How to Do a T Drill

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Soccer players performing warm up drills on field
The Good Brigade / Getty Images

Also Known As: Agility T drill, T drill test

Targets: Lower body

Equipment Needed: Cones

Level: Advanced

The T drill is an exercise that challenges your cardiovascular system while training the muscles in the lower body. The side-to-side movement is particularly effective for training the gluteus medius, but the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius (calves) and soleus (shins) are also active.

Agility exercises like the T drill include quick movements that raise your heart rate, challenge balance and coordination, and can improve speed and athletic performance, especially in certain types of sports such as soccer or football.

Benefits

Including the T drill into your workouts or sports training provides several different benefits.

Improves Agility

Exercise physiologists use the acronym "SARQ" to describe drills like the T drill, zig-zags, and agility ladder training. SARQ stands for speed, agility, reactivity, and quickness. Exercises that require you to change body position and sprint in different directions train your body and your brain to be quick and responsive.

For this reason, SARQ drills are commonly included in programs for athletes in sports such as volleyball, basketball, and football to boost performance. The quick movements mimic the skills required during competition.

Better Sports Assessment

Research indicates that coaches and trainers use activities like the T drill to evaluate and select players for certain sports, like soccer. For example authors of one study on female soccer players wrote that in addition to ball-handling drills, these tests are important for evaluating integrative agility and skill capability. Players need to be tested on their ability to perform change-of-direction, acceleration, deceleration, forward and backward sprinting. All of these movements are included in the T drill.

Improved Engagement

Workouts that include SARQ-type drills also boost engagement by forcing your body to interact with equipment, other participants, and/or your physical surroundings. For example, boot camp workouts and playground-style workouts can include the T drill with cones, agility ladder drills, rope exercises, heavy tire lifting, and other equipment-based drills. They are popular in gyms around the country because time flies when your brain is engaged. In fact, studies have shown that this type of workout encourages adherence to an exercise program.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Before you try this or any exercise, you should be in good health. Always seek the guidance of your healthcare provider if you are new to exercise or if you are coming back to exercise after an injury, illness, pregnancy. You can also work with a qualified fitness trainer to get form tips and exercise advice.

To set up for the T drill, you will need four cones and a large area with a flat, non-slip surface. If you don't have cones you can mark four locations with tape, dumbbells, or other objects. Arrange the cones in a T shape. There should be three cones in one line, each 5 yards apart from each other. The fourth cone should be placed 10 yards behind the middle cone.

Start standing at the base of the T (in front of that fourth cone).

  1. Sprint forward towards the middle cone.
  2. Shuffle to the left until you reach the cone on the far left.
  3. Shuffle to the right, passing the middle cone, until you reach the cone on the far right.
  4. Shuffle to the left until you reach the middle cone.
  5. Stay facing forward and shuffle backward until you reach your starting point.

Repeat the sequence several times, trying to maintain a quick pace and fast feet.

Common Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes to look for when doing the T drill.

Wrong Body Position

You should start and stay in an "athlete-ready" stance throughout this drill. Knees are bent and the upper body leans slightly forward with arms bent by your sides. This body position allows you to be ready for quick directional changes. If you stand up tall, it will take more time to move around the T.

Full Stops

Directional changes should happen very quickly. When you shuffle side to side, get your body to the cone and go. There is no need to fully stop. Keep the feet moving and sprint through each segment as fast as you can.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

The lateral shuffle, backward shuffle, and quick direction changes can be challenging for some people.

To make it easier, eliminate the side shuffle and the backward run and replace them with a basic run. Sprint forward from the base of the T, then run around the middle cone and towards the left cone. Run around the left cone and run forward to the far right cone. Run around the right cone back the middle cone. Turn towards the base of the T and run back to your starting point.

One this becomes comfortable, add the side-to-side shuffle, but keep the backward shuffle out. Once you've mastered the side-to-side shuffle, finally add the backward shuffle in.

Up for a Challenge?

There are different ways to add variations to the T drill to make it harder.

Cone Touch

When you shuffle left, touch the far left cone with your right hand, or the ground near the far left cone (which is harder). Then shuffle right and touch the cone or the ground on the far right. You'll notice that having to lower your body at each cone puts more emphasis on the quads and glutes. You'll also notice that it forces you to stay in a low, crouched athletic position as you move from cone to cone,

Carioca T Drill

You can replace the side shuffle with a carioca foot pattern. Carioca helps you to develop quick nimble feet and can help to warm up the hips for better hip rotation. Runners often do quick feet carioca drills at the beginning of a running workout.

To do carioca, move laterally to the left by crossing your right foot in front of the left, then behind the left. Continue the foot pattern with quick feet as it you are stepping on hot coals. Your hips and torso will rotate slightly in both directions to accommodate the cross-cross foot pattern. Reverse the pattern to the right by crossing the left foot in front of the right and then behind the right.

To incorporate a carioca into your T drill, start at the base of the T. Run forward to the middle cone. Carioca to the far left cone. Reverse directions and carioca past the middle cone to the far right. Change directions again and carioca to the middle cone. Stay facing forward and shuffle backward to the starting point.

Plyo T Drill

Add a plyometric move at the beginning of each T drill. Before sprinting forward to the first cone, complete 2–4 lateral jumps over the cone at the base of the T.

Partner T Drill

Take turns doing T drills with a partner. When one partner is completing the drill, the other one stands at the top of the T and yells instructions indicating the direction of travel. For example, you run forward to the center cone. At the last minute before you approach the center cone, your partner yells "Right!" indicating that you need to side shuffle to the right first. After moving in both directions, your partner may yell "Back!" to shuffle back to the starting point or they may yell another direction to indicate that you need to do another set of lateral shuffles.

The challenge is for you to stay alert and ready to respond and change directions very quickly.

Agility Ladder T-Drill

You can also use an agility ladder for the base of the T. To set up this variation, lay the agility in front of you. Place one cone about a yard in front of the top of the ladder, one five yards to the right and one five yards to the left.

Now instead of sprinting forward, use quick feet and step in and out of each box of the ladder. At the top, stay facing forward and shuffle to the left. At the far left cone, change directions and shuffle to the right, past the middle cone, and to the far right cone. Shuffle back to the middle cone. Remain facing forward and shuffle backward (on the outside of the ladder) to your starting position.

T Drill Test

If you incorporate the T drill into your workouts on a regular basis, challenge yourself to do it in less time. Exercise experts have established some goal times that you can target to improve over time. One study indicated that when young, male, Turkish amateur and professional soccer players were tested, their time for the T drill ranged between 8m:55s and 10m:53s.

Another commonly used rating system provides several categories and time ranges.

T Drill Test Times*
Excellent Above Average Average Below Average Poor
< 10:00 10:01– 10:13 10:14 –10:37 10:38–10:67 >10:38
(*times are listed in seconds)

Safety and Precautions

You should have healthy knees, ankles, and feet to do the T drill or any other agility drill. You should also be sure that you are on a non-slip surface. Consider doing these drills on grass or even on sand (which will make the directional changes and sprints much harder). Indoor gymnasiums also have non-slip floors that are safe for these drills.

Try It Out

Incorporate the T drill into any of these workouts.

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Article Sources
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