When you think about an agility workout, what comes to mind? Maybe the plastic ladder that you had to weave in and out of during gym class, or doing fancy footwork drills around cones to challenge your balance during sports practice. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), agility refers to “the ability to start, stop, and change direction quickly while maintaining proper posture.” So agility training is the type of exercise that incorporates those movements.
For many of us, agility training slowed—or even stopped—once organized sports practice ended. But continuing these movements can have real-life benefits that go beyond hitting your fitness goals.
“Agility training requires a lot of focus and neuromuscular efficiency, which is the communication from your brain to all of your muscles, and how well they can work together,” Alicia Jamison, C.P.T., trainer at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. “Strengthening that full-body communication is essential to a total-body fitness routine.”
Agility training gives your body a greater ability to control forces that can knock you off balance and make you feel unstable, and also boosts your mobility, says Jamison. That’s why agility training can help reduce your risk of injury, both in your training and in everyday life.
Everything we do, from cooking to shopping to housework, generally involves agility (think reaching, bending over, and turning around). So when you incorporate more agility exercises into your workout routine, you might just feel a little more balanced in your day-to-day life too.
For this 20-minute, circuit-style agility workout created by Jamison, you’ll work your whole body in order to stay balanced, but you’ll really feel it in your glutes, core, quads, and hamstrings. And the 30-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off ratio will challenge your heart rate, giving you an agility workout that doubles as cardio.
“I’ve predominantly picked unilateral, or single-sided, moves because that’s what challenges our balance—and brain,” says Jamison. “Changing our base of support from two feet to just one foot is kind of the simplest and most effective ways to challenge your balance.”
The beauty of this workout is that you can do it as a standalone at-home workout routine or you can take any one of the circuits and sprinkle it into another strength training or cardio workout. Jamison suggests incorporating at least one agility and balance exercise in all of your workouts, and then focusing one day of your training on agility. (It’s important to note that if you have knee, hip, or ankle instability, or any other medical condition that may make injury more likely during jumping or balance exercises, you should check with your doctor or physical therapist before doing this workout.)
Ready to move your feet? Here’s what you’ll need for this challenging 20-minute agility workout.
What you’ll need: An exercise mat for extra cushioning and a bench or step.
Transverse lunge to power skip
Split lunge jump
Curtsy lunge to reverse lunge to hop
Bulgarian split squat
Step-up to knee raise
Forward to reverse lunge
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. Rest for 1 minute between each circuit. Complete each circuit 3 times total.
For one-sided moves, you’ll do each exercise for 30 seconds on one side during the first round, switch sides for the second round, and then do 15 seconds on both sides for the third.
Demoing the moves below are Amanda Wheeler (GIFs 1 and 7), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength; Tiana Jones (GIF 2), a dance and fitness instructor based in New York City; Shauna Harrison (GIF 3), a Bay Area–based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Cookie Janee, (GIFs 4–6), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Nikki Pebbles (GIF 8), a New York City–based fitness instructor; and Teresa Hui (GIF 9), a native New Yorker who has run more than 150 road races, including 16 full marathons