5 Football Agility Drills for More Explosiveness and Speed

By Coach Martin | Football Drills

football agility drills

In football, you'll hear the term "agility" thrown around a lot.

People will tell you that it's important for football players to have great agility.

But, what exactly is agility?

The dictionary definition is, "the ability to move quickly and easily." There's also mental agility, which is defined as "the ability to think and understand quickly."

When reading the definitions, it's easy to see now why agility -- both physical and mental -- is important for football players.

The game of football is played at a very quick and fast pace. Players must be able to move quickly and easily and to think and understand quickly as well.

The mental aspects of the game are worked out both off the field (in the film and locker rooms) as well as on the field (during walkthroughs and game experience).

Physical agility is something that can only be improved on the field, and it's something that takes the right kind of football agility drills.

Any football coach that’s looking to build agility in his players should start by running these five football agility drills.

An amateur football player starting his run

5 Football Agility Drills

1. The Flying 30

Like many football agility drills, this drill will work on your players' footwork, strength, and speed.

This drill will be run over 50 yards. You'll need two cones to set it up.

One cone should be placed 30 yards from the starting point, while the second cone should be placed 50 yards from the starting point (20 yards beyond the first cone).

The coach will blow the whistle to start the drill.

For the first 30 yards, players will slowly build up speed as they make their way toward the first cone.

Once they reach the cone at the 30-yard mark, they should change into a full sprint for the final 20 yards.

Once players cross the second cone, they should stop and take a break.

Players should be broken into groups of five or 10, and these players will run this drill in succession.

The coach should give the first player a little bit of time after he starts the drill before blowing the whistle again to signify that it's time for the second player in line to start the same drill.

Once all players in the group finish the drill, it’ll start over again.

The first player in line will now slowly build up speed until he reaches the first cone which will now be 20 yards away from the starting point.

Then, he'll sprint the remaining 30 yards until he reaches the original starting point.

After this "cycle" has been completed, give all players a 1-2 minute break before starting it over again.

You should run this cycle 2-3 times in total.

By doing so, you'll not only be helping players work on their agility but build up their endurance as well.

2. High Knees

Running on a football field during a game is not at all like running in most other sports.

It's not a straight-line sprint.

Football requires players to move their bodies at different angles and in different positions and do so while still running as fast as they can.

One way to work on overall agility with separate body parts is a drill that's called high knees.

This drill will make players not only work on strength and agility in their upper and lower bodies but will reinforce the importance of proper posture.

This drill can run with multiple players at the same time.

Simply have some players line up in a straight line with a few yards in between each player.

The coach will blow a whistle to signify the start of a drill.

Players will perform what's known as high knees once the whistle blows. They’ll pump their arms and lift their knees high up toward their chest.

While they’re doing so, they need to make sure that they’re maintaining proper posture, which in this case means their back is kept straight up and down.

They should also be completing a full arm swing as they move forward.

When they’re pumping their knees up, their back should be lowered slightly at a 45-degree angle.

Players will continue to do these high knees until the coach blows the whistle again.

At that point, they should sprint straight forward for 20 yards.

Once all groups of players have completed the cycle of the drill, they should turn around to start the drill again the other way.

At first, coaches should have their players run this drill at a moderate speed.

It's more important that they’re doing the high knees with proper form -- swinging their arms fully and bringing their knees up -- than it is to do the drill fast.

3. Shuttle

Shuttle Agility Drill Diagram

This drill will work on players' side-to-side movement as well as their ability to start, stop, and quickly change directions.

All of these skills are very important for all players, regardless of what position they play.

You'll need three cones to run this drill.

With the cones, you'll form an L shape, with each cone being placed at one of the points of the L.

Each of the cones should be placed roughly five feet away from each other.

Players will start the drill at the middle cone or the base of the L.

They should all start in a three-point stance.

Offensive and defensive linemen are typically the only players who start a play in a three-point stance but all players should start in that stance for this drill.

The drill will begin when the coach blows his whistle.

