Agility and Speed: Why these components are so important for most athletes.

Agility and speed training is probably the most important training that any athlete will benefit from. This should be done during the season and off-season. If the athlete has an opportunity to play another sport, it is suggested that he or she sign up for track and field because this activity provides excellent aerobic conditioning.

Studies on adult athletes have noted that if performance is the goal, cross-training may not be that helpful. No matter what the age, endurance athletes may not be helped by an alternate sport. However, one study found that resistance training improved endurance in running and cycling. Squats with heavy weights improved running.

Runners can augment their leg muscles with the muscularity they get with resistance work. But with swimmers, the research notes that mastery of the technical swimming stroke is the most important factor in performance and endurance.

Ultimately, cross-training may decrease the risk of injury in every age group simply because the primary sport is being played less.

Agility and speed can be found in plyometrics. Plyometric simply describes an explosive jump. Many sports programs use plyometric exercises to build power, explosiveness, agility and speed, and coordination. These exercises develop the high-intensity, explosive contractions of the muscles and the reflex for stretch. Stretching of the muscle before it contracts allows it to use greater force to contract.

Plyometric agility and speed exercises usually start in high school sports and include hops, jumps, and bounding movements. A common plyometric exercise might be jumping off a box onto the floor and then rebounding onto a higher box.

These are effective exercises to improve strength, explosiveness, and sports performance. It must be pointed out that plyometric exercises are tough training techniques (they generate great force in the gluteals, hamstrings, and quadriceps), and if done incorrectly or performed without experienced supervision can be risky.

Young athletes trying to improve their agility and speed through plyometrics need to have strong muscles prior to doing the exercises. They should warm up and start slowly with small jumps. Allow resting periods between plyometric workouts. The ecercises should be performed only on a cushioned mat with well-cushioned and stable shoes.

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