6 Exercises to Improve Agility
Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, weekend warrior or grandfather-in-training, agility training should be an important part of your workout routine. Agility is the ability to move quickly and change direction with ease. This describes both physical and mental agility. As we age, or just become complacent in our daily routines, both our mental and physical agility suffers. Here are six exercises that you can do to be quick on your toes and sharp as a tack.
Using either 6- or 12-inch hurdles (these can be cones, yoga blocks or whatever you have on hand), set five to 10 hurdles up in a row, parallel to each other. Moving laterally, start by going over the first hurdle with a high step and pausing in a stork stance before moving back to the starting position. Then move over the first two hurdles, pause and go back to the start. Continue this until all five to 10 hurdles have been traveled (1, 1 2, 1 2 3, 1 2 3 4, etc.). Count your hurdles out loud (both ascending and descending numbers) and remember to pause on one leg before moving back to the beginning. Also, don’t forget to switch directions. When you become more advanced, speed up the hurdle steps and take out the pause.
Using an agility ladder, select a method of moving through the ladder. For example, you might start with a high-knee march forward through each box, and then progress to a lateral scissor if you’re more advanced. To target your upper body, move through the ladder with your hands while maintaining a push-up position. Once you have this move mastered, speed it up and recite the words to your favorite song, the alphabet or the pledge of allegiance as you move through the ladder. It might seem simple, but this move will get your heart rate up and your brain working.
Using small agility balls, bounce them either to a partner or against a wall if you’re working out solo. Because the agility ball shape will send the bounce in varying directions, use a safe space where you won’t run into anything or anyone. Practice catching the ball with two hands, then with your dominant hand only, and lastly, progress to catching it with your non-dominant hand. Hand-eye coordination activities help increase mental stimulation and chasing this tiny tool around is great for the heart and legs. I dare you to not smile while doing this one!
Using two different colored balloons, pick an order in which you will contact them (e.g., yellow then blue). Either alone or with a partner, hit the balloons in their selected order while keeping them in the air. For more of a challenge, perform one bodyweight squat in between each balloon contact, and then hit the next balloon. If you’re really feeling frisky, try doing a burpee in between each balloon contact. Remember, hit the balloons in the same order and don’t let them touch the ground. This is a great drill to do with your children or grandchildren; for added fun, increase the number and color of balloons.
Set seven cones up in the pattern shown. Using the letters M, N, I, T, Y, select an order in which you will create those letters with your pattern of moving through the cones. Touch each cone that creates the letter as you move through each pattern at a pace that is appropriate to you. Depending on your fitness level, you may choose to walk, skip, jog, sprint or shuffle. After you have completed each letter with your movement pattern, change the order of the letters and try it again. For an increased cardiovascular challenge, try facing the same direction as you create each letter and move the cones farther apart. If you’re working with a partner and like a little competition, time yourselves going through the pattern, or trade off turns for each letter.
Medicine Ball Drills
Using a moderately sized medicine ball (a weight that is appropriately sized for your fitness level), stand facing a concrete (or otherwise stable) wall about 2 to 5 feet away, depending on the length of your arms. Throw the medicine ball in a chest pass toward the wall as you move laterally 10 to 20 feet. Reverse directions and move laterally back to the starting position as you do the medicine ball chest passes against the wall. Make sure to do one chest pass for each sideways step. For added difficulty, move quickly in a shuffle and squat down to an athletic stance. Quickly change direction at the end and return to the starting position. Keeping your feet from crossing each other as you concentrate on catching an object will increase your cognitive activity as well as improve your cardiovascular health.
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Jacque Crockford, MS, CSCS, is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Physiology Content Manager at ACE. She has been a personal trainer and performance coach for over 14 years. Jacque grew up in the fitness industry, participating in YMCA sports and teaching gymnastics and swimming from a young age. She was on Kansas State University’s women’s rowing team, and she currently competes in triathlons throughout the country. Jacque has been featured in several publications, including LA Times, New York Post, Health, USA Triathlon, SHAPE and Women’s Health.
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