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Speed and agility are extremely important assets in a wide variety of sports. But what are some equipment options to train these areas?
Speed and agility basically come to down being able to move your body quickly in different directions. This can apply to maximum running speed but also to how fast you can accelerate from a standing position, how fast you can turn, etc.
These areas of your physical health are especially useful but not limited to sports where you benefit from fast running. Some popular sports where this applies include sprinting, football, and soccer.
There are no-equipment speed and agility exercises that definitely help but often you can speed up progress with some of the training equipment options on this list. In things like competitions and matches where every second counts this can be extremely helpful.
1. Free weights
Free weights are heavy pieces of fitness equipment that are not attached anywhere. Some examples of free weights are dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, a barbell, certain exercise sandbags, etc.
For many people free weights may come as a suprise on a list of speed and agility equipment. However, how much power your muscles can generate plays a big role in how fast and agile you are.
By doing resistance training exercises, especially in an explosive manner, with free weights you can strengthen muscles like your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, core, and arm muscles. In turn, this can help you gain speed and agility in many sports.
Another benefit of free weights is that they generally last an extremely long time. One dumbbell can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades.
On top of that, many free weights do not really lose their value. This means that if you decide to stop using dumbbells or other free weights you can likely sell them for a very similar price as what you put into them.
The disadvantage is that free weights often require a slightly bigger investment compared to the more short-term speed and agility equipment options on this list.
2. Agility cones
Agility cones are small plastic flat cones with the top cut off. You can use them for speed exercises too but these cones are especially useful for agility drills in a variety of sports.
For example, you can put cones in a line with each time some room in between. As a drill you can then go left of a cone, right of the next cone, left of the next one, etc. With some creativity there are endless ways of using them.
One of the benefits of agility cones is that they are relatively inexpensive. They are definitely not as sturdy as a dumbbell but agility cones last a surprisingly long time.
One potential downside is that they are sometimes not the most accurate representation of reality. In contact sports your opponents are often taller so there is more to dodge. That being said, even in these cases, the agility gains from training with cones will likely still come in handy.
3. Resistance bands
Resistance bands are an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. You can use this piece of exercise equipment to do a variety of resistance training exercises to improve muscle power and thus speed.
There are even speed bands which are resistance bands you can strap on between your thighs or ankles.
This piece of equipment especially stands out in a few things. First of all, resistance bands can be used to train your hamstrings, these are important muscles when it comes to sprinting speed.
Besides that, resistance bands, especially loop models, are also very helpful for training inner and outer thigh muscles which are helpful for making quick turns. It can be challenging to isolate all of these muscles with just free weights.
You can also use resistance bands to do throwing exercises with extra resistance. Throwing a dumbbell or a kettlebell is simply not an option in many places.
Other benefits of resistance bands include that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable. They can also be used to train basically any important muscles for speed and agility.
One downside is that resistance bands are not the type of gym equipment you can use for the rest of your life. At least every few years you will need to replace the last set with new resistance bands.
A stopwatch is a portable device that you can use the measure how long it takes to do certain drills. “What gets measured gets managed” is a famous quote that also applies to speed and agility training.
By keeping track of your running or agility drill times you can see whether other changes are helping you improve your times or the opposite. Having a personal best to beat can also be a good motivator to push yourself to greater heights.
In the world of smartphones, a stopwatch can feel like an unnecessary luxury but they are generally a lot sturdier and resistant to the weather. On top of that stopwatches are often relatively inexpensive.
5. Balance boards
A balance board is an unstable surface to stand on with the goal of improving balance and coordination. This type of balance equipment comes in different shapes and sizes. Some balance boards only allow you to move side to side, others can move in the full 360 degrees.
Balance is a skill that can be trained. Getting more comfortable with how you need to stop your body from falling contributes to agility in many types of sports.
A benefit of balance boards is that they are generally inexpensive but at the same time very challenging. You can also use this piece of equipment to strengthen your ankles which is again something useful for many sports.
A potential downside is that balance boards don’t exactly simulate real-life situations. In a sports match or race you are likely moving at a fast speed and in different directions. The balance board training does still carry over to these situations but this equipment does not prepare you perfectly.
6. Plyo box
A plyo box, also known as a jump box or step box, is simply a box that is strong enough to deal with jump exercises. The way you train influences what fitness component you mostly train. Jump exercises focus on training leg muscle power.
While you can simply do long jumps or high jumps on the flat ground, by using a good plyo box you get a softer landing with less momentum behind it. This can help you avoid loading body parts that already have to work a lot even more.
Besides that, you can also do other plyo box exercises like a hamstring bridge to train other speed and agility muscles.
One downside of a plyo box is that it is still a relatively specific piece of exercise equipment. It also requires a slightly higher investment compared to some of the other options. Lastly, you also need a good amount of storage room.
7. Agility poles
Agility poles are long poles that can be put straight up, often in grass but some models also stand on flat ground. Similar to agility cones you can set up these poles for agility drills. You can also use them as a target practice obstacle.
The upside over something like agility cones is that agility poles represent the obstacles in sports matches slightly better. Agility poles are also quite sturdy and durable.
The main downside is that agility poles also require a higher investment. Also keep in mind that many of the models are made for grass fields only.
8. Weighted vest
A weighted vest is basically its name, a vest with extra weight to make your exercises harder. Wearing this can help you strengthen muscles more compared to training speed without one.
One of the benefits of a weighted vest is that it is a versatile piece of fitness equipment. You can use it in many exercises for many body parts.
The main thing to keep in mind when training speed and agility with a weighted vest is that it can influence your gait and balance. Your brain gets used to the weight distribution you train with.
If you do a lot of agility training with a lot of turns with a weighted vest, you may fall often when you do the same workout without a weighted vest.
For that reason, you may want to keep the weighted vest light, do exercises that don’t require a lot of balance and coordination, and/or choose some of the other great balance and agility equipment options on this list.
9. Agility ladder
An agility ladder is a rope with plastic ladder rungs that are horizontal to each other. To use it you put this agility ladder on the ground. After that, you can jog/run over it facing forward, backward, or sideways. You can also do specific step sequences.
Something more unique in the agility ladder compared to the other equipment options on this list is that it is fast and easy to set up in exactly the same way as the last time you used it.
This can make stopwatch times a more accurate representation of your progress instead of improved times because of possibly a slightly easier training parkour. Another benefit is that agility ladders are relatively inexpensive.
10. Sprint sled
A sprint sled is a sled on which you can place extra weights. This weighted sled comes with a band or harness so that the sled can offer resistance for your sprints. This can help you improve sprint times without the sled.
A sprint sled is mainly for training sprints in a straight line on a grass or track field. For short turns this piece of speed and agility training equipment is not suited.
A potential downside of good speed sleds is that they can be relatively pricey for such a niche training area. They can also influence your running gait.
Resistance training exercises with free weights may offer more of your desired benefits for less of the downsides.
11. Agility hurdles
Agility hurdles are basically small plastic hurdles that don’t hurt if you hit them when an agility exercise isn’t done perfectly. You can use them in agility drills with more of a focus on exercises where you have to raise your knees.
The more unique advantage of agility hurdles is that they offer the possibility to implement exercises with raised feet and jumps. Besides that, they are also relatively budget-friendly, sturdy, and they don’t require a lot of storage room.