing world, people tend to focus on niches.  They focus on either training for muscle, for strength, for fitness, for being ripped or a million other variations. Being an amateur athlete I have extensively researched and developed various training methods.   I have also applied many training protocols in the past 9 years.  So please bear in mind, if you are not familiar with these training techniques, it is simply because what I have exclusively developed them and they are influenced by many disciplines from which I have taken what I thought best served my purpose.

At this point in time I am focusing on developing speed and agility.  This means that I am taking all the things I have learned over the years and combining them to achieve the highest outcomes possible. This is a work in progress and what you are going to read about are the results I have gotten using interdisciplinary training protocols. It is by no means the only way, it is JUST :)  a very good and time efficient way of doing things. Please remember individual results may vary so do some testing of your own.  That being said, after 9 years I have a pretty good understanding — to say the least, of what can produce results and how fast you can get them.

So let’s get back to the 1-legged squat, first, the purpose. The 1-legged squat will have its training variables modified so as to maximize your speed and agility gains. It can be used to develop strength or to develop muscle mass, but I will focus on improving speed and agility.

Explosiveness
Speed and agility largely depend upon your explosiveness.  In running for example, speed depends on your ability to drive force into the ground with your legs, one at a time, and propel yourself forward. The more force you can develop and the faster you can develop it, the more your speed will increase. With some aspects of agility the same apply. This is, in a nutshell, as far as running speed and agility is concerned.  This means that the variables of performing the 1-legged squat for the purposes of speed and agility training will need to maximize your maximum strength and your rate of force development.

Most Efficient Way to Train
The most efficient way to do this is to train in a range of 65% to 85% of your 1 rep maximum. This has the effect of making your muscles suffer a high degree of tension while keeping your rep number low, optimal ways to develop strength. Also, training in the 65% to 85% range while emphasizing speed of movement, has a very high training payout as far as your rate of force development goes.   Put another way, the faster you attempt to move a very heavy object, the better your body will become at generating force quickly – this directly influences acceleration which in turn directly influences both speed and agility. It influences speed by enabling you to accelerate faster and put more force in each of your strides.  It influences agility because you are able to change direction much faster.

For example, let’s say you are running and you suddenly have an object in front of you that you want to avoid. Your body must first neutralize the momentum it already has before being able to dodge the object, the faster you can develop the force needed to neutralize that momentum the faster you will be able to change direction. This is how the negative part of the 1-legged squat benefits your agility.

In summary: performing the 1-legged squat specifically for speed and agility training purposes requires that you:

  1. Use weight that is between 65% and 85% of your one rep maximum
  2. Move that weight slowly on the way down and take a 1 second break on the lowest part of the exercise (I did not do this in the video btw)
  3. Move that weight as fast as possible on the way up — without bouncing


Tip: how to make the exercise even harder- do it very slowly while emphasizing perfect posture and control

[flv:/speedandagility1leggedsquat.flv 560 450]

I’d love to hear what you though of this article, leave a comment here speed and agility training

All the best,
Damian