Whether you play tennis, you’re a fan of basketball or you regularly participate in football, you’ll be aware of the advantage that being able to turn quickly and adroitly spring into different positions can have on your game.
If you’re looking to take your skills up a notch, what exercises can you incorporate into your workout to give yourself that competitive edge? For Kameron Jaff, Founder and Head Coach, Fitball Factory, a good starting point is to invest in an agility ladder. “If you want to improve your agility, you should first buy an agility ladder. There are tonnes of different drills you can do with these as they are super versatile. Performing drills where you quickly touch your feet into the progressive rungs of the ladder is a good introduction. Doing this laterally as well will challenge your agility.”
Agility is all about change of direction and fast feet, so these should give you solid foundation.
Jaff, who specialises in football, says agile footwork is a priority. “Next, you should be doing shuttle sprints or T sprints where you set up cones about eight metres apart in the shape of a T. Then you sprint from the bottom of the T forward and change direction to either side of the T before returning back to the start. You’re basically drawing the T with your feet. Agility is all about change of direction and fast feet, so these should give you solid foundation.”
Dubai-based vinyasa yoga instructor Chandini Guria agrees that balance is key to success in sports such as football, referencing the fact that many famous names practice yoga as part of their exercise regime. “Balance is a key component for most sports, and some of the world’s top football players even swear by it,” she says.
“Yoga not only improves your balance but also your strength, endurance, coordination and flexibility — all of which will help you achieve your goal. However, you need to make sure you pick the right yoga style for you. I would recommend trying out hatha yoga or vinyasa yoga to improve your balance and posture. Or if you want to try something more strength-based, power yoga or sculpt yoga — this class incorporates weights in your yoga practice — would be a good start.”
Yoga not only improves your balance but also your strength, endurance, coordination and flexibility.
Jaff also endorses the benefits of yoga for balance but suggests combining it with agility training to optimise your performance in sports. “A lot of footwork agility drills — ladder work, not change of direction sprints — will be low impact and allow your body to rest. You can combine this with stretching or yoga that incorporates some balance training as well.”
Additionally, he recommends incorporating some weights into your gym session to add the power to allow you to perform competitively. “Weightlifting will definitely help your agility. Explosive squats and lunges will help develop your power which will improve your acceleration and change of direction.”
Yet, without the required level of cardiovascular fitness, Jaff believes that no amount of balance and agility will compensate for your fitness shortcomings. “If you’re an athlete and your cardiovascular system is weak, it doesn’t matter how athletic and agile you are, your systems will underperform. Therefore, you need to have a strong cardio base to be agile in situations where you have already exerted yourself.”