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Guidelines for agility training

This is an excerpt from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning 4th Edition eBook With Web Resource by NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association.

Technical Guidelines and Coaching


In comparison to sprinting, change of direction and agility have a large number of degrees of freedom due to the multitude of movements that occur during a change of direction. Further, agility performance as restricted or determined by opponents or other tactical restraints and scenarios cannot be trained through the use of a single technique. Nevertheless, the following are some technical guidelines and coaching suggestions.


Visual Focus

  • When changing direction in response to an opponent (either offensive or defensive), the athlete should focus on the shoulders, trunk, and hip.
  • Following the anticipation of the event, unless deception is intended, the athlete should quickly redirect attention to a new area to help lead the transition of the body.


Body Position During Braking and Reacceleration

  • Control the trunk leading into the deceleration (decrease large amounts of trunk motion) (70).
  • Through the stance phase, reorient the trunk and hips toward the direction of intended travel to allow for a more effective reacceleration (15).
  • Just as with acceleration mechanics, body lean is paramount in allowing proper force application through the ground with strong alignment of the ankle, knee, and hip and through to the trunk and shoulders.
  • Enter and exit changes in direction with a lower center of mass; when performing side-shuffling changes of direction, maintaining this low center of mass is critical (78).


Leg Action

  • Ensure that the athlete can effectively dissipate or tolerate the eccentric braking loads through an effective range of motion at the knee and avoid a stiff-legged braking style (81, 83).
  • Emphasize "pushing the ground away" in order to enhance performance, especially while learning in closed drills. External focus of attention - through instructions to concentrate on the ground instead of a body part - has been shown to improve change-of-direction performance (64).


Arm Action

  • Powerful arm actions should be used to facilitate leg drive.
  • Ensure that the action of the arms is not counterproductive (i.e., does not cause a decrease in speed or efficiency), particularly during transitioning between difficult changes of direction (e.g., from a backpedal to a sprint).


Training Goals


The three goals of agility performance are enhanced perceptual - cognitive ability in various situations and tactical scenarios, effective and rapid braking of one's momentum, and rapid reacceleration toward the new direction of travel. To meet these goals, one should emphasize the following:

  • Directing visual focus toward the opponent's shoulders, trunk, and hips to increase perceptual ability to anticipate the movement of a defensive or offensive opponent (75)
  • Orienting the body into a position that allows for effective application of forces into the ground to maximize braking capacity, and increasing the speed from which one can rapidly stop as well as the direction of movement one must brake from (running forward, running backward, or shuffling laterally) (15, 70, 78, 83, 84, 86)
  • The ability to maintain a good position after braking, reorient the body into a position that faces the new direction, and effectively use acceleration mechanics to reaccelerate (58)

Learn more about Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Fourth Edition.