Importance Of Speed & Agility Training In Martial Arts

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July 6, 2014 by danfisher87

When training it’s a great feeling to be pushed and work on big lifts, improve strength and work on aesthetics. I always feel a great rush after training when I’m pumped from lifting but this is only one aspect of Strength & Conditioning.

Speed and agility are also fundamental parts of Strength & Conditioning for any martial arts athlete.

To someone who doesn’t know about training, speed and agility are skills that the athlete is either born with or not. Because of this a lot of people accept their lack of God given gifts without challenging that condition and just work on their strengths.

It is true that genetics plays and important role in the development of these attributes. Some individuals seem to be born with them. Their speed and agility get better without much effort on their part whilst others find it much harder, most often because of their shape and size. However anybody can improve their speed and agility with a well written training program and a knowledgable coach.

In the world of the Professional athlete just a minor improvement in any of these two areas will make a difference between success and failure due to the highly competitive nature of top level sports, and so as much attention should be directed towards improving in these two areas as any other area. Athletes and martial artists that increase speed and agility will make substantial improvement in their performance.


We can define the speed of an object as ‘The magnitude of its velocity (The rate of change of its position).’ To an athlete it would be the ability to move all or one part of his body quickly, for example how fast the fist moves out to strike and back in to defend for a punch.

Agility is defined as ‘The ability of a [system] to rapidly respond to change by adapting its initial stable configuration’. Agility is the ability to change the direction of the body in an efficient and effective manner, to achieve this you require a combination of: balance; static and dynamic balance; speed; strength; and co-ordination.

As you can read from both definitions speed and agility are very closely related and by improving one the other will also be effected in a positive way. The best ways to improve on Agility & Speed are to actually do the sport and so in the case of martial arts, the ideal way to improve on these attributes would be a real fight. Next best thing would be sparring. However attempting to have a fight every day or spar every day would be too taxing to our bodies and we’d probably just end up injured very often.

We can do to work on speed and agility using drills.

Factors that effect speed:

Our anaerobic working capabilities
The amount of fast twitching muscle fibres that we have
Our flexibility and joint range of movement
The amount of body fat
Our strength

Improving on any of this factors will make us faster.

Factors that effect agility:
Our reaction time
Our core strength
Our hand eye coordination
Our central nervous System
Our speed
Our flexibility

Working on any of these will improve our agility.

The fastest and simplest way to improve speed is through the practice of sprint drills. Sprint drills are the easiest and less time consuming drills to work on your speed.

When weight training focus on the development of strength, especially: glutes, hamstrings, calves and lower back. Without forgetting the core. For example deadlifts and squats.

Work on flexibility and mobility. Loosen up and be less ridged because this will increase your range of movement and your ability to relax. Both are fundamental for speed and agility.

Include of plyometric exercises in your training program: Leaping, jumping, pushing and pulling will transform the strength you develop from lifting weights into power. They will make you a more explosive athlete. For example medicine ball slams, and box jumps.

Agility drills

Agility drills

Exercises to work on your speed and agility include;

Stair Running
Power cleans
Agility ladders
Dynamic stretching

Top five drills to train your speed and agility without weights;

Reaction Drills: Designed to improve your reaction time. This is really important and often forgotten. Use visual or auditory controls to improve.

Acceleration Sprints: Sort distance sprints, less than 50 meters. Starting from any position you can think of at the sound of a whistle or order to go to work on your reaction time too.

Long Sprints: From 100 to 200 meters to be able to reach maximum speed and work on your anaerobic capacity. Again it is a good idea to start at the sound of a whistle, clap or a shout to work on your reaction time.

Direction drills: Designed to make the athlete change direction accurately and quickly. The objective is to improve coordination, speed and power.

Agility cone drills

Agility cone drills


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