Agility Loads and Progressions

In my experience of training athletes the need for a progression of individual agility/mobility drills as well as a generalized load progression is very apparent. Garrett Giemont was the first individual that enlightened me to the concept of agility drill progressions. Mike Arthur and Bryan Bailey of the University of Nebraska also helped shaped my thoughts as they felt that agility/mobility drill for sport are nothing more than multi-directional plyometrics. Melding these concepts with the experience of observing literally thousands of athletes executing millions of reps have created the following progression examples.

Level 1: Linear Movement requiring various forms of locomotion.

Shuffle into a run carioca into a run backpedal into a run
Butt kick into a run crossover run into a run backward skip into a run
Slide kick into a run Lateral skip into a run backward butt kick into a run
Cycle kick into a run shuffle skip into a run

All of these movements require coordination and varying levels of impulse into the ground. However, depending upon the distance of the run and the violence of the transition to sprinting, these drills are relatively safe to prescribe to an athlete early in the preparation process.

Level 2: Speed Angles 1 – Drills requiring a change of direction of less than (or more than, depending on your orientation) 90 degrees requiring various forms of locomotion (such as crossover runs, carioca runs, sprint – shuffle – backpedal runs, etc.).

Circle drills “W” Drill “L” Drill

Level 3: Speed Angles 2 – Agility drills requiring a change of direction of more than 90 degrees, but less than 180 degrees (down & back shuttle type drills), while utilizing various forms of locomotion.

“T” Drills “V” or Triangle Drills and Square Drills

Level 4: Speed Angles 3 – Shuttle type drills that are down and back in nature on the same path that also utilize various forms of locomotion.

5 – 10 – 5 Short shuttle suicide/jingle-jangles and Sprint/Backpedal Drills

The load of these drills must be figured much as you weight strength training exercises.
The total volume is figured as sets and reps and will suffice in order to quantify how much work is done from a volume standpoint. Generally, most drills are shorter in nature, generally in the 5 – 10 yard range of acceleration before the athlete must decelerate, change direction and re-accelerate. Depending on the number of legs there are in the drill combined with the number of trips per leg will generate the distance load.

For example, if I prescribe a square or box drill and the athlete will be required to run 4 legs with each leg being 7 yards in length, the entire drill will be 28 yards per repetition.  If the athlete executes 6 reps at this particular station, then the volume load for this drill is 6 reps and the distance load is 168 yards. Some rules of thumb I gathered over the years of assigning agility training sets and reps for athletes and teams concerning yardage are as follows:

Sets            Reps           Volume           Yardage

Level 1           2 – 4           2 – 4             4 – 16          160 – 640

Level 2           3 – 5           3 – 5             9 – 25          360 – 1000

Level 3           4 – 6           4 – 6            16 – 36         640 – 1440

When developing the training session for the day, the work load for the week and the program for the month I found it better to begin with a large number of lower level drills and very few if any of the more stressful level drills. At the beginning of the training session the athletes will be less fit, experience more soreness and be more prone to injury and subsequent loss of preparation time. As the athletes progressed in response to the demands of training, the stress of the load in both volume and intensity levels of the drills would be increased.

As always, you must determine the ability of your population to handle the load prescribed. The above chart is for collegiate and professional athletes. For high school or middle school athletes, the total loads will be less in volume, probably 30-50% less.

Another factor to consider is what type of coaching is gong on during and after the drill for each athlete. Are they being coached on movement mechanics, posture, footwork and angles of attack or is most of the coaching “c’mon, get after it boy, you’re moving like molasses” type of instruction.

Remember to keep in mind the overall effect of the training load for each week and month. Sprints, plyometrics, speed development, strength training, and medicine ball drills all need to be factored into the equation of the training prescription. In and of itself each training parameter may look like just enough. However, when examined with the overall program in mind, it is easy to over load the athlete with too much cumulative training stress. Combine training with too little focus on recovery/regeneration and the injury bug will soon rear its’ head in the form of shin splints, low back problems, impingements, illness and the various forms of the itis’s.

One Response to Agility Loads and Progressions

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