Functional Training: 3 Exercises to Increase Speed & Agility
Wherever you are in your fitness journey, it is important to implement speed and agility exercises into your regular routine. A large part of functional training involves improving upon these two techniques which prevent injury by strengthening your core, improve stability and increase your reaction time. Don’t worry if you don’t feel coordinated at first, speed and agility can be developed and enhanced with practice and consistency.
Performing quick bursts of body weight exercises between weight training can maximize your time in the gym and blast calories. Utilizing speed exercises can keep your interval workouts exciting and fun and are ideal for improving footwork as well as quickness and coordination. The versatility of speed exercises makes them acceptable for all levels of fitness ability; from beginners to elite athletes.
Performing quick bursts of body weight exercises between weight training can maximize your time in the gym and blast calories.
While equipment isn’t necessary, a standard foot or agility cones can be placed out as ‘markers’ and can vary in length of distance depending on your preference and ability. Exercises are completed to exhaustion about 15-20 ‘reps’ or ‘steps’ one way. The wonderful thing about these exercises is you can travel or be in the gym while you complete your regular weight training program!
Here are a few tips before you start implementing speed and agility drills into your workout routine:
Always begin with a warm-up
Begin with 5-10 minutes on the foam roller for self-myofascial release on large muscle groups. This allows you to access more of the muscle itself during your workouts. Next, move your body with static and dynamic stretches raise your heart rate and body temperature. These allow your body to adapt slowly before performing explosive and strength exercises.
Arms motivate the legs
Quick burst of explosive energy require a fast start. When accelerating, utilize your arms to create a tempo that will increase the force you need to drive the legs into the ground faster and more efficiently. Pull from the elbow and push forward with your forearm alternating with the legs.
Keep up the intensity!
Less is more when it comes to improving speed and agility so push as hard as you can for a short intense burst 20-30 seconds max. These are not steady heart rate cardio exercises, these are high-intensity interval exercises. Push as hard as you can and reap the results.
Now that you’re warmed up and prepared to work hard, add this calorie blasting program to your workouts between weighted sets and feel the difference a few steps can make!
Perform all 3 exercises back to back as quickly and as accurately as possible with 20 seconds of rest between each exercise. Be sure to go down and back at least 40-50 yards to complete one rep.
Side step with high knees
High knees build on explosive quick hops for coordination and quad strength. Whichever direction you’re going will be the lead leg. Be sure to repeat on the other leg to return. Facing sideways, take quick lateral steps by pushing off your back leg while pulling your leading leg and knee up high into the chest. Lift the back leg then step together with both feet –then high knees to repeat!
Side straddle hop with low squat
This quick lateral movement with a wide squat focuses on your hips, glutes and inner thighs. Start with feet together and hop to the outside of first step landing in a wide squat. Pop up with both feet while avoiding ‘clapping’ your feet.
In and Out
This tempo-ed drill follows a four count of in-in-out-out. Facing sideways, touch your toes in a forward motion as if hopping one foot at a time over a rope, then back again one foot at a time. It helps to repeat “in-in-out-out” in your head while you get started to remind yourself of which foot goes where! Again, whichever direction you’re going will be the lead leg. Be sure to repeat on your other leg when you return.
It’s important to always consult a physician and dietitian before starting any new workout plan or diet.
Lauren Rae is a professional fitness talent, speaker, writer and consultant in Dallas, Texas. As a fitness chef she creates unique recipes with elevated ingredients that promote a lean physique, wellness and balance within the body. Lauren Rae is also a trained vocalist and has been featured in the music, food and fitness industries on the Food Network and in publications like Ironman and TRAIN Magazine.