The guide to improving COD abilities - part 1

Agility in sports is a complex matter. People talk about fast footwork, impressive speed, reaction speed, etc. But what do they actually mean? And even more difficult, how can you improve your players’ agility? 

Luckily, at Ledsreact, we know a lot about agility. We are here to make agility training tangible and accessible to you. 

As we have discussed in our article about the 4 elements that determine agility, agility clearly has a cognitive aspect. While the cognitive elements are crucial, in this series we will zoom in on the physical part of agility, i.e. change of direction abilities (or COD). 

The importance of COD abilities

There is no doubt that the ability to change direction or velocity quickly in sports is crucial. Whether you’re trying not to be intercepted by a defender in ‘contact sports’ such as football, hockey or basketball, or you’re constantly changing direction to play a ball in a ‘non-contact’ sports, such as tennis or volleyball - it’s crucial to execute these ‘short bursts’ as quickly as possible.

Here are some stats to  indicate the importance: 

  • In elite female basketball, players change direction on average 576 times (Conte et al., 2015)
  • Almost 60% of all movements in basketball occur in the 1-5 m distance range (Conte et al., 2015)
  • In tennis, the total distance covered per rally is about 5.5 m (Pereira et al., 2016)
  • Even more astonishing, 79% of all movements in tennis were between 0 and 7 km/h (Pereira et al., 2016)

It’s safe to say that in most sports, players have to frequently do very short bursts on a small surface. In the sports mentioned above, athletes almost never hit full speed. 

In fact, straight sprinting speed does not even correlate with COD speed (Little & Williams, 2005). So you don’t need to be a Usain Bolt to excel in agility. While good sprinters have a great ability to accelerate straight, they don’t always have the same ability to decelerate, which is needed if you want to quickly change direction. Usain Bolt might even have low COD abilities, who knows? 

What determines COD?

According to scientific research, the key elements determining COD abilities are leg muscle qualities, technique and coordination, straight sprinting speed, and morphology

Sounds complicated? It is. But don’t worry, we are about to make it more simple and tangible. The goal is that, no matter which level of players you are working with, you can improve their COD abilities after this series. In this article, we will zoom in on leg muscle qualities. In the upcoming posts of this series, we will also discuss the other elements. Stay tuned by subscribing below this blog post. 


Concentric, eccentric and isometric strength

A COD action consists of 3 phases: the acceleration phase, the deceleration phase and a transition phase. Put simply, these 3 phases relate to concentric strength, eccentric strength and isometric strength.

A 2015 study (Spiteri et al.) showed that concentric strength has a positive impact on COD ability. In the acceleration phase, maximum and explosive strength abilities are critical. Thus, increasing concentric leg strength will improve the speed of the first steps, whether you’re initiating the movement from a starting position or changing direction. 

If a player wants to change direction, he needs to slow down first (i.e. the deceleration phase). Athletes who are stronger eccentrically have a faster transition between braking and accelerating (Spiteri et al., 2015).

Between the acceleration and deceleration, there’s also a transition phase. This phase mainly relies on isometric strength abilities (Spiteri et al., 2015). The higher the athlete's isometric strength, the better he will be able to maintain his body in place during a COD action, which is important when you’re fighting against momentum, with it pushing you one way and you wanting to go the other way.

While concentric exercises are traditionally very often included in training schedules, eccentric and isometric aren’t. So it’s crucial to not only prioritize the concentric phase. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to isolate each phase and train them separately. Unless you’re a pro and you see that a player is lacking a specific kind of strength.

Pro tip: research acknowledges the importance of unilateral strength to improve COD ability, so it’s important to add unilateral exercises to your training. 

Reactive strength

Lastly, reactive strength plays a critical role in COD abilities (Young et al., 2002). This is the ability to produce more force in a shorter extension-contraction period (e.g. bouncing higher back after landing). When performing any type of explosive movement, there is usually a rapid eccentric movement, followed by an explosive concentric movement. You can compare it to an elastic that you bring under tension and then release.

Reactive strength can be trained by performing plyometric exercises - exercises involving short ground contact times and minimal flexion hips and knees. The most simple example is ‘reactive hops or jumps’, during which you jump and bounce back as quickly as possible, minimizing the ground contact time. 

Pro tip: performing pre-conditioning reactive hops during the game warmup can augment jump height and peak power during the game.

Training COD at any level

Whether you’re working with professional athletes, players that go to the gym in their free time, or players that never go to the gym, there is always a way to improve COD abilities. 

We are happy to listen to your situation and give you concrete tips to improve COD abilities that fit in the schedule of you and your players. If that sounds interesting, or you have other topics that you want to see covered, reach out via contact@ledsreact.be. We might dedicate a video or article related to your topic.  

