Q: Is it possible to increase agility for example in football players? Just curious what you thought about how well specific agility drills transfer.

A:This probably deserves an article itself but yes it is possible to substantially improve agility. Even though certain people are gifted in the agility department everyone starts out at the same place. What I mean by that is I have yet to see a newborn baby get up and run around with any proficiency so we must all learn to crawl, walk, run, etc! What you do up through your adolescent years has a large bearing on how well you can move. Being involved in a wide variety of challenging activities is key. It's still possible to improve significantly even as an adult but most people are going about it all wrong.

The basic premise is to teach basic rehearsed movement patterns under force and then increase the complexity of these movements under force and then transfer them into reactionary non-rehearsed movement patterns. Most of these steps are ignored and instead the focus is only on rehearsed movement patterns performed under conditions of low force such as agility ladders etc.

To start there are 3 main facets to agility development. These are:

1. Positioning- Before you can perform a movement you have to be able to get into the proper position. This requires the right amount of flexibility and muscular balance.

2. Strength qualities- Most agile movement patterns generate tremendous forces. In order to change direction quickly, stop on a dime etc. you have to have enough strength to absorb and react to the forces. Having quick feet requires the ability to rapidly and reflexively turn your system off and on very quickly. If you are too weak then you won't be able to absorb the force whenever you change direction. If you're too tight then you won't be able to move your hips correctly to get in proper position. If you can't move your feet quickly just standing in place then you can't be expected to move them quickly under conditions of force lke when you have to change direction quickly and cut. Specific drills and training will build up the various strength qualities required depending on what's needed.

Before you learn a move or skill you have to have the necessary physical qualities to perform that skill. Once those things have been addressed then you can work on everything else.

3. Rehearsal- If the qualities are there then the potential is there to perform the movement. All that's left is the rehearsal. First you will learn the movement through programmable controlled conditions and then transfer it into a non-programmable reflex.

Boxing and martial arts are good examples of how I started teaching agility for other sports and it works very effectively. Anyone who has ever trained under a traditional martial arts instructor or seen the karate kid will be able to identify with a lot of this. First, learn the movement perfectly under control without an opponent. Then work the movement with an opponent under controlled conditions. No room for error here. The movement or movement pattern must be crisp, precise, and effortless with no wasted movement.

Next, integrate the movement pattern into non-predictable game type reactionary conditions. For example if a defensive player is heavy on his feet and can't cover properly I will give him a specific drill and have him do the correct footwork...backpedal, turn, cut etc. all with smooth feet. I will watch and see what strength factor is holding him back and give him specific drills that will indirectly address and correct this. Then I will build up his strength and movement capacities so that he can perform the drill 100% correctly in a programmable fashion. Over time, as proficiency improves, we will increase the level of forces and/or speed dealt with in the drills.

The last and most important thing is I will have him do the same thing with an opponent. It's kind've like learning how to box or training in the martial arts and then being thrown in the ring against an opponent. A lot of folks look really good hitting a bag or practicing but look like crap when you throw them in the ring. But give them enough practice time and the gap between their "programmed ability", or what they do in practice, and their "game time" ability, or what they do when they don't have time to think about things - will close. There must be enough repetition and proficiency to make reactionary non-programmed movements entirely reflexive.

I have seen MANY guys get good at agility drills and have terrible agility on the football field. What most people ignore is that one must not only practice and get feedback on the programmable drills but also practice against an opponent and get consistent feedback on this non-programmable aspect. It's a training process like anything else.

Q: Just a quick question for you. I'm 43 years young 5'10" 155lbs. thin build started working out worked out hard took all my suppl. gained 20lbs in 8 weeks. awesome. had a set back and couldn't work out for 6 months lost everything. now I'm starting over. I'll do the same routine I did before but, I was reading about 1ad and select 300 can I stack that with methyl 1 from ids? and should I buy a few bottles cause I heard they where going to banned it.

A: Aren't there enough supplement forums out there where you can go post this question? Ok I'll answer your question anyway. 1AD is a precursor to 1-test and methyl-1 is a methylated version of 1-test. It would be useless to stack 1-AD with methyl-1. Why supplement with a precursor when you're already taking something more powerful then what the precursor converts into? In fact I don't think anything should be stacked with methyl-1-test.

