6 drills for a more athletic body

The secret to more power, speed and agility, from Tier 3 trainer Rachel Mariotti.

An athletic body isn’t determined by points per game or yards rushed, alone. “The definition of an athlete is a person trained in movement involving physical agility, stamina and/or strength,” says New York City-based Tier 3 trainer and Precision Running coach Rachel Mariotti.

No matter your training goal, the absolute best way to get there is by building a more athletic body, and specifically, by using athletic drills. “These moves require balance and power, plus they promote strength, activation, mobility, agility, and explosiveness,” she says. “Why do them? To exercise the synergy between your physical body and your mind, which means you’re able to focus and activate certain muscles to perform a move effectively and safely. To function at a higher level. To move more swiftly and easily through life.” In other words, to be (truly) athletic.

The drills Mariotti demonstrates should not be done as a comprehensive set. Instead, you should (strategically) add one or two to whatever workout you’ll be doing that particular day. “Think about the movement pattern or exercises you plan to do that day,” she says. “The mini band walks are a perfect prep for squats and deadlifts. The plyometrics and jumps should be performed at the beginning of a workout, introducing only one kind of jump at a time. The lateral agility drills can be part of a strength circuit, while the Animal Flow kick-throughs can be mixed in pretty much anywhere, but ideally not on a heavy upper-body day.”

In the slideshow, Mariotti breaks down her six favorite athletic drills, sharing the science and the strategies for incorporating them into your existing regimen. In her own words:

1. Mini Band Monster Walks

"This drill targets your glutes and hips, which are always in need of strength. There are over 25 muscles that are responsible for hip movement. Think of the band walks as more functional movement and activation for bigger, more complex movements such as deep squats or box jumps. Many athletes use the mini bands to not only strengthen the intricate muscles surrounding the hip, but also for muscle activation in prep for heavy lifts. The mini bands can help runners improve their running gait, jumpers’ force production for verticals, and give more balance to the hips for more accurate, safe, and strong side-to-side movement."

2. Weighted Box Jump

"The box jump trains fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment for increased explosiveness and performance. Adding weight makes the box jump more challenging and requires more power."

3. Animal Flow Kick-Through

"This complex move, which is part of the Animal Flow training by Mike Fitch, requires a high level of shoulder, hip, and core stability, mobility, and flexibility. I like to look at the animal flow kick-throughs as a way to wake up my body, to open up and warm up the major joint complexes (hip and shoulder), as well as activate the core (the muscles around the spine). The kick-throughs can be used as a dynamic warmup, or actively stretching through movement."

4. Lateral High-Knee Drills

"Changing direction and relying on single-leg strength is at the essence of many athletic-style conditioning regimens. This drill develops agility and gets other muscles involved, i.e. gluteus medius and abductors, which are life-savers when changing directions at a rapid rate. This relates strongly to the conditioning of soccer, football, tennis and basketball athletes."

5. Bulgarian Split Squat Hop

"This drill develops balance and control in the hips and ankle of the standing foot, provides even more activation of the glute muscles and range of motion in the hip joint as does a standard squat, and also limits spinal compression. It is an effective way to build strength in each leg. Adding weight and adding a jump at the top of the squat, like the box jump, requires more power and more balance for the land."

6. Plyo Push-Up

"I was a competitive gymnast for ten years, so plyometric training, especially in the upper body, is in my blood. If push-ups are too boring for you, try pushing off the ground fast and powerful enough to lift your body off the ground. This exercise turns on the ability to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. The plyo push-up teaches you how to handle the eccentric forces in preparation for exploding up off the ground. It also, like many of the other drills in this set, utilizes strength paired with speed, which is an element of all sports and athletic conditioning."

Photography by Anais & Dax; Art Direction by Ashley Hord