Plyometric Training To Improve Agility
Essential plyometric training for speed and agility.
Agility is defined as the ability to change direction and speed in response to a stimulus. In this article, we will talk about plyometric training to improve agility.
This has two components:
- The ability to react and read a situation.
- The ability to change speed or direction.
Your ability to read the game and react comes with experience. This can be trained but is very much a cognitive skill. Your ability to change direction is determined by your technique, strength, ability to adsorb force and produce force to accelerate in the direction you need to go. If you are well practiced in your technique and performing a resistance training programme to improve your lower body strength, specific plyometric training has been shown to decrease contact time of the plant foot during agility tasks and increase change of direction speed. However, this improvement is only recorded when the plyometric drills are specific to lateral, sideways, movements. This makes complete sense. When cutting and changing direction, you are required to adsorb and produce force in lateral movements where the foot contact is outside of the mid line of the body.
THE VIDEO: Essential Plyometric Training For Speed And Agility
In the next part of this article, we are going to take you step-by-step from basic plyometric training progressions all the way up to more advanced lateral plyometrics to improve your agility on the pitch or on the court whatever your sport.
Step one is to learn how to land effectively and adsorb force efficiently. Each time you land or make a cut your legs will be required to adsorb force. The quicker you can adsorb force and create stiffness on landing, the faster you will be able to re-apply force and propel yourself in another direction. Practicing landings is also very effective at reducing knee injuries such as ACL strains so it is imperative that these are done correctly.
Bilateral (Two feet)
Start by stepping off a box and landing with both feet in a ¼ squat stance. Flex from the hips, knees and ankles to share the forces between your muscles and be gentle with the feet on landing. Think about a ballet dance landing rather than an elephant trying to jump. Start with a small box and increase the height when you feel confident you can control the landing without collapsing inwards from the knees or forwards with the torso.
Unilateral (One foot)
Each time you make a cut or land during a game, it is likely to be on one leg so it will be wise to practice landing on one leg and ensuring you have the same control as when landing with two. Start with a small box and step out to land on one leg just like when you step out off of a step onto the street. Ensure you are balanced on landing. All of the same rules apply from the bilateral landings. Be gentle on landing but land stiff so you can absorb the force of the landing as fast as possible. Repeat on both legs and increase the height of the box when you are comfortable that you have control on landing.
As mentioned above, change of direction tasks are determined by lateral forces so we must practice landing and adsorbing force sideways to prepare ourselves for the next steps. Start standing on your box sideways, step out sideways and land with two feet. To challenge this further you can either increase the height of the box or distance you step sideways. When you feel comfortable landing both left and right with two feet, it is time to progress to single foot landings. These can be performed in 4 different combinations, in both left and right directions with the outside and inside landing foot.
The depth jump is an introduction into true plyometric movements. The landing creates a stretch reflex in the muscles and increases your rate of force development as you jump. Step off the box and land with two feet. As you land, absorb the force and turn the landing into a jump as fast as possible attempting to jump as high as possible. As you become comfortable, increase the height of your box. Remember that to improve your agility we need to practice this movement laterally as well. Step off the box sideways and jump straight up again trying to jump as high as possible.
This is very similar to the depth jump. However, now you are going to be stiff on landing and jump as soon as your feet hit the ground. Be stiff with your contact and spend as little time on the floor as possible. This creates stiffness and increases your rate of force development when you make a cut or need to accelerate. Again, this needs to be done laterally as well as forwards. Repeat the same process as the depth jump but spend as little time on the floor as you can.
Skater bound – Single Leg lateral movement
Now, we have adsorbed force laterally and started to make the lateral movement more reactive it is time to create some force laterally as well. Skater bounds are a great way to load the legs in a lateral fashion. Starting on one leg, leap sideways and using the other leg rebound back onto the starting leg. Keep rebounding for a series of reps. From left to right and right to left. As you gain a rhythm, make the leaps bigger and bigger. This will increase the forces adsorbed and produced with each contact.
Single Leg Drop Jump to Lateral bound
It is time to create some lateral stiffness and put together everything we have been working on. This next movement combines the skater bounds and drop jump as well as the lateral landings that we started with. Step off of a box and land on the opposite leg. As you land, you need to leap to the inside as quickly as possible and as far as possible and land on two feet. Repeat this with the other leg, leaping in the opposite direction. Here, instead of trying to jump as high as you can you are trying to leap across as far as you can. When you are comfortable with the two footed landings, you can try and land with one leg. Make sure that your landings are gentle but stable. To challenge this further, you can combine any of the progressions we have done previously. Have an experiment with starting in different directions and even landing in different positions.
This is a basic structure to introduce you into lateral plyometric training movements which, will improve your agility and change of direction speed. Start from the beginning and make sure you can perform the movements comfortably before moving onto the next progression. This list is not exhaustive. You may come up with other combinations of movements which, haven’t been mentioned in this article. Make sure you are moving in every direction. Essentially, you are teaching your legs how to adsorb and re-apply force in a lateral movement as quickly as possible so that this will transfer into any agility sporting task.