Mario Burke training in Houston, Texas
© Long Nguyen
Fitness Training

10 agility exercises to speed up your performance

Whether your sport is traditional like tennis or more new-age activities like motocross – where you must be fit to control the bike – every athlete needs agility to succeed.
By Alice Giuditta
6 min readPublished on

What is agility?

When it comes to staying in shape, you’re probably familiar with cardiovascular fitness and strength training. You might even be aware of cross training, like cyclists who also hit the gym. But did you know you could be overlooking a vital component of sports performance?
Whether your sport is traditional like tennis or more new-age activities like motocross – where you must be fit to control the bike – every athlete needs agility to succeed.

© Mihai Stetcu

For ice cross downhill athlete Amanda Trunzo, regular agility training is essential for both her safety and her success. “After I’m finished at the gym, I’ll go to a BMX track and train on roller blades. It has similar jumps and features to what I see on a Crashed Ice course. I do a little circuit, just jump after jump. I have to train so I’m used to the feeling of my body in the air.”
By definition, agility refers to your ability to change the position and direction of your body, and the speed of your movements in an effective and controlled way. In practice, agility permeates countless movements without you even realizing it.

10 great agility exercises to do anywhere

Most agility exercises are a case of “me, myself, and my body weight.” You don’t need any specific gear or equipment – although an agility ladder will open you up to ladder drills. You may also want a few cones for cone drills.
To develop strong muscle memory, incorporate agility drills into your workout directly after your warmup, four times a week. This might sound like a lot, but it’s all about quality and consistency. Your drills don’t have to be super intense, they just have to be well-executed, and frequently practiced.
To keep herself motivated, and train like a pro, Trunzo says she also changes it up, “I do CrossFit five to six days a week, because the workouts are always changing. The durations are always different and I’m working on all parts of the body.”

Side Shuffle

Target area: glutes, hips, thighs, and calves.
Benefit: lateral movement boosts metabolism
How to:
  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart
  2. Bend knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips
  3. Ensure chest is lifted and spine is neutral
  4. Move to the right using small, quick shuffle steps
  5. Stop briefly after the desired number of steps or distance
  6. Repeat the shuffle movement to the left

Carioca Sideways Running

© Marv Watson

Target area: core muscle groups of the lower back, interior adductors
Benefit: improved footwork
How to:
  1. Stand with your legs apart
  2. Cross right foot in front of left foot
  3. Step out to uncross legs
  4. Cross right foot behind left foot
  5. Step out with your left foot to uncross legs and return to the start

Lateral Ladders

Target area: joints, ligaments, tendons
Benefit: improves speed & coordination, increases heart rate, and burns calories
How to:
  1. Stand next to the agility ladder
  2. Step front foot into the first box
  3. Step back foot into the first box
  4. Land on the balls of your feet
  5. Continue down the whole ladder
  6. Repeat on the way back, starting with the opposite foot

Linear Run

© Victor Engstrom

Target area: glutes, quads
Benefit: improves response/reaction time
How to:
  1. Stand on starting line
  2. Have a coach or partner instruct you to start
  3. Run fast in a straight line
  4. Have a coach or partner instruct you to stop suddenly

Lateral Low Hurdle Run

Target area: calves, quads
Benefit: increases speed and coordination
How to:
  1. Stand in front of a row of mini hurdles–hurdles should be placed close enough together that you jump directly from one to the next.
  2. Leap your front leg over the hurdle, driving off your back leg
  3. Repeat the whole way down

Agility Balls

Target area: cognitive function
Benefit: Speed, reaction-time, hand-eye coordination
How to:
  1. Hold the ball at ear level, drop it, and squat down quickly to catch in the same hand
  2. Toss ball against the wall and catch with one hand
  3. Hold one ball in each hand, bounce one at a time, one after the other, as fast as possible
  4. Repeat this circuit

3 Cone Drill/L Drill

Target area: quads, hamstrings
Benefit: improves balance & direction change
How to:
  1. Set up 3 cones, 5 yards apart in an L shape
  2. Consider the middle cone #2, and the others #1, #3
  3. Start at #1, sprint to and touch #2
  4. Sprint back to and touch #1
  5. Sprint up and around #2, weaving towards the inside of #3
  6. Turn around #3, back around #2, and back to #1
  7. Repeat in opposite direction (Cone #3 is now Cone #1)

High Knees

Target area: calves, glutes, quads
Benefit: improves balance and increases speed
How to:
  1. Stand at your starting line
  2. Run forward, staying on your toes, driving knees high up, and swinging your arms
  3. Concentrate on the height of knees rather than length of stride
  4. Think “short and sharp”

Shuttle Runs

© Robert Snow

Target area: calves, quads, glutes
Benefit: increases speed and improves quick turns
How to:
  1. Stand at your starting line
  2. Sprint to the finish line and back
  3. Do 6 repetitions as fast as you can
  4. Rest for 5 minutes
  5. Repeat the drill

Balloon Drills

Target area: glutes, quads
Benefit: improves coordination and reaction time
How to:
  1. Prepare two different colored balloons
  2. Choose an order in which to contact them
  3. Hit balloons repeatedly in that order, keeping them in the air
  4. Increase difficulty by performing one bodyweight squat or even a burpee in between each balloon

What are the benefits of agility?

Neymar at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's five World Final 2022 in Doha, Qatar

Neymar at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's five World Final 2022 in Doha, Qatar

© Phil Pham

From individual sports like tennis and badminton, where a quick response can make or break you, to team sports like basketball or football, where you’re considering the positions of your teammates and opponents, agility is a game-changer for serious athletes. Professional soccer players run change of direction drills just to practice. Good agility means you’re always ready to move to the best position to execute the next action.
It also pays rewards off the playing field. Agility improves your balance, making you less likely to injure your lower back or tear a ligament while weight training, and increases your cognitive function by stimulating different lobes in the brain.
Agility drills can bring a little spice to the bland workout routine that just doesn’t inspire you anymore. Take it from Hockey goalie Maddie Hinch, whose training session will blow your mind. And the nice thing about training sessions like Hinch’s? They aren’t boring and repetitive!
Maddie Hinch training

Maddie Hinch training

© Jake Turney

Agility exercise tips and pointers

Whether you opt for sweet and simple with no equipment or you invest in a few pieces of equipment like an agility ladder or cones, agility training improves coordination, speed, and responsiveness.
Remember to warm up before your agility drills, and to do them before your workout – if you’re drained from a high-intensity session, they won’t be as effective. While we recommend performing the drills at full speed to maximize your results, we want to remind you that faster doesn’t always mean better. The idea is to go as fast as you can with the correct form and quality movement.
Lastly, never forget to stretch! You don’t want to undo all the hard work you put in by letting your muscles get stiff and sore – the more limber you are, the more agile you’ll be.
If you’re looking for even more pro training trips, from elite athletes themselves, check out the Red Bull Hub. They’ll tell you how they train, how they fuel their bodies, and what they do on competition days to get their head in the game.