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The Best Agility Drills
Agility is important for athletes from many sports. Your agility can help you catch a touchdown pass, block a 3-point shot or kick a game-winning goal. Agility is your ability to quickly accelerate, decelerate, stop and change directions. Athletes frequently practice agility drills to improve their performance on the field or court. The shark skills, X and ladder shuffle are some of the best drills because they improve your agility at a high level of intensity.
Shark Skills Drill
The shark skills drill is one of the best exercises to improve agility. The National Academy of Sports Medicine even uses it as a fitness assessment. Make a tape grid on the floor to practice this drill. The grid should be 3 feet by 3 feet and have nine equal squares. Stand in the center square. Number the surrounding squares 1 through 8. Stand on one foot and hop to the first box and then return to the center. Do the same with the other numbered boxes. After one run though, ask a friend to shout out a series of the numbers in random order and complete the drill using his pattern. Try the shark skills drill on each foot.
The X drill helps improve your ability to quickly switch footwork, change directions and run at different angles. You need four cones to practice this drill. Set the cones up in a square formation with each side of the square being 15 feet. Begin at the upper left cone and sprint diagonally across to the lower right cone. From here, shuffle laterally across to the lower left cone and then quickly run diagonally over to the upper right cone. Finish this pattern by shuffling across the top of the square back to the original cone. Then start at the the lower right cone so you can complete it in the opposite direction as well.
Lower Body Ladder Shuffle
The ladder is a useful piece of fitness equipment for improving agility. Several drills can be performed using the ladder. One drill suggested by the American Council on Exercise is the agility ladder lateral shuffle. Perform this exercise by first putting both feet in the first square of the ladder. Step laterally to put your right foot in the next square. After your right foot touches the floor, bring your left foot into the same square. Continue this footwork until you reach the end of the ladder and then reverse directions. Increase your speed so you are shuffling across the ladder. To make it more challenging, have a friend randomly tell you when to switch directions.
Upper Body Ladder Shuffle
You can also perform ladder drills to improve the agility in your upper body. This drill is executed in the same manner as the lower body shuffle, except with your hands. Start from a pushup position with both hands in the first square and proceed to move laterally across the ladder with your hands moving in the same way as you moved your feet in the previous drill. You also need to move sideways on your toes in order to complete this drill.
Explore In Depth
- American Council on Exercise: Agility Ladder Lateral Shuffle
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; Michael A. Clark et al.
- Feito Y, Heinrich KM, Butcher SJ, Poston WSC. High-intensity functional training (hift): definition and research implications for improved fitness. Sports (Basel). 2018;6(3):76. Published 2018 Aug 7. doi:10.3390/sports6030076
- Milanović Z, Sporiš G, Trajković N, James N, Samija K. Effects of a 12 Week SAQ Training Programme on Agility with and without the Ball among Young Soccer Players. J Sports Sci Med. 2013;12(1):97–103. Published 2013 Mar 1.
- Reed-jones RJ, Dorgo S, Hitchings MK, Bader JO. Vision and agility training in community dwelling older adults: incorporating visual training into programs for fall prevention. Gait Posture. 2012;35(4):585-9. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.11.029
- Lennemann LM, Sidrow KM, Johnson EM, Harrison CR, Vojta CN, Walker TB. The influence of agility training on physiological and cognitive performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(12):3300-9. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31828ddf06
- Martin, Mollie. 5 Cognitive Awareness Drills for Training Athletes. American Council on Exercise. April 13, 2017
Mike McLaughlin has been writing news, entertainment and sports articles since 1990. McLaughlin has written for “The Maine Campus,” “The Bangor Daily News" and various websites. McLaughlin is also a martial arts instructor and certified personal trainer. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and an associate degree in filmmaking.