How to Build Muscle But Not Lose Agility

Plyometric exercise builds leg muscles while improving agility.

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Athletic performance and the activities of daily living have something in common: They both require the ability to react swiftly and efficiently to external forces. Coaches call this agility. Agility demands equal measures of power, precision and mobility. Power comes with muscular development, but too much muscle restricts mobility and interferes with agility. If your fitness goals include increasing lean muscle mass while maintaining or enhancing agility, step away from the exercise machines, and add kettlebell medicine ball and plyometric training to your workouts.

Kettlebell Clean and Jerk


Place the kettlebell on the floor, and straddle it with your feet slightly wider apart than shoulder-width.


Bend your knees, lower your hips and squat down with one arm extended downward between your legs. Grasp the kettlebell with an overhand grip.


Pull the kettlebell up from the floor by extending your hips and knees. Bend your elbow and bring the kettlebell to your shoulder.


Jump up as you straighten your arm into an overhead press. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Do five reps on each side. Kettlebell cleans increase muscular strength in your lower body, as well as the muscles of your core, shoulders, biceps and triceps. This exercise requires accurate timing, control and precision, which in turn enhances agility.

Pushup Sequence


Kneel on a mat with your feet together and your toes curled under. Reach forward and place your palms on the sides of a medicine ball. Straighten your legs to a plank or pushup position.


Tighten your abs and glutes to stabilize your spine, then bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the ball. Do eight reps, then put the ball aside.


Go back into the pushup position. Bend your elbows to lower your chest into the pushup.


Straighten your arms explosively, allowing your hands to momentarily leave the floor. Begin the next rep immediately. Do eight reps.


Kneel on an exercise mat, about three feet away from a wall.


Hold a weighted medicine ball with your elbows bent at chest height.


Extend your arms as you hinge forward, tossing the ball against the wall. Catch it on the rebound and repeat. Do 10 reps. This pushup sequence builds the muscles of your chest, back triceps and core. The unpredictable movement patterns of the ball, combined with the fast reaction times required by the plyometric pushup, enhance agility.

Things Needed

  • Kettlebells
  • Medicine ball
  • Exercise mat


  • Before performing any of these exercises, warm up for five minutes with active flexibility exercises, including shoulder rotations, butt kicks and knee lifts.
  • Since athletic performance is based on coordinated movement patterns, compound exercises, such as squats, lunges and pushups, are better for maintaining agility than muscle isolation exercises.
  • Athletes should work on increasing muscle mass during the off-season and the early preseason, writes Michele A. Macedonio and Marie Dunford, authors of "The Athlete's Guide to Making Weight."
  • For added muscle development, integrate these exercises with traditional resistance training exercise. The kettle clean follows the leg press, and the pushup sequence follows the bench press.
  • Perform these exercises three times a week, allowing 48 hours between sessions.


  • Check with your doctor if you have joint or tendon injuries.
  • Use enough weight on the kettlebells and medicine balls to add resistance, but not so much weight that you distort proper movement patterns.