Agility Training for Performance Enhancement

Fitness professionals should look to include a focus on agility in their programming repertoire. Not only does agility training have proven benefits in sport and athletic performance, but it also leads to greater ease in activities of daily living, enhanced cognitive abilities, and improved quality of life.

Agility training should complement any weight training and activities focusing on cardiovascular health. Programming should be specific to the sport or goals of the client relative to the direction and velocity of movement, the muscles used, and the energy demands required. In other words, every program designed should have a specific goal in mind.

Understanding Agility 

Your body’s natural inclination to right itself against the effects of gravity in a stationary or dynamic situation is critical for all movement patterns. Think about the last time you slipped on ice, tripped over an object on the floor, or missed a step walking down a set of steps. What started as a bipedal locomotive movement pattern suddenly becomes a full-body exercise that looks like interpretive dance!

Being agile is the ability to move your body effectively and efficiently while also changing direction and position relative to gravity. Agility combines speed, balance, strength, coordination, and body control in one movement. Agility training is vital to all of us.

Agility training provides the following benefits:

  • Improves reaction time and reflexes
  • Reinforces proper posture relative to balance
  • Trains the body in multiplanar movements
  • Shortens recovery time via skill development
  • Facilitates neuro-muscular training
  • Enhances cognitive ability
  • Increases movement anticipation and reaction time
  • Assists in preventing future injuries
  • Strengthens muscles and connective tissues
  • Enhances the body’s ability to accelerate and decelerate movements
  • Is critical in fall prevention training

Incorporate agility drills into your next session

Drills focusing on agility can be fun and simple to incorporate into any session. Because agility training is all about moving the body relative to objects and space, minimal equipment is required. 

Spot drills

Use cones, markers, or colored masking tape to create the four points of a square. Have clients practice moving from the center of the square to a specific point as you call out instructions. Clients can either run, shuffle, or jump and land with one foot or two to a specific point. Trainers can further progress this drill by having clients change their body position or movement pattern, returning to the center of the square, or by making the square larger. 

Agility Ladders

Combine different speed and movement patterns to challenge clients while using agility ladders. High knees, hopscotch, lateral cross-overs, and even bear crawls in and out of agility ladders will challenge both cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Adding acceleration, deceleration, and even isometric holds will keep these movement patterns fresh and challenging.

Body roll and run 

Have your client lay flat out in a prone or supine position and coach them to get to their feet as quickly as possible to run, shuffle, or lunge their way to a specific point in the room and back. Include short but specific cues to challenge their cognitive abilities and reaction time. Add progression by having them use only contralateral or ipsilateral movements to move from laying down to standing up.

Skill development, especially when just starting out, follows a typical pattern where the brain and body are creating better mind-to-muscle connections. Trainers will notice that their clients may struggle with certain agility drills and form will be off or movements will look clumsy. 

A critical part of successfully integrating agility training into programs requires the trainer to interpret if the poor motor response of a client results from new skill development versus if rest, recovery, or regression is required. When in doubt, add more rest time or reduce the complexity of the drill. Sloppy movement patterns or delayed response times combined with speed and movement around objects increase the risk of injury.

The ability to respond quickly during various movement patterns while maintaining balance and control is a skill we can all benefit from improving all aspects of life. There is tremendous value in agility training, regardless of age, sports background, or fitness goals. Agility training will benefit everyone.

About the Author

Karyn Silenzi

Karyn Silenzi delivers continuing education to companies and fitness professionals on a global scale. As a PRO TRAINER for canfitpro, Karyn provides fitness certification training for personal trainers and fitness instructors. She is also a LIV North Master Trainer for Canadian markets, and a North America Master Trainer for Team ICG and Life Fitness Academy.

Karyn is an international presenter, author, and podcast host, She is also the Fitness Director at Edgemont Athletic in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

PS: At Fitness Education Online, we have a CEU course for Personal Trainers all around this topic “Online Essentials: Start Training Clients Online”. Feel free to check it out!


If this topic interests you, then please check out Fitness Education Online’s Senior Fitness Certification.

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