Speed and agility training is an integral part of any athletic performance program. Track athletes, football and basketball players, racket sport competitors, soccer stars -- you name it, any athlete can benefit from getting quicker and more mobile. Straight sprints and using agility tools such as the ladder or cones can certainly improve your speed and agility, but for a real boost to your training, start incorporating resistance bands.
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Building a bigger vertical jump or broad jump makes your legs more powerful, which translates to an increase in acceleration speed. Regular squat jumps, box jumps and board jumps are staple movements in the workouts of many pro athletes, but adding bands into the equation takes your training up a notch. Boston-based strength coach Tony Gentilcore recommends band-resisted broad jumps, where you tie the band around an upright structure and loop it around your midsection, then jump forward as powerfully as you can. You can use a similar method on vertical jumps. Loop the band over your shoulders and have a partner hold the end on the floor, or secure it under a heavy dumbbell, then jump up in the air as high as you can.
Sprint to the Top
Shuttle sprints, hill sprints and stair sprints are all tried and tested methods for increasing speed. Band sprints are often overlooked, however. Band-resisted sprints are ideal for increasing speed when you have limited space, notes coach Jason Ferruggia of Renegade Strength and Conditioning. Set up as you did for the band-resisted broad jump, then sprint against the band tension. You'll probably need two or three bands, depending on your strength, and keep your steps short and choppy, adds Ferruggia. Have a training partner handy should you get into difficulty with the bands. Sprint forward five or six steps, then perform backward shuffle steps to take you back to your starting point.
Being able to move from side to side quickly is a key trait needed for any court- or field-based sport. You need to have enough single-leg strength to start and stop movements safely, be able to accelerate and decelerate, and land with control, according to Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Massachusetts. Once you've mastered basic lateral drills, such as side steps and lateral hops, start using the band to make things tougher. For side shuffles, loop a light band around your waist and have a partner hold the ends while you shuffle three to four steps against the band tension. Set up in the same way for lateral hops.
Bands for Your Butt
The butt muscles, or glutes, are critical in developing maximal speed. A lack of specific training leads to underactive glute muscles, which can put a damper on your speed, claims strength coach Kelly Baggett. To work your glutes with bands, perform X-band walks, where you stand with both feet on the middle of a band, pull the ends up, then take steps out to the side. Band hip extensions work well, too. Kneel on the floor, wrap a band under the sole of one foot and secure the ends of the band under your hands. Kick your leg back until it's straight, then resist the band tension as you bring your foot back in. Do all your reps with the band around one foot, then switch sides.