One of the toughest things to do while working out a fitness routine is making sure it works on every aspect of the body’s capabilities. This includes strength, flexibility, functionality, muscle size, stability, agility, mobility and balance. Many of these can be achieved by cleverly choosing the right exercises for optimal benefits. But, speed and reaction time are more important than one might think. And that is why, even if it is occasionally, one should aim to train for speed. Doing so will automatically help maintain reaction time.
SPRINT INTERVAL TRAINING: The easiest way to start working on your speed is interval training—and this can be done outdoors or indoors on a treadmill. The biggest advantage of sprint interval training is that the ‘speed’ of your workout will be relative to your fitness levels. Run for either distance (100-200m) or time (30 seconds-one minute) at a speed where you are applying about 75-85 percent of your effort for the run. Follow it up for the same distance or time at a relaxed stride or a walk. Repeat these intervals a few times depending on where you stand. I started with 5 intervals two months ago and can do an average of 8 of these.
HOPS, JUMPS, AND SWITCHES: Clubbing these three moves in a quick set which does not need any equipment can give you the perfect blend of power, speed, and body coordination. For beginners, try doing ‘wall drills’.
Hopping or bounding forward and laterally are excellent starters before moving onto the jumping exercises. Ensure that you get your landing right, especially if you have dodgy knees. Check with a physiotherapist if your legs are strong enough to do side-to-side bounds. You can also hop forward and laterally with both feet before you begin single-legged exercises. Just place a dumbbell or a plate on the floor and hop in all directions around it.
The other traditional favourite is the knees-to-chest jump on the same spot. This trains explosive power as well, and helps your landing abilities. Switching exercises are the ones in which you change your leg in every rep. The simplest example is jumping split lunges. In this exercise, you switch your dominant leg midway through a jumping lunge.
FAST FEET DRILLS: Fast feet drills will make your reaction time significantly better. This is good for long term functionality as well—how quickly you can reach out and latch onto something in case you tumble, is based on reaction time and awareness. In any sport, your acceleration and dribbling or dodging and footwork will get better. You can do these with minimal equipment and burn calories fast, apart from improving the capabilities of your twitch muscles. Try these and get better at your speed. Even adding it to one day will see an incremental change and these are some of the most fun exercises as well.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.