Speed vs. Agility: What’s the Difference?

I get asked this question all the time..

“What can I do to get faster for (insert sports here) ?!”

My number one answer for this, regardless of the age or athlete most of the time is “Get stronger, improve your mobility, improve your body composition through proper eating habits, and practice the skill you want to get better at”. Pretty simple, really…

Most athletes don’t want to hear this though, as a quick fix to get it done NOW is always the preferred answer. I wish I had a quick fix for super speed development, but it just doesn’t exist. It’s unfortunate that we live in a quick-fix society, where promises of magic pills, potions, gadgets, gizmos, and powders promise miracle muscular development, superhuman strength and speed, and major weight loss in a short amount of time. Sorry, but this ain’t how it works! ¬† This is something that the athletes who train with me quickly realize¬† and have come to accept, but through hard work, commitment, and dedication, improving your speed and strength in a matter of 3-6 months can be drastic, especially with a good program, competent coach, a competitive environment to train.

Now, in order to get FASTER, we need to differentiate between speed and agility. To make it very simple, speed training can be classified into two categories: linear speed and multi-directional speed AKA agility.

Linear speed development simply means training to run as fast as possible in a straight line from point A to B (think 40 yard dash, 100m dash, etc; basically any sprint that does NOT involve a sudden stop and change of direction).

Multi-directional speed or agility refers to how well an athlete can accelerate (speed up), decelerate (slow down), and accelerate again. In other words, how efficient are you at stopping/cutting, changing direction, and getting back into your sprint again? (Think drills such as the 5-10-5 or pro-agility drill, 3-Cone drill, or any cone drill that involves lots of quick/short bursts of speed followed by a change of direction).

Now that we have figured out, we need to start with your goals. Like I said above, in my opinion, the easiest and most simple way for most athletes to get faster (linear speed and change of direction/agility) is to improve your strength levels. Once an athlete can display greater strength in the weight room through exercises such as squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, presses, and other endless variations, they (in theory) should be able to put out more force into the ground.

More force into the ground = higher jumps = faster sprints. This is true to some extent, but a couple other factors need to be taken into account.

Stay tuned for PART TWO of this article series where we’ll discuss how to improve your linear speed AND your agility by improving your body composition (lean muscle to body fat % ratio), your mobility, and ultimately practicing the skill you want to get better at (sprints, agility, vertical jumps, etc).

Trust me, you’ll want to pay attention this article series. Many will argue that linear speed is not important for team sports and they should ALWAYS train with agility or quickness drills; others will argue that playing their sport is enough agility work and more athletes need to train linear speed development to build those qualities up. Both are true, but there’s a way to train them simultaneously without getting injured.We’re all capable of moving fast, jumping high, lifting heavy stuff, and being able to move your body without pulling a hamstring or rolling an ankle, hurting a shoulder, etc. Just gotta know how to train properly!

As always, if you have any questions/comments, leave them in the comments section below. OH, and don’t forget to “Like” this post and spread the word if you enjoyed it! Big thanks!

Talk soon,

John Cortese

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  1. I’ll definitely stay tuned! I need to get faster and more agile for soccer, not only off-the-ball but on it as well. I’m hoping this series will help me achieve this and figure out how to plan my stamina training in there as well!

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