Agility Training Considerations for American Football

If you are looking for an article with a “how to” model for agility, movements that are chaotic in nature, and sexy cone drills limited only by your imagination, you are going to be disappointed because you are not going to get it. However, if you are willing to have an open mind and look at things from a different perspective, then you will benefit greatly from this article and begin developing freakish athletes.

As a coach, you can improve your athletes’ agility without doing agility training. I am sure this is a hard pill to swallow for some coaches, but trust me, it is not only possible, it is a guarantee. The way this is accomplished is not as difficult as one might think, it is in fact, rather easy. The key focus should be on linear speed and sprinting, not change of direction. Why? Sprinting farther and faster in training allows athletes to reach higher speeds, thus achieving higher ground forces. Simply put, high velocity=high force. This has multiple benefits when it comes to agility:

  • Improved change of direction
  • Improved jumping ability
  • Ability to decelerate quicker
  • Less wear and tear (due to decrease in COD training)

When the athlete is in a state of high velocity and high force (sprinting) he is reaping the rewards of “agility” training without the risk. If we are being honest, it is known that agility and change of direction is hard on the organism, why venture into that realm of risk when it is accomplished by sprinting full speed?

Still not grasping it? When Michael Vick was in his prime, he would achieve maximal speeds at over 20 miles per hour (21.63 mph to be exact). When the organism is achieving 95% or greater of his best times in max velocity speed training, submaximal velocities (agility and COD training) will be that much easier for the organism. This is why I am a proponent of Charlie Francis’ HIGH/LOW Approach, it allows the coach to tap into true max velocity while simultaneously raising several other aspects an athlete may encounter on the field of play. Additionally, when you expose the organism to submaximal velocities more often than necessary, you then run the risk of habituating them to perform at slower and submaximal velocities – no bueno.

Absolute strength is the foundation in the weight room and all other strength qualities (speed strength, strength speed, etc.) are raised through it. As is the case with max velocity or absolute speed. The higher the max velocity the organism is able to achieve, all other velocities will be far less taxing and will be able to be performed for longer durations. This concept is known as the speed reserve. As an example, Formula 1 race cars have top speeds of 250-260 mph, however, their average speed is 130-140 mph. They are able to perform at slower velocities for longer durations because their max velocity is so impressive that it allows them to do so without stalling.

Does this mean I believe cones, hurdles and agility drills are stupid? On the contrary, those are tools, they have value. Just because a hammer is a tool does not make it stupid, a hammer is stupid if you are washing windows. What I am trying to illustrate is that while agility training does have it’s place in the preparation of football players, it certainly does not need a training session or block devoted entirely to it.


The development of linear speed and max velocity have more benefits other than just improving that one particular bio-motor ability. A study done by Clark and Weyland found that at higher velocities, higher forces are put into the ground. No shit, right?

Remember this, since the organism is able to apply more force into the ground, numerous other benefits are being realized without the wear and tear. As physical preparation coaches, we should be prescribing exercises our athletes get the most out of, not exercises that get the most out of them.



PS – Don’t forget to check out my interview with Mike Robertson! Physical Preparation with Hunter Charneski


Author: Hunter Charneski

MS, CSCS, CPPS, PES, CSS, SFN/Director of Performance/Freak Faktory LLC/Physical Preparation Consultant

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