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What are Different Types of Agility Exercises?

By Alex Terris
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Agility exercises are used by athletes of all disciplines to improve speed, reaction time, conditioning, and precision. Some of the different types of agility exercises include ladder runs, lateral sprints, rope skipping, and zigzag sprints. An exercise may also be modified for sport specific benefits, but in general agility will benefit all athletes. Most agility exercises aren’t meant to be physically demanding, but instead to be performed in a controlled and precise manner.

One of the most common agility exercises is the ladder run. In this exercise, a ladder is placed on the floor, and the athlete then runs over it with both feet landing between each rung. It's important that the athlete avoids touching the ladder at any point, as this avoidance helps to increase precision. In some cases, a specially made hexagon grid is used for a similar exercise.

Most sports require lateral speed, which is how fast an athlete can change direction and move sideways. For this reason, lateral sprints are a common agility exercise. To perform a lateral sprint, cones are set up at right angles to each other a small distance apart. The athlete should sprint to the first, and then sidestep to the next.

Rope skipping is an effective agility exercise that can be performed at home or in the gym. In order to gain the most benefit from this exercise, the athlete should skip at various speeds. As with any agility exercise, precision is more important than speed; the athlete should only skip at a speed at which he or she is able to exercise without touching the rope.

Zigzag running is similar to lateral sprints in that the exercise is designed to practice changes in direction. Instead of sidestepping though, the athlete sprints between cones which are setup in a zigzag pattern. It’s important that the athlete gets as close to the cones as possible without touching them. Zigzag sprints can help to improve an athlete’s response time and speed.

There are a number of other agility exercises. For example, running between cones setup in a T shape can increase the athlete’s speed in all directions. Shuttle runs and sprinting between cones in a box shape can also be used. Some agility exercises can be modified for sport specific benefits. A soccer training session, for example, may use the same exercises but with a soccer ball to increase ball control skills.

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Discussion Comments

By Tomislav — On Aug 17, 2011

@snickerish - I do not know if we played at the same time or not but my soccer coach was the same way. We did some agility training but not consistently, and I always wondered if it was because there was so many different aspects of training that needed to be done from getting us into the best possible shape, to dribbling, to shooting, to passing, and then of course there was the huge task to get ten of us working at the same time as a team!

One agility training session that I alway loved was when we did agility exercises in the sand pit we had in our practice area. It was a nice change up from the ladder drills and jumping drills that were our typical agility training exercises.

By snickerish — On Aug 16, 2011

I knew a girl who was slow as molasses (or at least seemed that way in comparison to most of the girls we played soccer with) but she had great ball finesse skills and could get pass most people just with her ball skills.

Then one summer she did agility training and when we did relays the next season she was one of the fastest on our team. She became a double threat by having speed and dribbling skills!

Even with her success our team never kept a regular schedule of agility training which surprises me considering how popular they are!

Did anybody else have the same experience on his or her soccer team?

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 16, 2011

Before starting agility exercises in high school, we had to develop strength. The coach told us we needed to develop good muscle tone before worrying about our speed and reaction time.

He had us do crunches, leg lifts, and light weightlifting. He made us run up and down the bleachers to develop our leg muscles, and we did push-ups for our arms.

After a month of training, he felt we were ready to begin. He made us stretch and do some light exercise before every session to avoid injury.

We always did our agility exercises on flat surfaces, and we had to wear comfortable clothes. He kept lots of bottled water nearby, and we drank as much as we needed. We stopped exercising ten minutes before our next class so that our bodies could rest.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 15, 2011

My agility exercise instructor used rope ladders, a series of rings, and a hexagon grid to train his students. I remember starting out slowly, trying to avoid hitting the barriers. As I had to increase my speed, it got harder to do.

However, I practiced at home with a grid drawn in chalk on the sidewalk. There, I could develop my skills at my own pace. This got me ready for class, where I had to possess speed as well as accuracy.

My coach was impressed by how much I improved in a short time. I told him about the chalk grid practice sessions, and he recommended them to all of his students.

By orangey03 — On Aug 14, 2011

I skipped rope to improve my agility. You wouldn’t think that something children do as a game could be so physically demanding, but it is. After a ten year hiatus, it is hard to start skipping again.

When I picked that jump rope up for the first time in a decade and started to skip slowly, my legs gave in to fatigue within two minutes. I could see that I would have to build up my strength a little at a time.

It’s best to start agility exercises as a teenager and continue doing them for as long as you are able. If I had kept skipping rope through my twenties, I could still do it easily today.

By seag47 — On Aug 13, 2011

Although I didn’t participate in any sports in high school, I did do my own agility exercise. I just wanted to improve my reflexes and be able to run quickly and dart about if necessary. I have always had a small frame, and I wanted to be able to escape anyone who might be pursuing me.

I had a drainage ditch running through my backyard. I used either side of this ditch to do my exercise. I would run for three steps on one side, and then I would skip to the other side for three steps. I did this along the entire length of the ditch, and when I reached the end, I just turned around and kept going.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Aug 13, 2011

Agility exercises are so important for athletes because if you are weak in this part of your body you can be very susceptible to injury. I played college baseball and I saw guys all the time that would come into training not ready to run around. Inevitably they would pull a muscle or strain a ligament and end up on the DL. All sports require agility. If you don't prepare yourself you are just asking for injury.

By tigers88 — On Aug 12, 2011

I had a gym teacher in middle school who was a big believer in plyometrics. This is a series of movements, essentially goofy looking runs, that builds small and neglected muscles in the legs. He had picked it up as a track star in college and now believed that it was a key component of athletic success.

Some of the moves required you to run with high knees, or to kick your legs back so that they touched your butt when you ran or to leap into the air on each stride. We would run back and forth across the gym switching up between the motions. I'll tell you, it looked awfully silly but it worked. I was a sprinter at the time and I shaved almost a half second off my 100 meter time.

By whiteplane — On Aug 12, 2011

I think that ankle weights are a great way to improve you agility. These are small 5 or 10 pound Velcro bands that attach around your ankles.

The benefit of ankle weights is that they give you a lot of freedom of motion but still provide enough resistance to build some muscle. They allow you to work a lot of the small muscles and flexors of the hips that are key for strong agility. They also allow you to experiment with movements and positions to suit your workout goals. Unlike bulky weights or machines, they allow you the freedom to move as you would naturally.

I did a workout using ankle weights regularly for about 2 months and my body was completely different by the time I finished.

By lonelygod — On Aug 11, 2011

If you want to try a sport that requires a lot of agility hockey is a good choice. A lot of people think that hockey is just about skating around on the ice, but it requires incredibly fast reflex skills.

One of the best ways they train for agility on ice is to have you skate through though a series of obstacle as quickly as possible. Getting your speed up takes a lot of work. As I am sure you have seen, hockey players move pretty fast when they are going after that puck.

Even for those who aren't great skaters, learning can really improve your coordination and agility. That is definitely beneficial for anyone trying to get fit.

By manykitties2 — On Aug 11, 2011

Improving your agility by jumping rope is one of the easiest ways to get in a good cardio workout while improving your coordination and speed. I find that just 10 to 15 minutes a day has done wonders for my health and has really improved my stamina.

If you want to have fun, jumping multiple ropes can really make for an intense work out. Do you remember the Double Dutch contests from grade school? How fast the two ropes spun? That is exactly what I am talking about.

I usually get a few of my girlfriends together for a Double Dutch marathon when we get bored of our regular workouts. It is fun to see how long we can last before we make a mistake.

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