If you want to excel as an athlete and take your game to the next level, you have to be faster, stronger and more agile than your competition. We all know that individual training will improve your speed & agility performance, but when it comes to the actual training, it can be intimidating to figure out what gear to buy and how to use it.
Here’s a list of our top 5 pieces of equipment to use in your speed & agility training.
1. Jump Rope
An oldie but a goodie—the jump rope is a proven tool for agility, quickness, coordination and just overall athleticism and fitness. While just straight jump roping in intervals of a few minutes at a time will get you results, there are a ton of variations you can try with athletes. And not only does jumping rope improve fitness, jumping rope also strengthens your feet and ankles, which will help with injury prevention.
To top it off, a jump rope is one of the least expensive and transportable pieces of training equipment, and you can use it just about anywhere. When it comes to jump ropes, you don’t need to get fancy to have an effective workout – for a basic jump rope, we recommend the BenRan Jump Rope. For $10, you’ll get a quality rope that you can adjust to your heights, and has comfortable foam handles. This rope is meant to withstand heavy duty training, so you don’t need to worry about wearing it out too soon.
2. Medicine Ball
Medicine balls are an under-utilized tool for speed and agility training. When they are used, it’s often for upper body or core conditioning, however, medicine ball training can help to increase your acceleration and help with your first-step, and sudden burst of speed.
To work on acceleration, you can have your athletes get into an athletic stance, then use their body to explosively throw a medicine ball as they transition into a sprint. This motion will get the athlete into the right angle to accelerate, while at the same time making them use both legs to drive into the sprint.
There are certainly other effective acceleration tool options (sprint chute and sled, for example), but because of simplicity and overall versatility, we rank medicine balls higher than those options.
When it comes to Medicine Balls, you want to buy a durable product. Some brands can run a little pricey, but we’ve found that the J/Fit Soft Medicine Ball is a great moderately-priced option. The heavy-duty stitching creates durability and allows for the ball to keep its shape. With options up to 30 lbs., you’ll have a variety of exercises to offer athletes.
When wanting to add plyometrics to your speed and agility training (which, you should be doing), it’s hard to beat hurdles. Hurdles, when used correctly, can increase explosiveness, speed, and coordination tremendously.
However, one of the risks of using hurdles is that it’s easy for athletes to be sloppy in their movements, which leads to ineffectiveness and increases the risk of injury. The way to avoid this behavior is to start slow, emphasizing good form over speed to start with. The goal should never be just to get through it without knocking the hurdles over. Once athletes get the hang of using hurdles correctly, they can increase their speed, add height to the hurdles or complexity to the drill.
As far as which hurdles to use, we recommend SKLZ 6x Hurdles. These hurdles are lightweight and durable, and feature bounce-back construction for when athletes do inevitably knock into them during the drill. They are able to be used on all surfaces (turf, grass, concrete, sand). While they are slightly on the more expensive side ($50 for a 6 pack), these hurdles are designed to withstand beatings from the biggest and baddest athletes.
Using a ladder in training has been a staple for a while, and for good reason—it’s effective, versatile, and fun. You can create a variety of drills that improve footwork, speed work, coordination and a number of other speed and agility components, but one of the overlooked benefits of ladder drills is that they often require athletes to work on connecting their mind to their body.
Ladder drills have varying degrees of complexity, and the more complex they get, the more the athlete is required to think on his/her feet (pun intended) in order to perform the drill correctly.
The mind/body connection training will improve the athlete’s performance in other areas when bringing balls and other gear into the mix.
The #1 best seller on Amazon, the Yes4All Speed Agility Ladder is a good choice for anyone who’s looking to add an agility ladder to their training arsenal. With 8, 12, and 20-rung options, you’ll be able to find a size that’s right for your training needs. Each ladder comes with adjustable rungs that can go up to 15”, so you can offer more drill options for your athletes.
(Bonus: Want to add a little more difficulty to your ladder training? Check out the SKLZ Elevation Ladder, which has the option to change the flat rungs to 4” hurdles, guaranteed to take your training up a notch!)
While these may seem too basic to be number one on our list, the simplicity of agility cones is what makes them so great. They’re small, lightweight, versatile pieces of equipment that give you the ability to perform countless training exercises, as well as complement the other pieces of equipment you may be using.
With cones, you can create drills that focus on quickness, agility, change of direction and angles, balance, acceleration, deceleration, reaction and more. Agility cones are easy to bring with you, easy to set up and break down, and are easy to incorporate into sport-specific training with sports equipment (i.e. weaving in between cones while dribbling a soccer ball). They can also work as a training session tool, as well as a pre-game warmup accessory.
We particularly like the SKLZ Agility Cones Set because they’re made from a durable plastic, come with a convenient carrying rack and are multi-colored to give even more training options like reaction drills based on cone color. The mid-tier pricing for cones is a reasonable investment for such a foundational piece of training equipment.
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