Go Ahead, Jump: Functional Agility Training
The following article was written by an expert with extensive experience in running and sports medicine. He is also a professional journalist. His expertise comes from his years of experience in writing articles, books, and other publications.
He has been working as a freelance writer since 2009. You may have read some of his previous work on various fitness websites such as Fitocracy or Runners Connections.
He is also a runner himself, having competed in several races over the past few years. He has won numerous awards for his athletic achievements.
In this article, he shares with us how to improve your running performance through functional movement training (FMT). FMT involves movements that are designed to increase range of motion and strength while decreasing risk factors associated with injury.
Functional movement training (FMT) is a type of exercise that helps improve running form, balance, flexibility and overall health. It’s not just about increasing muscle mass either; it’s all about improving the body’s ability to function effectively at any given time. There are many benefits of FMT including:
Reducing risk factors for injury such as tight hips, knees and ankles. Improving balance and proprioception. Increasing flexibility in muscles that may be restricted.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that FMT should not replace a proper warmup and cool down. It should also not replace conventional stretching. If you decide to incorporate FMT in your exercise routine, make sure you’re still doing some form of conventional stretching after your routine.
It’s also important to note that FMT should not replace a doctor’s recommendation, if you have any serious medical conditions or have been advised by a physician not to perform certain movements, do not perform them.
Flexibility: Before we begin
Before you begin any exercise routine, it’s important to take some time and think about your goals.
Why are you wanting to improve your flexibility? Is it for your sport? Is it for daily living? Is it for aesthetic reasons? Is it to prevent injury?
It’s important to note that people experience flexibility in different ways. For example, some people may find that their hamstrings are quite tight, while someone else might find that their hip adductors (inward thighs) are the problem. Some people may need to focus on their hip flexors (front of the hip/thighs), while others need to focus on their quads (front of the thigh).
The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. Just focus on the areas that are tight for you and work through them in your routine.
Before we begin, it’s also important to have the right equipment. This means having foam rollers, lacrosse ball and other tools that can apply pressure on “tender” spots on your body. It’s best if you have these at home or in the office so you can perform them at any time.
In addition to this, you’ll also need some bands, a bench and a wall.
It’s also important that if at any point you feel pain in any of these exercises, you should stop immediately! Continuing past the point of a pain threshold can lead to injury. Use your best judgment when it comes to this.
Body preparation (5-10 minutes)
The first thing you’re going to want to do is perform a proper dynamic warm up. This can be found in many places on the internet, so I won’t go into to much detail here. Just make sure you cover all the major areas: hips, legs, core and arms.
Once your warmup is done, you’ll also want to foam roll and do some light stretching. Foam rolling is a great way to work out kinks in muscles that tend to get tight and may be contributing to your lack of flexibility. It’s also great to get blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles, which can help prevent injury.
Light stretching is also a good idea, but make sure you saved your heavier stretching for after your routine.
The main purpose of this stage is to prepare the body for whats to come in the next stage. In addition, this is also where you’ll customize your routine a bit. If you’re currently experiencing any tightness or problem areas, create a routine that focuses on those areas specifically.
It’s important that whatever routine you perform, is something that you can maintain on a regular basis. It doesn’t do any good if you do an amazing routine for your stretches and then never do them again. Make these routines part of your daily life and they’ll be more effective.
Flexibility routine (5-20 minutes)
This is the bread and butter of your flexibility routine. This section can be a bit harder to pin down times on, but in general you’re going to want to shoot for about 5-10 minutes of stretching for every 15 minutes of warming up. So if you’re an hour of running or cycling, do 10-15 minutes of stretching after.
You’ll probably also want to spend more time stretching if your activity of choice has obvious effects on your muscles (i.e. cycling tends to make quads tighter).
In addition, you’ll also want to do some deeper stretching after your activity as well. This can help prevent injury and speed up recovery, especially if you focus on the muscles that were worked outside. So if you went for a run, then you’d want to focus on your leg muscles.
If you’re a cyclist, then it would make sense to focus on your core and lower back.
It’s also important to keep in mind that this is just a guideline. You may find that you don’t have as much time to dedicate to this routine, which is fine. If you’d rather spend an extra 10 minutes on a bike than doing static stretches, then do it.
