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I have been doing team/ball sports as far as I can remember, even though I was never the star of the team. Consequently it's not very surprising that I did not end up training on pro or semi-pro level. Now I realize that after a couple of years in relatively low pace daily life, I am a second or two slower than I'd like to be in my reaction time when I'm on the field. It's like you see the dribble, you are fully aware but your body is just not as quick in acting even though your brain is shouting out orders to your arms/legs. :)

I'd like to work on is my agility/quickness but I'm not quite sure what exercises I could do at home or at the gym. Any advices? Photos/videos are really appreciated.

Edit: I play football mostly, but also squash, basketball and at times even badminton and beach volleyball. The reason I didn't ask for a specific sport was precisely to keep it as general as possible.

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Maybe you could be a little more specific about what team sports you want to improve for? –  Matt Chan Jun 6 '12 at 3:29

5 Answers 5

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I'd just search the web for "agility drills".

There are a ton of drills using rope/webbing ladders, direction-change drills, there-and-backs, anything that challenges your proprioception, etc.

Also see my Snitch training post; explosive directional changes are valuable.

If you're specifically concerned about reaction time, drill reaction time: anything that starts/ends on specific cues (partner cues, randomized or constant timers, etc) will help.

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Thanks for the tips but not sure if those are drills I can do at home or at a local gym. –  posdef Jun 6 '12 at 6:57
    
@posdef I couldn't guess why not, but not sure what you're looking for if not agility or timing drills. Perhaps if you gave an example of one that does meet your criteria? –  Dave Newton Jun 6 '12 at 9:17
    
Well if I knew some I wouldn't have asked the question here, would I? :) The reason why I made that remark is that the gym over here are typically pretty crowded/densely packed with machines and such. So putting cones and doing intervals in between is simply not possible. But I'll try out some of these exercises outdoors, if I can find some of the equipment like cones or ladders. –  posdef Jun 7 '12 at 7:08
    
@posdef It needn't be an actual cone-it could be a notebook, or Cheetohs. –  Dave Newton Jun 7 '12 at 9:37

You already have lots of good answers here, but I thought I would offer another angle.

In my experience, although quickness and reaction time require some strength, what is more important is focus and anticipation. Both of these skills are 100% mental. When you play, are you 100% focused on the game, or do you sometimes space out? Are you anticipating the dribble / etc before it occurs?

You can practice focus and anticipation anytime, anywhere. The best way to improve is to practice your reaction time and intensity. Here's a few examples:

  • As suggested in another post, have a friend signal you before you start an exercise, rep, set, etc. For example, start on all fours. On a cue from a friend, move to an athletic position as fast as possible. Or start a sprint as quickly as possible.
  • Test / train your reaction during non-athletic activities also. Put your fingers around (not gripping) a ruler and have a friend drop it. Catch it as quickly as possible. Have a friend yell and throw something at you while your back is turned; turn around and catch it.
  • Focus and intensity can also be trained in the gym. It's really hard to reach muscle failure without good focus. Pick a tough exercise / weight / etc and focus on exploding the weight up. Work on building intensity.

Heart rate plays into all of this. I find that my focus and intensity are highest when my heart rate is up, but not maxed out. Your best training / results will come when you have warmed up, but are not exhausted.

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Interesting angle, I'll see what I can do about that. Although I think the anticipation is usually not the problem, I feel. I am usually pretty good in reading the game, which is why it's really annoying to be slow in reaction time, because I usually can see it (e.g. dribble) coming –  posdef Jun 8 '12 at 5:56
    
If you are anticipating well, work on your intensity. Learn to trigger action off of your anticipations. One of the goals of plyometrics is to train the nervous system to react faster (and learn to use elasticity of muscles for more power). –  Josh G Jun 8 '12 at 16:03

Without much detail it's hard to know what your deficiencies are. But what worked for me was three things:

  1. Lifting barbells in order to attain a basic level of strength
  2. Olympic lifts, specifically power cleans, to convert that strength to speed-strength, called power
  3. Sprints and other conditioning work (kettlebell swings or clean-and-jerks for time, burpees, 20-rep barbell squats) to keep me from getting tired.

Without those three basic physical qualities--strength, power, conditioning--the reaction time of the less genetically gifted will always be lacking, because they find themselves unable to apply their sport-specific skills due to weakness, slowness, or fatigue.

Once you have those bases covered in your training regimen, sport-specific agility drills will be much more helpful and highly recommended.

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There are a bunch of sports-specific drills out there that can be found on Google. Without knowing your specific sport, it's hard to recommend one. For example, tennis drills (lots of sideways movement) are different from soccer drills due to the nature of their activity.

With that said, I have heard of Insanity Asylum being a good workout for speed and agility. Their site says, "...from average to elite in just 30 days!" You may want to have a look at that.

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Interesting... It looks fun and extremely tough at the same time. But primarily based on how they look in the video, I'd say it has a very suitable name :) –  posdef Jun 6 '12 at 6:56
    
Yup. I did the original Insanity workout program and it was great. Convenient because I was able to do it at home without any equipment. The Asylum version comes with what you need (ladder and such). –  RonE Jun 6 '12 at 15:29

Are you strong? If you get stronger, you'll accelerate quicker, and you won't tire as easily. You should go through a beginner strength training program (about 3-6 months of work) to build a good strength base before turning to anything sport specific.

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Well I suppose it depends on what you mean by strong. I'm usually very stable on foot, I do not get tackled easily in football for instance. I used to have good reflexes (while weighing about as much as I do now) but the time spent without proper training has slowed me down significantly. –  posdef Jun 5 '12 at 21:41
    
Strength means ability to exert force. It is tested best by either performance of feats of strength--iron crosses, handstand pushups, stuff like that--or lifting heavy things like barbells or kettlebells. –  Dave Liepmann Jun 7 '12 at 0:50
    
@DaveLiepmann In that case, as in with your definition, I am very skeptical about being strong will make you faster/quicker. There are lots of people who spend their days at the gym and look pretty much like meat-mountains. I don't anyone of them have any agility, even though they might be able to bench twice their weight etc. –  posdef Jun 7 '12 at 7:04
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Look at the body type of NFL running backs. They are an example of what I and Dave are talking about. They can all squat 2x their bodyweight. They are very fast and agile. –  user3085 Jun 7 '12 at 9:54
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@posdef Not all kinds of lifting weights are the same. Most people in the gym are bodybuilding, which is not at all the same as powerlifting or O-lifting (specifically squats, deadlifts, power cleans and snatches). –  Dave Liepmann Jun 7 '12 at 12:43

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