Why agility training should be part of your workout

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Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good
We could all probably use some agility pointers—I mean, who doesn’t want to dominate the fast-paced drills in boxing class or finally nail the footwork in dance cardio?

To find out how to hone quicker reflexes and faster feet, I turned to WNBA all-star Skylar Diggins. The 25-year-old guard for the Dallas Wings and face of Nike’s latest Elite Women’s Collection has been mastering the art of agility since she started playing basketball in high school, and she continues to fine-tune it in the gym, at home—basically, anywhere she can break a sweat. “I like to keep it simple and not use a ton of equipment,” she says.

As it turns out, agility exercises themselves are only part of the equation; Diggins stresses that nutrition, recovery, and discipline are also key to improving your athletic prowess. Put it all together, and you’ll eventually have the speed, balance, and coordination to keep up with even the most advanced hip-hop dance class (maybe even in heels).

Ready to change your nickname to Twinkle Toes? Keep scrolling for Skylar Diggins’ tips on how to improve your agility—both in and out of the gym.

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May not be where I want to be, but I'm not where I used to be! #S4TS

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1. Work agility drills into your exercise routine

Diggins swears by three drills for amping up her agility skills—with ladders being number one. It helps to have an actual agility ladder for reference, but she insists it’s not necessary. “You can do different patterns and just draw lines on the floor if you don’t have anything,” she says. “They help me with speed and keep me challenged. I love going through different foot patterns and lateral movements—I used to do them in college and they helped me when I tore my ACL.”

Diggins’ other faves include high knees (or jumping over small hurdles, if you have them), and jumping rope. “This is a big one, and you can also just use a line on the sidewalk if you don’t have a rope,” says Diggins of the latter. “Alternate between going side to side or back and forth while alternating speed. This helps me be lighter on my feet.”

2. Be consistent—and get an accountability buddy.

We all know that practice makes perfect, but even athletes sometimes don’t feel like working out. (Sound familiar?) Diggins’ number-one motivator involves calling her besties. “I invite a friend to work out with,” she says. “It really helps to have a partner push you when you don’t feel like it that day.” Don’t have any fitness friends? Here’s how to make some.

3. Take rest days seriously.

If you’re on the brink of exhaustion, you’re going to move more slowly—and all the agility drills in the world won’t help you. That’s why Diggins puts a large emphasis on recovery and stresses the importance of listening to your body and taking rest days when needed. To heal her sore muscles, she favors ice baths and refueling with plenty of electrolytes. (“I drink a ton of BodyArmor to stay hydrated,” she says.)

4. Feed your muscles with protein

What to eat that’ll keep you moving quickly without weighing you down? “It’s so important to get enough protein,” says Diggins. “Lately I’ve been trying to make a really good turkey burger. I eat lots of salmon, chicken, and vegetables, and also lots of eggs. I recently learned how to poach eggs, and I love that.” (Bonus points if you give them a gut-friendly twist!)

It’s a not-so-scientific fact that you move faster when you’re feeling your workout gear. These nine capri leggings will keep you looking chic (and feeling cool!) while you sweat—and don’t forget to wear the right sneakers for your agility workout. These three  easy workout-friendly hairstyles are also perfect for a fast-paced sweat sesh.

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