A formula for a good fitness routine includes cardio, strength, endurance, and power. We tend to think a lot about the first two, but if you add agility into the mix, you’ll be even stronger (and faster) in the given workout you’re trying to perform.
“When you think of agility, you may conjure images of top athletes with cat-like reflexes,” says Corey Phelps, a Washington, D.C.-based fitness trainer. But you don’t have to be a pro athlete to benefit from agility exercises, because having these skills will improve your coordination, which is key in any training regimen. “The benefits range from better balance and flexibility to the ability to control and maintain good posture and alignment,” says Steve Stonehouse, trainer and director of education for Stride. Agility is your body’s ability to be “quick and nimble while maintaining control,” says Phelps.
Agility training can have everyday benefits too: “Think of how important it is to be able to pivot and change directions quickly, like if you go to cross the street and have to dodge a big pothole without falling, or moving swiftly to catch your brand-new iPhone before it hits the floor,” says Phelps. Those quick reflexes come in handy IRL, which is all the more reason to add some agility drills to your sweat sesh. Keep scrolling for trainers’ go-to agility exercises to try for yourself.
1. Plyometric box jumps: This is a fave of both Phelps and Stonehouse. Find a sturdy box of a challenging but manageable height, from around three to four feet tall. With your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly and power through your quads and glutes to jump on top of the box, trying to land softly with both feet in a squat. Perform for 30- to 60-second intervals.
2. Shuttle runs: Grab some cones or markers and set them 25 yards apart. Sprint from one marker to the other and back for one rep, says Phelps, who recommends six repetitions as fast as you can for 300 yards total, then rest and repeat.
3. Speed ladder work: Lay down a ladder and challenge your agility by stepping in and out of the rungs in different patterns as fast as you can, says Stonehouse.
4. Jump rope: While traditional jump roping is a good challenge, Stonehouse suggests mixing it up by jumping one foot at a time or alternating your feet forwards and backwards for more agility work.
5. Lateral plyometric jumps: With your feet no more than hip-width apart, bend your knees to squat and push through your heels, pushing upwards and sideways towards the other side of the room. Phelps says to land softly and absorb the shock by squatting deeply. Perform for 30- to 60-second intervals.
Try this running warm-up before you get started to get your blood pumping:
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