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Becoming more agile may not initially be your number-one goal in the gym—you’d rather have toned biceps or six-pack abs, perhaps. But agility is the backbone to so many movements that you’d be remiss to ignore it. More than just coordination, your body’s agility counts for its speed, motion, and strength, as well as helping our body quickly change direction as we move. As we age, we tend to lose that sense of agility, which can lead to undue stress on our joints. By following this 30-minute workout below, you can begin to improve your agility and keep your joints flexible and mobile for years to come.
Dynamic Stretching: 5 minutes
Begin with a warm-up that incorporates dynamic stretching. Stand against a wall or a pole and do ten swings forward and back with each leg, then swing each arm forward and back ten times. This will help loosen up your muscles and joints and get them ready for the workout ahead. Another good stretch to do is the scorpion stretch: Lie face down on the mat with your arms spread out, and try to swing your right leg over your body to touch your left hand (or as close as you can get), then repeat with the other side and opposite leg. Here’s a good video demonstration!
Ladder Drill: 5 minutes
Using an agility ladder lying flat on the floor, begin running drills by doing a quick-paced, high-knee step through each ladder space, landing on the balls of your feet and really driving your knees as high up to your chest as possible. Change it up using About Health’s lateral running side-to-side drill: To improve knee and ankle stability: “Keep a low center of gravity and step side-to-side through the ladder one foot at a time. Touch in each rung of the ladder with both feet. Land on the balls of your feet and repeat right to left and left to right.”
Shuttle Run: 5 minutes
“The shuttle run is an easy way to add some high intensity drills into a basic exercise program while you build speed, stamina and endurance,” says About Health. Set up two markers about 25 yards apart as your running space, then sprint from one marker and back. Try to sprint as fast as you can, then slow at the last possible second before reaching down to touch the marker spot before you turn around and sprint back. Focus on really pushing off with your back foot as you turn. This can help with how your body reacts to split-second changes in speed and movement.
Tuck Jumps: 5 minutes
Another exercise that can help build power and strength in the lower body, tuck jumps may seem simple, but try doing these in sets of ten – or as a HIIT exercise – and you’ll start feeling the burn quickly! Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, then bend your knees and jump straight up, as high as you can. Tuck your knees into your chest as you do so, and if you can, grasp your knees with your arms as they reach your chest. Once you land, repeat immediately.
Box Jumps: 5 minutes
Now that you’ve gotten your legs used to the tuck jump, it’s time to aim for a solid object. “The biggest benefit of the box jump is that it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers throughout the body,” says Muscle and Fitness. “This exercise requires your leg and core muscles to contract very quickly so you can generate maximal force with each leap.” Start with a plyometric box that isn’t too high for you, and try stepping up onto it, then back onto the ground. Once you’ve got the hang of that, aim to jump up onto the box, landing lightly on your feet, and then jumping backwards down (you can step down if needed). Although it’s common to be wary of this movement, trust that your body can take you high enough to land on top of the box.
Related: Leap Year Plyo Challenge
Dynamic Stretching: 5 minutes
Follow the same stretches as the warm-up in order to help your muscles and joints cool down. If you have any aches in specific areas, try lying on a foam roller or exercise ball and slowly moving your body back and forth to work out the muscle tightness.
In order to have a well-rounded exercise regimen, agility should not be ignored. Instead make your body’s joints, coordination and reaction time a focus when you’re working out. When trained properly, agility can go a long way in ensuring that your body remains physically spry and able to turn on a dime.