News flash: You don’t have to play sports to burn fat like an athlete.
The agility drills that prepare the pros for competition are great for torching body fat, says Robert Reames, C.S.C.S., head fitness trainer for The Dr. Phil Show and the author of Make Over Your Metabolism. "Research also shows increases in strength, power, balance, and coordination for these short duration, high-intensity physical activities," says Reames. "I’ve used them with people for years, to great success."
Andrea Avruskin, D.P.T., a physical therapist and athletic trainer located in Las Vegas, Nevada, points out that "sports drills feel less like an exercise and more like a real sports activity, so they are more fun than single-muscle exercises."
To help you reap those benefits, we asked Reames and Avruskin to share some of their favorite drills. They recommended doing the exercises twice a week (with two to three days rest in between), depending on your goals. "If you’re a tennis player, you can do them in place of your cardio workout,” says Reames. “However, if your goal is weight loss, you’ll want to supplement your cardio workout with these.”
Get started now—and you should see increased speed, power, endurance and stamina after only a week.
How to do it: You need a start line, plus a first sprint line, a second sprint line, and a third—and longest—sprint line. Each sprint will be twice as long as the last. For example, on a basketball court, start under the basket, sprint to the first foul line, touch, and then sprint back to the start. Next, sprint to half-court, touch, and then sprint back to start. Then, sprint all the way down across the court, touch the end line, and sprint back to the finish (under the basket). That's one Death Valley. (Note: Do these on an open running space such as a basketball court, tennis court or driveway—grass may be too slippery.)
Beyond the burn: This drill will also help you increase your speed, agility, quickness, stamina and endurance, says Reames—plus, it’s great for sports that require the ability to accelerate and decelerate quickly, such as soccer and football.
2. Karaoke steps
How to do it: Facing forward, begin moving laterally to your left by stepping left with your left foot. Then, bring your right foot in front, then step out sideways again with your left foot, then step your right foot behind it. Continue this sequence for a set distance or the length of a room and then repeat, going in the opposite direction and moving laterally to the right. Keep arms in a “ready” position—as if you’re about to play a piano—elbows tight to the body or at 90-degrees with palms open.
Beyond the burn: Doing this drill will also help with coordination, balance, and lateral speed, says Reames. It's great for all sports that involve lateral or multi-directional movement, such as football, soccer and basketball.
3. Agility ladder: lateral single-leg hop
How to do it: Start with your right side facing the end of an agility ladder (or set up your own grid by placing straight markers, like pencils or strips of paper, on the ground approximately 18 inches apart about for 10 yards out). Stand on your right leg. Jump sideways into each box down the line, staying on the same leg, until you reach the end of the ladder. Switch legs to go back down the ladder to the starting point. Land lightly on each foot, and keep your heels off the ground.
Beyond the burn: This drill helps to improve the strength in the tendons and muscles in each leg and is particularly good for runners, says Avruskin.
4. Jump and reach
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat slightly by bending at the knees and hips and bring arms back slightly before explosively jumping up and reaching for an object or target such as a basketball hoop. Land in the starting position and immediately repeat jumping. Focus on getting the most vertical height with minimal lateral, forward or backward movement. Start with one to two reps and increase as you become more fit.
Beyond the burn: According to Avruskin, this move increases your leg power and your vertical leap, giving you an advantage over the competition in basketball and volleyball.
5. Rapid alternating step-up
How to do it: Perform this on any type of step approximately 6 inches high. Simply alternate stepping up and down on the step as fast as you can for 30 seconds, increasing the time to 60 seconds per set as you progress. Switch your lead food halfway through your set amd repeat each set three to five times.
Beyond the burn: The improved agility, cardio, speed and mobility you get from this drill helps in sports ranging from football and running to volleyball and tennis, says Avruskin.