5.2: Agility & Maneuverability

Agility and maneuverability are a combination of situational awareness, instinctual reaction, precise timing and speed. It showcases an athlete’s ability to be spontaneous and reactive. The most agile athletes often demonstrate creative athletic prowess. Despite that agility and maneuverability are very neurological in nature, it is trainable. Parisi speed classes will include a wide range of reactive agility drills and games. These open chain drills challenge an athlete’s ability to perform unplanned changes in direction, hence improving cognitive processing and agility.

In order for youth athletes to continuously enhance their agility and ultimately their maneuverability, they must work on improving their strength relative to their weight. Mass specific strength will promote an athlete’s ability to accelerate and decelerate. Multidirectional speed classes that focus on agility and maneuverability should also include omni-directional exercises to strengthen the core. These types of movements will utilize the primary, and secondary stabilizing muscles and fascia or connective tissue throughout the trunk. In addition, they will promote the athlete’s ability to brace their core. The trunk can:

  • Flex forward and extend back.
  • Flex to the left and right side (lateral flexion).
  • Rotate around its center.

Perform any combination of the above movements in all three planes.

The strength of the athlete in all 3 planes of movement will enhance the ability of managing the center of gravity at all speeds. Since the trunk and core provide the foundation for efficient force transfer to the limbs, Parisi coaches should use submaximal loads when adding core exercises to their classes. Just as force application is a common theme, Parisi coaches must learn how to articulate the relationship between core stiffness, joint stiffness and quick ground contact times when providing class instructions. Good agility originates from having a stiff and strong core with minimum energy leaks when maneuvering and cutting. Imagine shooting a cannon out of a canoe? There is no stability for the power of the cannon to fire the ball. A weak core acts like a canoe when firing a cannon.. Proximal stiffness unleashes distal speed in this biomechanical principle model.

Dr. Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a member of the Parisi Advisory Board, has performed numerous scientific studies that validate this point. Performing exercises that strengthen the core and fascia systems like the McGill Big 3, Pallof Press, Farmers Carries, Suitcase Carries, Bottoms Up Carries, as well as utilizing Medicine Ball Throws and VIPR Pro for more dynamic stabilization, are all great ways to strengthen the core and to allow the body unleash increased agility. The goal when performing these core training movements are to lock-in the core and to strive to keep the pelvis aligned with the ribcage on all isometric and rotating movements. Rotation should not come from the spine but about the hips. When an athlete cuts and changes directions, this skill and rotation should originate from the hips and the ribcage, upper torso, and shoulders should stay in line with the rotating pelvis axis. The spine should rotate as one unit, the shoulder and hips should rotate together as depicted below in the rotational medicine ball throw. There should be little to know disassociation of the shoulder and hips when the athlete rotates. This is a critical element to maximizing an athletes agility and maintaining a healthy spine.

Maneuverability, like curvilinear running requires a different expression of center of gravity management. It occurs during high speed running when the body is at discrete angles. It is an athlete’s ability to maintain speed and balance with angular momentum. Curved running paths challenge an athlete in different ways than planned change of direction and even agility application drills. They serve a great value to the athlete’s overall development.