From purely a vantage of physical traits, speed and agility are the greatest determinant for success in the broad majority of the major team sports. While that can be misleading because to possess both traits you will require tremendous dynamic range of motion as well as appropriate levels of strength, athletes who are swift and nimble have an improved baseline to develop sporting skills upon and in essence, greater chance of success.
That said, speed and agility training is almost unilaterally discussed incorrectly in most online arenas. While in some areas, such as discussing technical needs in sports is an intense challenge to teach such abilities, when it comes to “standard” training the rationale is much harsher. While far too often the exercise buskers online promote cute gadgets and gleaming machines, speed training is more straight to the point with the common denominator of brutally hard work. Whether it is gut wrenching bounding drills that some consider Draconian, explosive sets in the weight-room that ravage your central nervous system, speed and agility training is intensely difficult work. It is certainly will not be for the typical exercise enthusiast, even it has tremendous benefits and in my highly biased opinion is “fun”, the difficulty of this area is likely the reason why nonsensical gadgets are promoted.
Though impossible to isolate one attribute of the “Wheel of Conditioning” as they all work in unison as “it turns”, it is instrumental in speed and agility training that all concerns develop equally. Within athletics, you cannot be strong unless you pliable and equally strength must relate to the broadest swath of movements for it to carryover to sports production. In countless examples, well-intended athletes focus on the weight-room activities but ignore range of motion and sadly find they do not achieve their goals. Equally, many frequently deploy highly repetitious training measures and instead of the desired effect, they assimilate to the exercises and “gains” are more of learning the drill than true improvement.
As this relates to agility training this overriding concern is even greater because amongst the “toys” promoted to target to concern, misguided exercise notions and even standard resistance training measures, all ignore the best route to develop the attribute.
Per “Mastery on the Gridiron”
“Resistance training protocols are the main determinant of reactive strength and agility concerns. All lifts are performed with an understanding the posture, eccentric strength and loading parameters is the major influence on reactive strength ability. As you consider this aspect, machine based lifting regimes should become highly questionable as a training medium and should be eliminated for the most part given there inferior lack of the eccentric stimuli (most situations) in comparison to free weights.”
While using total body movements, correct form, patterns of recruitment, bar speed and the eccentric action of the lift is paramount to success. As shown in the “Hang Power Clean” images from “Speed”, in this lift the hamstrings are loaded (figure a) by pushing the hips back which allows the bar to move towards the knee. Once in the desired start of the next phase, which can vary from above the knee to further below, the hips thrust (figure b) powerfully forward, pulling the bar vigorously upward. With the bar having a unloading feel due to momentum somewhere near the sternum, with a modest dip, pull elbows underneath to catch the bar in a “rack” position (figure c).
What should be stressed in executing the lift, the loading is modest (i.e. 40-65% of one repetition maximum) with bar speed alarmingly fast. Lifting a lighter weight is never "easy" and needless to be done with ruthless tenacity. Furthermore in performing the lift, it is crucial to “load the hamstrings”, allowing them to unload and driving the hips forward the split-second of touching the starting the starting ground.
prepared by John Davies, photos courtesy of "Speed, part 1"