Many people and companies claim to have specific workouts that will increase foot quickness, but if you understand the mechanism, you can develop a program just as good on your own. This week we go over the concept of agility, foot quickness, or what it really should be called, motor control.
What is Motor Control?
Motor control is how fast you can stop and start contracting your muscle. Yes, you can strengthen muscles for a little agility, but if you have no motor control, it's like driving a car with no steering wheel or brake pads. When people have a ton of agility, it can be observed by fast foot movement; they are moving their foot fast because they can take short quick steps by starting and stopping quickly. See the video below:
Role of Genetics
Of course with most things in the human body, genetics can be a huge factor in quickness. Genetic factors include length of limb and muscle fiber type. Although this is true, they are not enormous factors, and there are other ways to train. Below are ways to develop a good agility program.
Direction of Movement
Sports are multi-directional so it is important to develop a drill in different directions (linear, lateral, diagonal, etc.). Muscles need to be able to start and stop quickly in different directions by activating certain muscle fibers for each direction.
Magnitude of Range of Motion (ROM)
Sports can be unpredictable so one may have to raise the legs high, or low to ovoid an obstructions, or initiate of movement. For this reason, drills should include sets where you raise your knees higher, or intentionally keep them low.
Precision of Movement
This is perhaps might be the most important part of motor control as it is a direct focus on control of movement. When developing an agility program, one must focus on control during a drill. For example, if one is jumping back and forth laterally over a line, are they just jumping to random spots, or are they staying very close to the line or aiming to go very wide away from the line. With novices, random jumps everywhere are performed. Good program has athletes focus on a certain foot location to develop control.
Equipment for Agility
Below are two common types of equipment used for agility exercises, and how they work.
Resistance Bands - Resistance bands cause the legs to move faster when moving the legs closer to the body. This can help with quickness because the body needs to adapt to this change, and learn how to start and stop the muscle with the new external force.
Additionally, in physics, we know that if resistance is applied farther from the axis of rotation of a lever, it is harder to move the lever. In this case, the axis of rotation is the hip joint, and the lever is the entire leg. This means that the further the resistance band is down the leg/foot, the more difficult it will be to move.
Strength Shoes/Jumpsoles - Jumpsoles or strength shoes are weighted equipment put on the shoe are replace the shoe entirely. These can increase vertical jump and quickness because it keeps you on your toes which can aid in training the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC), but we will go more into that in another post. The main reason it increases quickness is because of what we mentioned above. It adds more resistance to the furthest point of the lever, your leg. This forces you to train your muscles to figure out how fast and how hard it needs to contract to stop your feet to step in a particular spot.
Just like any other training, it is important to properly progress through exercise (simple to advanced) and difficulty (no equipment to equipment). Now that you understand the mechanism, not only can you cut out the mindless marketing of companies, but develop a program for yourself.
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