The most important thing is that you’re keeping your muscles flexible and avoiding injury.
Static stretching (5-20 minutes)
Static stretching has gotten a bad name over the years, and for good reason. Many people (especially athletes) utilize static stretching as their sole form of flexibility training. If you take a look at most “runners knee” forums, you’ll find a common theme in the recommendations.
People recommend static stretching as the best way to prevent any type of injury. The logic is that if you stretch the muscles involved, then it will enable them to handle greater stress, thus making them less prone to injury.
There is some truth to this, as research does suggest that static stretching can help prevent injury. (citation) The problem though is that most people aren’t doing it right. The bigger issue though seems to be that people are using it as a substitute for dynamic stretching or just ignoring the need for it altogether.
You see, if you’re going to talk about static stretching, then you also have to talk about the importance of dynamic stretching as well. Many sports medicine physicians will often say that dynamic stretching is more important than static stretching and for athletes to focus on. The reason for this is because it increases the range of motion in your joints, helps with activation of muscles (thus helping you to avoid strains and pulls) and warming up before activity.
So in short, static stretching is good to do, but ONLY after a properly performed dynamic stretch routine.
So what does a good dynamic stretch routine look like?
The best way to describe it is this:
Walking or jogging in place for a few minutes to get the blood flowing and muscles loose. Next you bend forward and try to touch your toes. You should push yourself by grabbing onto something like a chair if you can’t reach.
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and do this at least 3 times. Next, move onto the sides of your body by doing a side bend. While standing up straight, twist your torso as far as you can to one side, and then using your arm try to reach further. Hold this for 10 seconds, and then do the other side. After that, you can move on to hip flexors by placing one leg behind you and leaning forward, grabbing your foot if you can (though this might not be possible at first). This stretch should be held for 10 seconds as well. One thing to remember: Unless you’ve got the flexibility of a rubber band, you’re probably not going to get your hands all the way down to your feet the first few times you try. That’s fine; just keep working at it and you’ll get there eventually.
The other thing is that this routine can vary based on what your specific goals are. For those of you who want some extra mobility in your ankles and want to get your heels to the ground when you sit down, a good way to work on that is by placing both feet on a step (like the bottom stair of a staircase), bending your knees and pushing your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Hold that for about 10 seconds, stand up, and then do it again.
Three sets should be enough.
If you want to improve your flexibility in your hips and your groin, you can do a similar routine except instead of using a stair (or anything else), you’ll just need somebody to help you out. The jist of it is that you’ll pull one leg backwards while the other person gently pulls your torso forward. Be careful at first until you get the feel for it; if it starts to hurt, stop and don’t do anymore.
And lastly, if you want to improve your ankle mobility, have somebody assist you in bending and pointing your foot by grabbing your heel and gently pulling it back (again, be careful at first until you get the feel for it).
The moral of this story is that most people who go to a gym generally don’t know how to stretch effectively. And if they do, they usually only focus on one or two parts of their body. So even if you don’t follow the advice I’ve given here, please at least try to remember this:
Flexibility is a whole body thing, so you have to stretch your whole body. I’d suggest focusing on the major muscle groups and working your way down. And remember that it’s a process; you won’t see results over night.
Be patient and keep at it!
Does anyone have any questions?
A couple people handraise their hands. You call on one.
What about diet?
I’ve heard that what you eat affects how flexible you can be.”
Interesting point. You suppose that’s true to an extent. After all, you’re not going to be able to perform at your best if you don’t have enough energy to do so.
As for diet specifically, you honestly don’t know what to tell everyone. Though you suppose the rule of thumb is to just avoid junk food and anything with high levels of sugar. Also, drink plenty of water. However, that’s something everyone here should be doing anyway.
“I have a question.” It’s Ragnor. Everyone turns towards him.
“You said we should stretch daily, but I need two hours to rehearse every day.
Is there a way to do both?”
Good question. You suppose you could use your music to help you stretch as well. It’s worth a try at least.
“I have an idea on how we can work around that. Everyone, listen up.” You decide to test out your theory.