When he does, the player will shuffle to the right until he gets to the cone that's placed to the right.

When he gets there, he should bend over toward the ground and touch the tip of the cone with his hand.

After touching the right cone, the player needs to quickly change direction and shuffle back to the left, toward the cone where he started the drill.

When he reaches that cone, he’ll again bend over and touch that cone with his hand.

Once he does that, he should explode out of the bent position he's in and sprint straight forward until he reaches the cone that's now straight in front of him.

One very important thing to teach your players is to not cross their feet when they’re shuffling from side to side.

Their feet should either barely touch each other during the shuffle or not touch each other at all.

Give players a rest in between each full cycle of this drill and then run it a few times. 

4. Shuffle Mirror

This football agility drill is great because not only will it work on players' agility, but it'll also help them work on mirroring another player.

This is something that all players will have to do during games, so it's nice to be able to layer this agility drill with some game simulation as well.

You'll need two cones for this drill.

Set them up in a straight line about 10 yards apart from each other.

Players will run this drill in pairs, with one player acting as the offensive player and one acting as the defensive player.

Players will start the drill positioned in the middle of the two cones, facing each other about 2 yards apart.

The offensive player is the one who’ll have control of the drill.

The drill begins when the offensive player begins moving.

He has the freedom to shuffle to the left and the right, stopping and switching directions at any time.

The only thing he must do is stay within the two cones.

The defensive player's job is to mirror the offensive player.

His goal is to remain in front of the offensive player square to him as closely as possible.

The idea of this drill is to replicate the actual roles of an offensive player and a defensive player during a game.

The offensive player will try to get away from the defender while the defender tries to prevent that from happening.

The drill should run for about 10 seconds or so before the coach blows a whistle to signify that the drill should stop.

Once it does, the players should switch roles.

The offensive player will become the defender and vice versa.

When both players have had a turn as the offensive and defensive player, the cycle will end.

Coaches should give their pairs of players about two minutes of rest before running the drill again.

The nice part about this drill is you can run it with multiple players at the same time.

You just need to spread the pairings of players out throughout the field.

5. Backpedal

This drill is a little more complicated than the others because it’ll force players to make a bunch of adjustments on the fly as the coach calls out instructions.

So, make sure your players have learned and understood all the parts of this drill before trying to combine them into the backpedal drill.

To start the drill, have a group of players line up in a straight line along one of the sidelines, with about five yards in between each player.

At the coach's whistle, players will backpedal straight back.

They’ll continue to do so until the coach calls out an instruction for them to do something different.

One thing you could tell them to do is to turn their hips to the left and then to the right.

Players will need to continue backpedaling while they alternate turning their hips to the right and the left.

They'll do this until you call out another instruction.

Another thing you could ask them to do is high knees.

When they do this, they'll stop backpedaling and do the high knees drill, but in place.

In other words, they won't progress forward but will just bring their knees up high to their chest and cycle their hands in full-motion while in place.

When the coach blows the whistle for a second time, players will turn in the opposite direction where their backs were first facing and then spring until they reach the other sideline.

Give players a minute or two of rest after they finish the drill and then have them run it again to the other side of the field.

This drill should be completed at half-speed, not a full sprint.

It's too difficult to do at full speed since you'll be calling out instructions and having players do different things while they backpedal.

You don't want your players to get hurt. You just want them to work on their agility.

Two football players facing each other during training outdoors


Agility is a skill that all football players need to constantly work on.

It's not necessarily a learned skill, such as how to block, how to throw a ball, how to tackle, or how to catch a pass.

It's more of a skill like speed and strength that you’ll work on in practice with the entire team for players at every position.

Building agility is very important in football.

Use the football agility drills I've presented above to improve your team in this aspect.

Football is a sport that's constantly requiring players to change directions, run at angles, and run as fast as they can, but not in straight lines.

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[…] you teach your players how to run the L Drill, you can take it to the next level and help them improve their speed and agility even more by timing […]

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