Agility exercises are important for any athlete because they can increase balance, speed, coordination, and speed. Some of the different types of agility exercises include ladder runs, agility hurdles, and box runs. Shuttle runs, where an athlete sprints to cones of an increasing distance, can also be effective at increasing agility. Many agility exercises can be employed for all sports, although sport-specific drills are useful for improving skill levels as well as agility.
Ladder runs are one of the most popular agility exercises. To perform a ladder drill, the athlete runs over a horizontal ladder, making sure to avoid touching the sides or any of the rungs. In order to increase the difficulty of the drill, the athlete should power his or her knees upwards while running and allow the arms to swing. Ladder runs can also be performed by running sideways.
Agility hurdles are similar to ladder runs, but require the athlete to lift his or her legs over a low object. Small hurdles, about shin high, should be placed close together, and the athlete should run over them. Again, the knee should power upwards, with the arms swinging strongly. This type of agility exercise can improve footwork and increase balance, which is important for a wide range of different sports.
Box running is a different sort of agility exercise and emphasizes quick changes in direction. There are four cones setup in a square with a fifth placed in the center. The athlete starts at the center and waits for the coach or trainer to call out a number which corresponds to one of the four corner cones. He or she must sprint to that cone and back, while the coach calls out another number once the athlete is almost back to the center. The benefit of calling out the number as late as possible is that the athlete has no idea where he or she is going to turn to next. This mimics the requirements of many competitive sports.
There are a wide range of other agility exercises including lateral sprints and shuttle runs. Most agility exercises can also be made sport specific. Soccer agility exercises, for example, can assist in increasing fitness, agility, and skills if a ball is included in the drill. For agility exercises to provide the most benefit, they should be performed on a regular basis, and precision should be emphasized ahead of pure speed or strength.