“When I say, I want everyone to start stretching and make a noise ranging from loud to silence.” You pause to see if anyone has a problem with this. Happily, no one does. “Alright, begin.”
At this point everyone in the class starts making a racket. It’s actually quite loud.
“Okay, now stop.” Immediately, the entire room becomes silent. “
Is this the first time you guys have done this?”
Most of them nod. “Well it certainly won’t be the last. From now on, we’ll incorporate this exercise into our daily routine.” You make a mental note to do so. “Whenever I say to start stretching, you may begin.”
Now it’s time to get down to business…
“Alright, I want everyone to stand up and find a comfortable position. After that, I want you to sit back onto your legs. From there, I want you to grab your right ankle and place it behind your left knee.
After that, lean forward and touch your forehead to your knee.” You demonstrate the position. The entire room follows. “Hold this for ten seconds, and then switch legs and repeat. After that, we’ll do it again, but with each leg in a different position.”
You take a look around the room to see if everyone has their positions correct. So far so good.
“Remember to breathe correctly!” You remind them as they struggle to hold their legs in place.
You see a few beads of sweat form on their foreheads. This isn’t easy for them, but everyone is doing their best. It’s amazing how resilient these children are.
For the next twenty minutes, you have them switch positions and time themselves to hold the position for twenty seconds. By that time, some of them are struggling to even stay in position.
“Alright everyone, that’s it for today.” You tell them, “Remember to stretch afterwards to loosen up your muscles and have a nice day.”
The class collectively gets up and begins stretching. Quite a few girls look like they’re going to collapse, but they all manage it. They should be proud of themselves today.
You gather your things and prepare to leave when you notice Ragnor is still struggling to stand up. A quick scan of the room and you notice that while everyone else has already left, including Brother Gray.
Ragnor,” You say, “Shouldn’t you be with your class today?”
He looks up at you with a pained expression on his face. “They’re the advanced class.” He says, “I’m in the remedial one.”
It seems he’s trying to make a point. “
Are you saying that you’re not as advanced as them?”
He shakes his head. “I haven’t been able to do all the exercises that the rest of you have. I’ve been having trouble with the ones that involve my legs.”
Now it makes sense why he was struggling so much to stand up while the rest of his class left already.
“I’ve noticed you doing the stretching exercises, but never the running ones.” You bring up, “Which means you’re having problems with your legs.”
“Exactly.” He says, finally getting up.
“If you’d like…” You start to say, “I could give you extra help with your exercises so you can catch up to the rest of your class.”
He thinks for a moment, then agrees. “I’d like that.”
He says, “When do we start?”
“Right now if you want to.” You tell him.
Nearly half of the children from the remedial class are now in yours, and you begin teaching them in the mornings now instead of afternoons with the other one’s. It’s quite tiring, but you’re glad to not only help out Brother Gray, but also help out the children as well.
As the days go on though, classes go smoother and smoother. Soon you don’t even have to verbally tell everyone what to do since they know what is expected of them now.
With this newfound free time you find yourself just sitting in your room going over how much the Church has helped you. You think about how much of a blessing it is to receive free food, free shelter, and most importantly faith in God. You wonder if there is anything you can do to help the Church back.
They’ve done so much for you after all. They basically saved your life when you first came here.
You start trying to think of ways that you could be religious force multiplier for Brother Gray. He could use the help after all, and it would give meaning to your life. Plus you’ve noticed over the past few days that the children are all memorizing the prayers and rituals, so maybe you could help with that as well.
You know it by heart of course, but you’re sure that whatever you could teach them, Brother Gray would be happy to hear.
The trouble is though, is that you really don’t have any skills to offer. Still, maybe Brother Gray can find something for you to do.
Days pass and you bring up your concerns to Brother Gray, who nods a lot during the entire thing. When you finish he makes a few grunting noises before telling you he’ll figure something out. You think he says he’ll have an answer for you by tomorrow, so you leave his office and head back to your class.
The next morning Brother Gray enters the main hall where all the children are gathering for breakfast and announces that there is going to be some changes.
