According to Cambridge Dictionary, coordination is “the ability of your arms, legs, and other body parts to move in a controlled way.” This is when multiple body parts work together at the same time to complete a task.
For athletes, coordination is crucial to improve their training performance and achieving consistently better results. For example, a footballer needs coordination to run from one end of the field to another while avoiding his opponents and catching the football. The same goes for a tennis player practicing her backhand or a boxer dodging a direct hit.
While exercises that enhance conditioning, endurance, mobility, strength, and muscle-building are all important, coordination training shouldn’t be overlooked.
Why is Coordination Training Important for Athletes?
Coordination training helps with many aspects of athletes’ health and wellbeing. It improves their technique and form, enhances their mood and mental health, and combats the risk of injury down the line.
As a foundation for many sports activities, coordination exercises can:
- Help to build more muscle
- Increase daily energy levels
- Improve agility and flexibility
- Enhance concentration and memory
- Stimulate the release of endorphins (called happy hormones)
Essentially, for a well-rounded performance and better results, it’s essential for athletes to exercise their balance, control, and coordination.
With that said, let’s look at five coordination exercises that can help improve your training, performance, and overall fitness.
5 Coordination Exercises to Include in Your Programming
1. Ball or Balloon Toss
Catch and bump a balloon back and forth using your hands, head, and other body parts. Since the balloon floats slowly, you can change the angles to make the exercise a little unpredictable. If you’re working with a trainer or exercise partner, try facing different directions or standing further apart for added difficulty.
For a little more challenge, use a small ball (like a tennis or table tennis ball) which allows for faster speed. Ask your partner to switch up the angles, speeds, and throwing patterns as they toss the ball to you. This hand-eye coordination drill helps rehearse the way you think and react quickly to the variations.
If you’re training alone, consider doing the ball toss from different orientations – while lying on your back, in a squat, or lunge positions – to get the most out of the drill. Doing this adds mobility to your coordination training, enhances your balance, and reduces the risk of injury.
2. Jump Rope
This classic coordination exercise works to synchronize your hand-foot-eye movements.
Start off by hopping from one foot to the other or slowly running in place. Gradually progress to criss-cross jumps, two-foot hops, or even a faster speed when you’ve found your rhythm. Also, try to keep your rope at a steady pace if you’re working on your footwork to minimize pain and injury.
Essentially, jumping rope is not just an excellent drill that improves your hand-eye coordination. It also works on your foot speed, teaching you to maintain control and rhythm when you’re fatigued.
3. Balance Exercises
An essential part of your coordination training is balance. This ability to perform static movements helps you perform a wide range of bodily activities, including walking, squatting, and pressing overhead.
Begin by standing on both feet. Then slowly lift one leg as high as your hip to create a 90-degree angle. You’ll begin to feel shaky, but try to keep it there as long as possible. Remember, the longer you can maintain your balance, the better you’re improving your coordination.
For added challenge, have a dumbbell on each hand as you shift your weight to one leg. When you raise one foot off the ground, press the weights (in your opposite hand) overhead. Try to do 10-12 reps before switching to the other leg.
4. Target Exercises
One of the staple drills for hand-eye coordination is called target practice. Though it looks easy, it’s actually a really complex and challenging task of aiming and throwing at a target.
Start by standing close to a target and hitting it accurately. Slowly progress by moving further away from the target. For added difficulty level, try to aim at your targets from different angles instead of just a straight line (or directly in front). You might also want to try facing back, quickly turning, then aiming for the target.
Another option to improve your hand-eye coordination is to throw objects through an opening. You can use hoops, rings, or items with small to large openings as your visual target. Essentially, the further you are or the smaller the opening, the higher the difficulty level is – but better that means it’s even better for your coordination training.
5. Juggling and Dribbling
They may look simple, but juggling and dribbling are hand-eye coordination drills that help develop your control, rhythm, and timing.
When juggling, begin with just two balls and motioning slow circles. Once you’ve found your pace, you can add in a third ball – which, when you’re not fully focused, can make you lose your speed and rhythm.
Similarly, dribbling will train you to concentrate on the ball, maintain your speed, and keep the right angles. You have many options to try – dribbling with one hand, two hands back and forth, various speeds, further or closer to the ground, and other tricks you may know. While this requires a good amount of time and practice, this coordination exercise helps improve your hand-eye movements.
Whether you’re looking to achieve better form, prevent injuries and pain, improve training performance, or you have another goal entirely, these coordination exercises can benefit your overall health and wellbeing.
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