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The need for speed, agility and quickness in your fitness program

Updated on April 21, 2017

Speed, Agility & Quickness (SAQ) Training

Speed, agility and quickness training (SAQ) has also been known to be a part of the term plyometrics, which consists of a quick movement is involving an eccentric contraction through a powerful movement that will follow with concentric contraction that works on explosiveness. However, SAQ is now more in its own unique identity, which is primarily working on fast reactions in movement and velocity in sport or physical activity to help cut down the time in reactions that involves working with motor skills. One of the first articles written through this publishing put plyometrics and SAQ together but now they are considered separate modalities working on different performance enhancement functions through exercise and training in sport.

Many people have wondered why they should take part in an SAQ program, even if they are just in a simple everyday exercise routine or if their sport is marathon running, triathlon training or cycling or is just a straight forward endurance sport. The simple answer is that cross-training from one form of fitness training modality to another will only make you better, training the body in a multidirectional fashion and the motor neurons of the peripheral nervous system which will allow for better performance in sport or everyday exercise, along with injury prevention.

SAQ involves speed movements in sprinting, fast lower and upper body extremity agility movements along with quick reaction exercises that work with the nervous system and muscular system in reacting to a stimulus, such as catching a football or a grounded baseball. Setting up an SAQ program is easy to do right in your own yard or street and you do not need a lot of equipment to get started.


Speed training can be easily completed in the yard or in the street by measuring out a 40, 60, and 100 yard dash. The National Association of Speed and Explosion (NASE) that most strength and conditioning coaches are certified under has the protocol of using a 5, 10, 20, 40, 60 and 100 yard dash in testing athletes for the NFL Combine; however, the 40 yard dash is mostly used. The exerciser or athlete can fast walk and of course sprint these distances for time to see where they stand result-wise. To keep improving on these sprints, the exerciser or athlete can add resistance to the body through ankle weights or carrying a medicine ball which is very inexpensive, or purchases a parachute that is tied to the back or buy or build a pull-sled that can have resistance added to it such as weight plates to cause an overload on the body to work harder and help increase speed and decrease sprinting time.


Agility is quick feet and hand drills which will help with the ability to change multidirectional with speed at any given moment in any environment. Agility exercises are very easy to set up, and the modalities and tools that are out there today for agility are unlimited, starting with simple cone work in square and triangle form, two or one foot dot drills that are followed in sequence or ladder drills, just like the old fashioned hop scotch game played in grade school, and small hurdle drills that can be used forward, sideways and back, which will allow the athlete to become faster in agility in changing multi-directional in response to their sport. The everyday exerciser can complete some of these drills as well through brisk walking and slowly adding resistance, such as ankle weights while training so they become more functional in their workouts and lifestyle.


Quickness drills are simply hand, foot and eye coordination with elapsed reaction time to respond in a fast and quick manner to the stimulus that is being addressed to the athlete. The modalities that are used for these drills are simple as well, using a simple racquetball, tennis ball or agility balls that have rounded ends on the end of the ball so it bounces in different directions and when bounced to the athlete and it is primarily used for quickness. Another drill is the turn and grab card drill which is when the athlete is facing away from the trainer and then when prompted, the athlete flips around and the trainer throws a series of cards for them to catch with both hands and as they get better, they will only use one hand.


Speed, agility and quickness is a functional part of health that we do not bother to focus on except for athletes, and it is proven that all people can take part in this whether they are young or old and especially non-athletes. The key importance of SAQ is to work on muscle and nerve integration that will keep the body going for all health populations along with working with right brain and left brain proprioception that will allow one to gain more balance and focus through their everyday life.

Working with well-educated health practitioners in the field of exercise science, exercise physiology, and kinesiology that have a strong background in their education with biomechanics and functional training, especially working in clinical settings, will give you the confidence that you are working with the right health professional. It is important for that health professional to administer the proper SAQ exercise prescription for the age group and the health level that the client or patient is in. The client or patient can go through different balance, functional and strength testing that will help determine what phases of balance, functional endurance and strength training that should be administered during their exercise prescription. There should be continual follow-up retesting to see if goals are being reached and if progression is being made in their exercise program. All testing and exercise prescription should be recorded for the health professional and for the client or patient so they are able to view it at any time for communication and implementation.

This is just a simple breakdown of drills that are used in SAQ training and can be used for the everyday exerciser to the fitness athlete, but progression and regression must be used depending on the individual for mode and intensity. Please keep in mind that this is primarily anaerobic training, which is completing short bouts of activity with 0-60 seconds of training using the creatine phosphate system leading into the muscle glycogen stores in the blood for the next few minutes. Once these energy stores are depleted through continuous exercise, the oxidative system kicks in using oxygen for energy for long endurance events, which SAQ training is not an aerobic training tool but anaerobic. Many SAQ tools can be found at your local sporting goods stores as well as Wal-Mart and Target, but the pricing may be high and if you are handy yourself with a few tools, you can build some of these SAQ modalities yourself for a lower price. Take advantage of SAQ right at your home or in the health club working with a well-educated trainer, and you will see the benefits of speed, agility and quickness in your fitness training.


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