Unconventional Athletic Conditioning: An Agility Based Approach To Getting Fit
As a strength and conditioning coach I am a big believer in being performance focused in order to gauge fitness. After all, we are creatures of motion and it’s the ability to hone movement in various ways to can achieve fitness, increase performance, and to live the life we desire to live.
Athleticism & Performance
When looking at athleticism a few questions come to mind. What is athleticism? What defines it? To some I guess this is somewhat subjective.
Athleticism may be a bit subjective, but the definition involves physical qualities that are usually seen in athletes which consist of strength, fitness, and agility. That last trait of agility is an interesting trait as it’s going to be more of the focus of today’s unconventional approach to training.
Agility is defined as the ability to move quickly and easily. As a strength coach I always want to focus on building a foundation of strength first, but once this is established I’m a big believer in progressing things further by beginning the process of performing movements with greater precision and velocity.
To me athletic agility training is the key to building a more complete level of fitness. As an example being able to squat with proficiency is great, but being able to perform speed squats, or jump squats with proficiency adds an entirely new dynamic to our movement abilities and fitness level.
Additionally being able to move in multiple planes of motion is also a defining quality of athletic agility. The truth is life is about being prepared for more than just being able to squat underneath a barbell.
Agility can be acquired a number of different ways, but for the sake of today’s article I want to look at how we can develop some movement laterally, or in the frontal plane of motion.
The 2 Cone Lateral Bound
This is a simple structured drill for developing lateral agility and significant leg power. I would classify this drill as being a more intense plyometric bounding drill. The purpose of the drill is to train for absorption of impact and to initiate the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) of the muscle and tendons to develop quicker and more forceful explosive movement.
Performing The 2 Cone Lateral Bound
Start the drill by placing 2 cones (or markers such as water bottles, tape, etc.) on the ground about 6 to 8 feet apart. Stand with the jumping leg lined up on one of the cones. Next, forcefully jump to the side towards the opposite cone landing and absorbing your landing on the other leg as you land in front of the cone.
Once you have landed absorbing the ground contact with the hip and knee flexed immediately explode out of the landing jumping back to the first cone. Continue to execute the jumps in back to back succession until the desired number of reps is achieved.
Recommendation: I would recommend performing 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 7 jumps on each leg on your agility and plyometric days. Do NOT perform this drill unless you are proficient in performing standard sprint work, jump rope, or standard bounds and skips. Additionally you can modify the drill to be more beginner friendly by performing it on two feet instead of the single leg variation displayed here.
The 3 Cone Lateral To Forward Bound
This drill is designed to train the body for the same benefits as the 2 cone lateral bound drill with one exception. Yes, it’s for leg power and for harnessing the SSC, but it’s also great for training us to propel our bodys’ in a different direction in a slightly more unstable situation.
This drill keys in on our momentum driving us laterally in the frontal plane of motion while then forcing us to reorient our momentum to jump into the sagittal plane of motion. This trains us to achieve greater control and stability in an unstable situation. This simulates athletic and active life scenarios.
Performing The 3 Cone Lateral To Forward Bound
Begin by placing 2 cones 6 to 8 feet apart just like the 2 cone drill previously listed. In addition to the 2 cones place a third cone about 6 to 8 feet out in front of the middle of the 2 cones creating a triangle among the cones.
Begin the drill the same way as the 2 cone drill. Stand with one leg lined up on one cone. Flex the hip and knee and forcefully jump to the side towards the opposite cone. Land by flexing the hip and knee of the opposite leg once you complete the landing to absorb it.
Once in this position the landing leg is loaded and ready to explode jumping off of that leg forward towards the third cone that is out in front. Jump off of the single leg and land on both feet once again absorbing the landing. Remember that with this drill the landing is more important than the takeoff.
Recommendation: Each repetition is counted once a jump is performed off of each leg at the start. For instance, if start my first jump coming off of the left leg and jumping to my right and then forward that is a half repetition. Once I complete the jump off of the right leg, then to the left, and then forward I’ve completed a single repetition.
Perform the jumps by alternating jumping off each leg. I would perform 3 to 7 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets on my agility and plyometric days.
Once you have progressed to incorporating these into your program it’ll be a gamechanger. Unconventional athletic conditioning is a great way to keep the blade sharp and to acquire and maintain skills of athleticism even with age. The key is to progress and to train smart.