We can take a look at putting together some Speed Workouts and Agility workouts for the youth athlete. Accepting the body science that hereditary muscle make-up has a major influence on your overall speed and agility, all athletes have the capacity to improve their own speed and agility potential through proper training. Understanding that this athlete is still growing into their body, strength, flexibility and balance should be evaluated and addressed within the workouts.
All athletes that I work with are instructed and encouraged to perform soft tissue prep work, using foam rollers, balls, sticks etc. before they begin the speed and agility workout program. Then we begin with some pretty standard dynamic movements World’s Greatest Stretch, Side Step Groin, Lunge Back/Lean Back, Dog-on-the-Bush, Hip Openers, Cocky-Walk, Elbow-Ankle Lunge, to name a few.
At this point, we can take the athletes through some basic running drills: high knees forward/backward, sideways, side shuffles, skip-hops, lateral hops, carioca and two-inch runs. All the while, observing and correcting movement mechanics. Many times the feedback from the running drills will be used to emphasize various aspects of the subsequent workout.
For example, band walks are performed straight sideways, “Monster Walk” forward and backward and “Serpentine” sideways. This sequence will activate and strengthen the muscles about the hip to assist with knee alignment between hip and foot, but also, offer lateral push off support and stability with lateral stops and starts when changing directions. We follow the band walks with supine hip extensions, body weight, to weighted, to single-leg, to single-leg weighted. You might look at this sequence for the hip, much like the rotator cuff series for the shoulder. You are activating and strengthening the smaller/stabilizing muscles about the hip socket so they can be more helpful in the bigger muscle movements.
To reinforce the backside mechanic of running, we will perform resisted lunges. Using the OPTUM SPS, we can get the athlete to apply foot strike force under their hip and pushing through the backside for greater glute activation. As they are moving forward a 100 feet, they can better replicate the running movement, over in-place lunges. In a circuit fashion, the speed workout changes to lateral movement of slide board and adductor slides. Working on proper body position and knee alignment, we will get 20 -40 touches on the slide board. The adductor slides are performed with a furniture mover pad and resistance attached to the ankle with band or cable. From the linear lunges to the lateral slides, we add in either the stability ball leg curl or a hammy fall and finish that sequence with mountain climbers to lock in the hips, front, back, in and out.
I have been fortunate to have access to an un-weighting high speed treadmill, which I can get the athlete turning the leg cycle over rather quickly in all directions. We use the hex bar dead lift to activate the glutes prior to a treadmill sprint. The back side emphasis of the dead lift can balance out the front side of the treadmill sprinting. Or, we can reinforce back side with retro running on the treadmill. This process, referred to in some journals as “post-activation potentiation”, involves preceding a movement, like running, with an exercise, like the dead lift that requires the same muscles as prime movers. Performing heavy lifting prior to explosive activity can actually help you fire higher threshold muscle cell motor units which can improve the athletes potential to jump higher, run faster or change direction quicker. This approached is used quite often in our speed and agility workout programming.
In addition to pairing the dead lift with the treadmill 360’s, forward and retro sprints, we will pair it with hurdle and box jumps. Forward resisted lunges with dumbbells , bands or the OPTUM SPS will pair with timed ground sprints. Then our lateral resisted lunges, side-steps or cross-over steps will pair with the Pro Agility and other cone agility measures appropriate for the sport of the athlete.
Each strength coach will have their own programming constraints, some more than others. From my experiences, I would encourage all to add appropriate strength exercises to your sprinting and agility drills, if not already doing so. Even the youth athlete will make better and faster improvements.
Not to be remiss, our programs always have a “core” sequence to finish the workout. Each athlete will perform a trunk flexion, extension and rotation exercise as it seems to tie in the connection of lower body to upper. The athlete should have the strength and coordination to be able to efficiently transfer forces throughout the body. The stability ball is used for crunches, roll-outs, back raises, leg raises, hip extensions, knee rolls, “wind shield wipers” etc.
Not to stretch this article out too much longer, we do active assistive stretching for the lower body post workout. For many of your athletes, you may find this to be the most important part of the workout. Hopefully, you can get some useful information from this article to assist you programming your speed and agility workouts.