Best Agility Exercises for Athletes

Use agility drills to develop sports speed and coordination

All athletes can benefit from these agility drills to help improve coordination, speed, power, and specific sports skill. Use these drills to perfect your foot speed and refine your sports technique.

Lateral Plyometric Jumps

John Morris and Todd Carney jump hurdles during a Cronulla Sharks NRL training session at Sharks Stadium on April 8, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.
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Lateral plyometric jumps help build dynamic power, coordination, and balance by using just an athlete's body weight. This advanced exercise is a must for any athlete that needs lateral power and coordination. Start small, and slowly build up the height of the barrier. This exercise should only be performed after a thorough warm up.

Speed Ladder Agility Drills

shuttle run side
shuttle run side.

The speed ladder is a simple piece of portable equipment that can be used to perform the following agility drills:

  • Forward Running, High-Knee Drill: This drill is great for improving foot speed and coordination for all field sport athletes. Run with high knees forward through the ladder, touching every ladder space. Land on the balls of the feet and drive forward with your arms.
  • Lateral Running, Side-to-Side Drill: The lateral movement of this drill is great for court-sports and improves knee and ankle stability as well. Keep a low center of gravity and step side-to-side through the ladder one foot at a time. Touch in each rung of the ladder with both feet. Land on the balls of the feet and repeat right to left and left to right.

Dot Drills

Man doing agility test
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Dot Drills develop dynamic leg strength and increase knee and ankle strength and stability. This is a great agility drill for anyone who plays field or racket sports or those who need to make quick changes of direction and landings, such as skiers and basketball players.

How to Do Dot Drills:

  • Use a Dot Drill Mat or place small "X" marks with tape in on the ground in a pattern of a Five on a Dice.
  • Begin with a warm up and jump from dot to dot with both feet at a time.
  • Progress to one foot hopping and follow a specific jump pattern.

Plyometric Jump Box Drills

Box Jumps
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Plyometric box jump drills are a great way to build explosive power and foot speed. The most common plyometric box drill includes hops, jumps, and bounding movements. Another popular plyometric box drill is jumping off one box and rebounding off the floor and onto another, higher box. These exercises typically increase speed and strength and build power.

Forward - Backward Sprints

woman runner at starting line
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Sprint training is a sure way to develop foot speed and agility for any athlete who needs explosive speed and quickness.

How to Do Forward - Backward Sprints

  • Set up two markers about 10 yards apart.
  • After a good warm-up, sprint forward from the first cone to the far cone.
  • Stop at the far cone and run or jog backward to the start.
  • Stop and quickly accelerate in a sprint back to the far cone.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Plyometric Agility Hurdles

Lateral Plyometric Jumps
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Athletes often use plyometric jumping exercises to build power and speed, improve coordination and agility, and effectively improve sports performance. Using a set of small hurdles for bounding on one or both feet can improve agility and foot speed in any field sport athlete.

How to Use Plyometric Agility Hurdles

  • Set up several small agility hurdles at 2-feet increments.
  • Start with legs shoulder-width apart, jump upward and forward to clear each hurdle landing lightly on the balls of the feet.
  • Immediately upon landing, jump again, driving forward with your arms.
  • Repeat several repetitions.
  • Repeat the drill on only the right foot and then only the left foot.
  • As you improve, move the hurdles farther apart.

Tuck Jumps

Plyometric Tuck Jumps
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Tuck jumps are simple drills that improve agility and power.

How to Do Tuck Jumps:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Bend your knees and powerfully jump straight up, bringing your knees toward your chest while in midair.
  • Grasp your knees quickly with your arms and let go.
  • Upon landing, immediately repeat the next jump.

Stair Running

Stair running workout
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While not technically an agility drill, running stairs is a great way to develop quickness and foot speed while getting an excellent interval workout.

Running stairs provides a cardiovascular benefit similar to that of running and is a great way to build sprint power. Many athletes train at a stadium of a local outdoor stairway with about 100 steps.

Begin by walking one step at a time. Avoid running stairs on your first workout or you may experience delayed muscle soreness. Do no more than two-stair workouts a week. By week three you can begin running, perhaps two steps at a time. Use the return to the bottom as your rest interval, and then do another set. Work up to about 10 sets per workout.

Shuttle Runs

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The shuttle run is a standard agility and speed drill used by athletes who play stop-and-go sports such as soccer, hockey, basketball, and tennis.

How to Do the Shuttle Run:

  • Set up a source with two markers about 25 yards apart.
  • Sprint from one marker to the other and back. That's one repetition.
  • There are a variety of different ways to do the shuttle run, including side-to-side runs, forward-backward runs, and forward-touch-return runs.

The shuttle run is an easy way to add some high-intensity drills into a basic exercise program while you build speed, stamina, and endurance.