The most important factor in speed and agility training is the word that separates the two, and. Speed is not agility; agility is not speed. While both are skills, meaning they can be taught and share other similarities, they differ with one another in a variety of ways. In order to fully understand this, we must break down the two definitions:
Speed – The rate at which someone is able to move or operate.
Agility – Fast movement in a small area or from a compromised position.
In other words, the key to speed is acceleration – the ability to get to one’s top speed quickly and efficiently. Conversely, agility is one’s ability to quickly decelerate, change angles and then accelerate. Even with these differences for improvement in both, teaching proper mechanics is essential. With that background in mind, here is what makes ESP’s speed and agility portion different:
1) Train Speed Not Conditioning
The only way for an athlete to improve their speed or agility is to train intensely at high speeds. In order to do this properly, training must simulate athletic contests. Most athletic plays involving top speed or demanding an agile movement occur within seconds before a stoppage in play or lower intense movement occurs. Since both movements require large amounts of power, our body calls on the ATP-CP system (to learn more about our metabolic energy systems click here) to generate the energy needed. Our trainers emphasize an 8:1 rest to work ratio during this portion. If we notice that they are still breathing heavy, we simply wait. While our athletes may not get to 100% recovery between each rep, they are getting enough recovery to maximize the next rep. Not allowing this between reps quickly shifts training from speed and agility to conditioning.
2) Develop Skills
Elite Sports Performance prides itself on executing a plan. When it comes to speed and agility, that plan revolves around the skills each individual athlete needs developed. For instance, in both speed and agility the first skill learned is deceleration. Therefore, our trainers work hard to correct common mistakes athletes make. Examples of errors with this skill often involve an athlete being too high or running on their heels. Proper deceleration form is displayed when athletes lower, or “sink”, their hips and are loud with their feet – meaning short choppy steps.
As mentioned earlier, when it comes to speed it is acceleration that is the key. When an athlete begins to accelerate, the ability to push hard into the ground to generate force is imperative. The next step is equally important as the front leg now has to match the intensity of the back leg (physics enthusiasts will quickly remember “action-reaction”). As the front leg drives powerfully, the back leg can stay grounded longer which helps to push the athlete forward further. In addition, the swinging of the arms during acceleration must match the leg action so proper coordination exists and more force can be applied.
We truly believe that elite athletes separate themselves most by being the best as it pertains to multi-directional speed. However, they don’t reach that level by spending hours and hours training speed and agility. One of the benefits of our trainers is their exposure to high level athletics – as both coaches and players. All found that with an increased focus in the weight room – specifically on the posterior muscle groups – they noticed themselves becoming faster and more agile as they were able to generate more power. Whether it be extra work on hamstrings or using resistance to develop athlete’s arm swings – our athletes become elite because of their focus and intensity in the weight room.
5) Mechanics, Mechanics, Mechanics
Rather than getting caught up in timing our athletes or giving them sprints to do on their own, our trainers pay close attention to the efficiency in which our athletes move. Ever since their first assessment, each athlete has the fluidity in which they move closely analyzed. Doing this allows our trainers to focus on individual instruction on one or two things with each individual rather than giving ten things to every kid if they are doing most of them correctly already.