In many sports, quickness trumps raw speed. If you compete in a soccer or basketball league, you know that a player who changes directions on a dime or accelerates in a flash is likely to blow by his defender and score. If you play tennis, quickness is critical. To increase your quickness, you need more than just leg strength; you need explosive power as well. There are a wide variety of exercises to help you progress to jackrabbit status.
Plyometric exercises are commonly used to increase explosive power and improve quickness. Plyometric exercises for the legs involve jumping and bounding movements. By doing these exercises in explosive movements, you train your leg muscles to fire quickly and efficiently. As the STACK website explains, "Plyometrics not only work muscles, they also teach the nervous system how and when to produce force properly." Some typical plyometric exercises include jumping over hurdles or boxes. By exploding upward on your jumps and then pausing briefly before the next jump, you build quickness. Working with a trainer is advisable. You don't want to do plyometric exercises too often or to the point of exhaustion. A trainer also can teach good form, which is important to lessen the risk of injury.
Speed-ladder exercises require just one piece of equipment. If you guessed ladder, you wiln the prize -- you perform a bunch of jumping and hopping exercises using a regular old ladder placed on the ground. Use the ladder drills once or twice per week to increase your agility, balance and quickness. Move slowly at first as you learn the patterns of the exercises and gradually increase your speed until you're moving at maximum velocity. STACK recommends five ladder drills that include a high-knee exercise, to improve running efficiency, and a quick-step drill to improve your lateral quickness.
Sports-Specific Leg Drills
Sports-specific leg exercises focus on the particular elements or movements necessary to increase your quickness for a certain endeavor. The Real Salt Lake soccer team, for example, uses an exercise called a single leg balance throw. The drill develops your preconception, the ability to remain attuned to your body position as you twist and turn and stop and start on the soccer pitch. Standing on one leg and balancing on a piece of foam with the other leg, players throw a tennis ball against a wall and catch it with two hands. The drill increases the ability to maintain stability and balance in your lower body. John Smith, coach of the powerhouse Oklahoma State wrestling team, recommends shadow wrestling, envisioning an opponent and reacting to his moves. By doing such leg moves as sprawling and escaping over and over, Smith's wrestlers hone their quickness and their endurance by remaining in a wrestler's stance during 15 or 20 minutes of shadow wrestling.
Weight Training for Quickness
A number of weight-training exercises for quickness are recommended at Bodybuilding.com. Barbell squats with heavier weights establish a sound lower-body foundation. A jump squat, which can be done with or without a weight vest, is a plyometric exercise that involves starting from a squat position with arms folded and then exploding into a jump as your arms reach for the sky. When you do calf raises, rise up as quickly as possible to build quickness.and power. Hamstring curls focus directly on a muscle that is essential for explosiveness. Bodybuilding.com also recommends interval training, short sprints at full speed, followed by brief recovery periods, to increase quickness.
- STACK: How Plyometric Training Helps On-Ice Quickness
- STACK: Improve Your Quickness with 5 Speed Ladder Drills
- STACK: Enhance Soccer Speed, Strength and Quickness with Real Salt Lake
- STACK: Quickness Drills with Oklahoma State Wrestling
- Bodybuilding.com: 5 Exercises to Boost Your Leg Power and Quickness!
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.