Speed and Agility – The How to for Everyday Athletes
Agility vs Speed – How to Help Your Clients Become Better Everyday Athletes
Whether it’s for something competitive or just an everyday activity, clients want to be faster with their movements. From playing tennis to going for a run, or even playing tag in the backyard with the kids—there are many activities that can benefit from increased speed. But are clients just looking for speed or is there something more that can help them?
To your clients, it may seem simple: teach them how to run faster. However, as a trainer, you know there’s more to fast movement than just going forward, quickly. Even in a simple game of tag you need to change direction while on the run, suddenly slowing down to avoid crashing into another player or quickly dodging the person who’s “it.”
So, let’s review speed and agility to help your clients understand why you should include both in their training.
First, speed: moving as fast as possible in a straight line from A to B.
Training for speed requires strength in the arms and legs to push your body forward. The stronger those muscles become, the faster the body can move. This training is probably the easiest for your clients to acknowledge because it’s essentially all they think they want to do—get from here to there as fast as they can run.
But give your clients a reality check: How often are they only moving forward in one direction?
If a client runs the 100-meter dash, yes, there is a lot of single-direction movement. But, like the person playing tag, even a client playing tennis will be zig-zagging across the court, slowing down quickly to hit the ball and more. Speed is no longer just about moving forward and coming to a stop.
Accelerating, decelerating, then accelerating again and changing direction—this is agility. Agility training focuses on doing a variety of movements in a quick manner. Your client isn’t simply going as fast as they can, but rather adjusting their movements while going as fast as possible.
This is vital to the client playing tennis or chasing the kids in the backyard, or even one who does trail running. They’re weaving around objects, slowing a bit to get around a corner, speeding back up, then quickly jumping to the left avoid a rock. Those movements aren’t the simple start and stop of running in a straight line.
Training for these movements takes more than just strong legs to push off the ground. Your client is also going to need good balance and a strong core to support the body as it moves through all three planes of motion.
What about Quickness?
It may seem as if quickness and speed are the same, but in training, as you likely know, there is an important difference. Your clients should understand this so that if they really want to crush their goals they can work on SAQ: Speed, Agility, and Quickness.
Working with your clients on speed and agility will cover a lot of bases, but more serious athletes need SAQ drills to really perform better.
In athletics we use the term quickness to refer to the ability to change your body’s position with a fast reaction time and adequate force.
Speed and Agility Drills
For most of your clients, speed and agility drills will be enough. Here are some examples of drills you can add to their training session once they understand the importance of including both.
These drills, done two to three times per week, will help your clients improve speed.
- Basic sprints. The name says it all. Run as fast as possible from standing still. The distance will vary based on the client.
- Lean in sprints. A variation on the basic sprint, lean forward until about to fall then sprint maintaining that forward lean.
- Wall drills. Extend arms forward and rest hands on a wall with your body at an angle that allows you to lift your knees up. Alternate knees up and down as fast as possible for three seconds.
These drills done a few times a week will help your client speed up, slow down, and change direction more quickly and efficiently.
- Figure eight. Set up two cones at an appropriate distance. Sprint from one to the other, around it and back to the first in a figure eight shape.
- Uphill sprints. Take this one outdoors and sprint up a hill. This improves acceleration.
- Plyometric jumps. Powerful, quick plyometric exercises, like box jumps, help develop agility. Jump quickly onto a box, jump back down and immediately jump up when your feet hit the ground.
Speed and Agility, Together
Essentially, agility training helps your clients stay fluid in the sudden movements and speed training keeps them moving forward. It’s not that one is better than the other, but rather a combination of the two that will help your clients meet their goals.
Including both speed and agility in your training sessions helps your clients move efficiently and effectively to stay at the top of their game, no matter what that “game” may be.
Help your clients stay focused on their training by clicking HERE for a shareable handout on agility versus speed.
If you want to learn more about training athletic clients to help them succeed, explore the ISSA's Strength and Conditioning Certification program.
Click HERE to download this handout and share it with your clients!
In the world of sports, speed is king. Athletes, parents, coaches and trainers always ask me if different forms of balance training actually create noticeable improvements in running speed? And rightfully so, with all the information out there, that’s a great question.
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