Q: As i understood the most effective way to progress in explosiveness is to develop both "speed" and "strength" while keeping them balanced . Therefore i'd like to ask you if you can suggest me some kind of test thet could let me know what is exactly my "weak spot" so that i could balance my self before moving on in training.The thing is, I'm now at a 30-31" vertical standing and I've been stuck for like 2-3 months already, i thought I maxxed out my power off my strength but somebody told me to do depth jumps test to find my weakness. Although I haven't tried it yet, from my past experience, my depth jumps have never been higher than regular vertical jumps. And according to that guy who told me to do that, it meant that i need to improve reactivity, kinda like power work, but josh(i think u know him) told me I'm lack of strength, pretty confusing me.

A: If your depth jumps even from a very low box height (<12 inches) are lower then your standing jumps then you lack explosiveness and reactivity.

Q: I feel that I have some reserve left for improvement in my one leg, 36 inch vert. I think there is room for development, but what should be the main focus involving the one leg jumping? You know that this is primarely a plyometric-based jump, but what should I do to get it better. Are there big differences between training for 2-leg vert and 1-leg vert?

Also, talking about the "elastic jumper" - the term "elastic" goes up and tells me you need to be very flexible for a good 1 leg vert. You know Michael Jordan did ballet (or some moves anyway) and I'm well aware of the flexibility part involved in this. What kind of stretches do you recommend and when to do them. I would like some real-life examples instead of going into terms like PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) and stuff like that. I'm not very sure about how to stretch certain body parts yet since no one has really shown interest explaining this. Instead, all guys come and say "stretch your hips" and "stretch your calves" and etc.

A: First off, yes there is a slight difference in training for the unilateral vs bilateral jump (1-leg vs 2-leg). The one leg jump requires more landing power and reactivity and not so much raw voluntary power. The main thing with a 1-leg jump is being able to absorb the forces from the plant and let mother nature reflexively take care of the rest. Think about it. The best uni-lateral jumps feel and sound effortless. That's because the force exerted in a uni-lateral jump is nearly all reflexive or involuntary.

In contrast, the 2-leg jump requires that you voluntarily put out a lot more force. I also strongly believe that the hips and hamstrings are much more active in the unilateral jump although this is not something I've seen verified yet by science, just an observation. That means the one-leg jump will require more ability to stabilize force in the glutes, and hamstrings and obviously also the the plantar flexors (calves). The bilateral jump will require more explosive force from the quadriceps. Other then that the training shouldn't be much different. You need a base of strength followed by the ability to absorb negative force, followed by the ability to react out of the forces.

Exercises I'd include for a focus on a uni-lateral jump would include reactive reverse hypers and glute hams, one-legged drop jump landings, and one legged hops.

As for flexibility think of your tendons as a rubber band. Take a thin flexible rubber band and pull it back and let it fly. Now take a big thick rubber band and pull it back and let it fly. Which one flew further and with more power? The thick one did. Your tendons contribute in a big way to your reactive power and they are much the same way. The stiffer the tendon the greater the reactivity. For this reason you need enough muscular flexibility to get into position but too much focus on flexibility will also make your tendons and connective tissue more flexible like the lighter rubber band which is a bad thing. So too much flexibility is just as bad as too little and ballerinas, contortionists etc. do have extreme flexibility that is not conducive to explosive power. But if you don't have any muscular flexibility you won't be able to move through a full range of motion and get into the right position to gather any force at all.

The important thing with flexibility is range of motion and muscular balance. You need optimum range of motion not excessive range of motion. You also want to have the agonistic and antagonistic musclesbalanced in their flexibility. In other words, you want the flexibility between the pushing and pulling muscles that move a joint to be balanced. Using the lower body as an example, the hamstrings and quadriceps flexibility should be balanced as should the hip flexors and hip extensors. Most have tight hamstrings and hip flexors so stretching these muscle groups helps balance the body allowing all the muscle groups to function better. Few people in common explosive oriented sports need to worry about becoming too flexible but don't think flexibility is going to turn you into a superstar. As for specific stretches you can find a host of them at http://www.exrx.net

Q:What's your opinion of the Vertimax for speed and vertical jump development?

I have never used one personally. Most of the gimmicks I've seen that promise to be the only training tool needed are nearly completely worthless but if they give you some excitement and motivation to train then you'll probably find them at least somewhat effective.

The real effectiveness of a training program is normally inversely proportional to the amount of fancy gimmicks used in that program. Having said that taking an honest look at the vertimax, the speed version will most likely destroy running mechanics. The vertical jump version might be good for people who's limiting factor is strength. Not so good for people who's limiting factor is speed. On all these versions the resistance increases the higher up you go off the mat. This is OK for additional force development but it causes movement speed to be slower where it normally would be faster thus possibly resulting in decreased plyometric firing.