First of all, he is taking on a new apprentice. This apprentice is going to help him in his work, so he will not be teaching the children of the temple any longer. Instead classes are suspended for the day, and all the children are to report to your room for manual labor assignments.
Second of all, he has decided that you will be helping him in his duties in caring for the poor as well as tending to their spiritual needs. You’re not exactly sure what you’re going to be doing, but he says that an apprentice’s duties are to help the master in whatever tasks he requires.
After these announcements, he tells you to all go and eat breakfast. He says he’ll explain your duties after you’ve eaten. You head over to the tables where food is already spread out for you.
You take a couple pieces of bread and some fruit, before finding a seat next to Wendy and across from Carter.
So, what do you think they’ll have us doing?”
“I dunno, whatever needs to be done I guess,” you say shrugging.
“I hope its something fun,” Carter says. “
I’m good at pitching hay, are we going to be pitching hay?”
“I hope not,” Wendy says. “That stuff’s heavy.”
You all eat in silence for a bit, before Brother Gray enters the room. He beckons you to follow him, which you do, leaving your friends behind.
He takes you to the kitchen and puts on an apron for you, handing you another.
“You’ll be helping in the kitchen today. There’s plenty of dishes that need cleaning.”
After putting on your apron, Brother Gray brings you to where some other children your age are already working.
You’re a bit surprised, but you realize this actually is an ideal job for you. You don’t really mind doing the dishes, and you suspect Brother Gray knows this.
After the meal, he takes you with him to go around the poor district of the city, picking up any scraps of food that haven’t been eaten and giving them to the beggars who haven’t made it to the temple yet.
You then go back to the temple to help with preparations for tonight’s festivities. This consists of setting up decorations and lighting candles. Normal stuff that disciples would take for granted, but it’s all new to you, so you take great pleasure in it.
Eventually night falls and the festivals begin. You stand outside with Brother Gray as he gives a short speech to the beggars and other poor folk that have gathered before letting them all scatter to do their own thing.
Now, you’re free to do what you want for the rest of the night. You could head back to the temple and help Brother Gray and the other kids with preparing more food for the beggars and destitute, you could go and enjoy some of the festival games and rides that the city has to offer, or maybe even indulge in one of the less savory activities that some of the local businesses are offering.
What do you want to do?
You spend the rest of the night enjoying the various carnival games that the Church has set up to raise money. You manage to win a large stuffed bear for Alison, which you give to her as a gift when you return to the Church. “This is…this is gorgeous!” She says, holding it close to her.
“Thank you!” For your generosity and companionship, she gives you a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Later, during private tutoring time with Brother Gray, you tell him about everything that happened. He listens to everything in silence before speaking. “You need to be careful about these things.
Carnivals can bring out undesirable types, and the games are all rigged in some way or another. If you’re going to gamble, you need to find an independent operator, or even set up a game yourself, and those kinds of people are always criminals. And you shouldn’t kiss girls you just met, even if you are attracted to them. And certainly not without asking permission first.” Brother Gray takes a deep breath after his long rant. “
Now, do you have any questions?”
“Erm…no, I think I got it,” you say. “Thanks for the advice, Brother Gray.”
Now why don’t you go do your homework?
We have a lot to get through today.
You nod, and leave the office.
Well, you’ve still got a few more months here, and a lot to learn. You better get started.
Sources & references used in this article:
The effects of traditional and enforced stopping speed and agility training on multidirectional speed and athletic function by RG Lockie, AB Schultz, SJ Callaghan… – The Journal of …, 2014 – cdn.journals.lww.com
Functional training for athletes at all levels: workouts for agility, speed and power by JC Radcliffe – 2007 – books.google.com
The influence of agility training on physiological and cognitive performance by LM Lennemann, KM Sidrow, EM Johnson… – The Journal of …, 2013 – journals.lww.com
Efficacy of FIFA 11+ training program on functional performance in amateur male soccer players by A Nawed, IA Khan, J Jalwan… – Journal of Back and …, 2018 – content.iospress.com
Effect of warm-ups involving static or dynamic stretching on agility, sprinting, and jumping performance in trained individuals by A Chaouachi, C Castagna, M Chtara… – The Journal of …, 2010 – journals.lww.com