The guide to improving COD abilities - part 1

Agility in sports is a complex matter. People talk about fast footwork, impressive speed, reaction speed, etc. But what do they actually mean? And even more difficult, how can you improve your players’ agility? 

Luckily, at Ledsreact, we know a lot about agility. We are here to make agility training tangible and accessible to you. 

As we have discussed in our article about the 4 elements that determine agility, agility clearly has a cognitive aspect. While the cognitive elements are crucial, in this series we will zoom in on the physical part of agility, i.e. change of direction abilities (or COD). 

The importance of COD abilities

There is no doubt that the ability to change direction or velocity quickly in sports is crucial. Whether you’re trying not to be intercepted by a defender in ‘contact sports’ such as football, hockey or basketball, or you’re constantly changing direction to play a ball in a ‘non-contact’ sports, such as tennis or volleyball - it’s crucial to execute these ‘short bursts’ as quickly as possible.

Here are some stats to  indicate the importance: 

  • In elite female basketball, players change direction on average 576 times (Conte et al., 2015)
  • Almost 60% of all movements in basketball occur in the 1-5 m distance range (Conte et al., 2015)
  • In tennis, the total distance covered per rally is about 5.5 m (Pereira et al., 2016)
  • Even more astonishing, 79% of all movements in tennis were between 0 and 7 km/h (Pereira et al., 2016)

It’s safe to say that in most sports, players have to frequently do very short bursts on a small surface. In the sports mentioned above, athletes almost never hit full speed. 

In fact, straight sprinting speed does not even correlate with COD speed (Little & Williams, 2005). So you don’t need to be a Usain Bolt to excel in agility. While good sprinters have a great ability to accelerate straight, they don’t always have the same ability to decelerate, which is needed if you want to quickly change direction. Usain Bolt might even have low COD abilities, who knows? 

What determines COD?

According to scientific research, the key elements determining COD abilities are leg muscle qualities, technique and coordination, straight sprinting speed, and morphology

Sounds complicated? It is. But don’t worry, we are about to make it more simple and tangible. The goal is that, no matter which level of players you are working with, you can improve their COD abilities after this series. In this article, we will zoom in on leg muscle qualities. In the upcoming posts of this series, we will also discuss the other elements. Stay tuned by subscribing below this blog post. 


Concentric, eccentric and isometric strength

A COD action consists of 3 phases: the acceleration phase, the deceleration phase and a transition phase. Put simply, these 3 phases relate to concentric strength, eccentric strength and isometric strength.

A 2015 study (Spiteri et al.) showed that concentric strength has a positive impact on COD ability. In the acceleration phase, maximum and explosive strength abilities are critical. Thus, increasing concentric leg strength will improve the speed of the first steps, whether you’re initiating the movement from a starting position or changing direction. 

If a player wants to change direction, he needs to slow down first (i.e. the deceleration phase). Athletes who are stronger eccentrically have a faster transition between braking and accelerating (Spiteri et al., 2015).

Between the acceleration and deceleration, there’s also a transition phase. This phase mainly relies on isometric strength abilities (Spiteri et al., 2015). The higher the athlete's isometric strength, the better he will be able to maintain his body in place during a COD action, which is important when you’re fighting against momentum, with it pushing you one way and you wanting to go the other way.

While concentric exercises are traditionally very often included in training schedules, eccentric and isometric aren’t. So it’s crucial to not only prioritize the concentric phase. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to isolate each phase and train them separately. Unless you’re a pro and you see that a player is lacking a specific kind of strength.

Pro tip: research acknowledges the importance of unilateral strength to improve COD ability, so it’s important to add unilateral exercises to your training. 

Reactive strength

Lastly, reactive strength plays a critical role in COD abilities (Young et al., 2002). This is the ability to produce more force in a shorter extension-contraction period (e.g. bouncing higher back after landing). When performing any type of explosive movement, there is usually a rapid eccentric movement, followed by an explosive concentric movement. You can compare it to an elastic that you bring under tension and then release.

Reactive strength can be trained by performing plyometric exercises - exercises involving short ground contact times and minimal flexion hips and knees. The most simple example is ‘reactive hops or jumps’, during which you jump and bounce back as quickly as possible, minimizing the ground contact time. 

Pro tip: performing pre-conditioning reactive hops during the game warmup can augment jump height and peak power during the game.

Training COD at any level

Whether you’re working with professional athletes, players that go to the gym in their free time, or players that never go to the gym, there is always a way to improve COD abilities. 

We are happy to listen to your situation and give you concrete tips to improve COD abilities that fit in the schedule of you and your players. If that sounds interesting, or you have other topics that you want to see covered, reach out via contact@ledsreact.be. We might dedicate a video or article related to your topic.  

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