New Onnit Performance T-Shirts are available now! New Onnit Performance T-Shirts are available now! Shop Now
Do Agility Drills Create Better Athletes?

Do Agility Drills Create Better Athletes?

Written by
February 9, 2015
Updated April 11, 2018
Category: Fitness

Sports coaches have it all wrong; send your kid to a speed camp or dare to attend one yourself and after you watch the agility ladder/box drill/pro shuttle circus, you might assume athletic development is all about flashy footwork. Many athletes confuse demonstrations of fitness in agility drills with effective training to improve fitness.

How Does Real Agility Relate to Fitness?

Onnit Steel MaceFirst, a definition: Agility is “the power of moving quickly and easily” (Websters).

Second, a note: Weightlifting, kettlebells, gymnastics, and sprints can each independently, measurably improve your performance on any agility test.

Third, an argument: Because unrelated training directly improves “agility” performance without specific practice, drills only assess your functional agility and overall fitness, they do not improve it.

Several physical qualities comprise fitness. The fundamental qualities are strength, speed, muscular endurance, aerobic endurance, coordination, and balance. Movements like vertical jumps, agility drills demand many qualities to perfect.

An athlete wouldn’t expect much improvement to his vertical just by jumping around, so you shouldn’t expect agility drills to improve themselves either.

Drills do not challenge physical qualities at a metabolic or neuromuscular level; using the pro shuttle as an example, here is how each fitness quality effects test results.

Strength & Agility

In the pro shuttle, there are three distinct accelerations: the start and two turns. Substantial research documents that acceleration ability is strongly correlated to maximal strength. In order to improve performance in the 3 accelerations of the pro shuttle, an athlete should increase her absolute strength. This is best accomplished with progressive weight training, such as powerlifting.

Speed & Agility

Do Agility Drills Create Better Athletes?

In the pro shuttle, the athlete completes three straight-line sprints against a stop watch. Linear speed combines reactive and elastic strength, mobility, and coordination. The specific coordination, mobility, and elastic force production characteristics of sprinting are exclusively developed by sprinting. Hill sprinting, sled pulls, and starts from various positions will accomplish this.

Coordination & Balance to Increase Agility

In the pro shuttle, an athlete decelerates and changes directions twice. Body awareness and motor coordination limit your ability to change direction during the pro agility shuttle.

Body awareness and motor coordination develop during the learning of new physical skills, by loading complex movement patterns, and by moving large, asymmetrical loads. Single-arm and single-leg lifting, weighted carries, and bodyweight skills train dynamic management of the body’s center of mass. Swings, snatches, and Olympic lifting all train force absorption, which is relevant to deceleration.

So what is a coach to do with athletes that trip over themselves in agility ladders, roll their ankles in shuttles, and get dizzy doing dot drills? What are you to do if your agility tests aren’t up to snuff for your sport?

As an unconventional athlete, you already know the answers: get stronger; sprint; lift & carry odd implements (especially over your head!); practice your sport. Leave flashy agility drills to your weak, uncoordinated competitors and use your superior fitness to run laps around them on the field or dance circles around them in the ring.

Dunte Hector is a specialist in post-injury strength & mobility training for sports. He is a StrongFirst kettlebell instructor, FMS-certified movement professional, and ACE-certified personal trainer devoted to improving body composition and sport performance in amateur athletes while keeping them injury-free. Dunte coaches in Austin, TX, where he also competes in track & field and Olympic weightlifting.
Free shipping is offered on orders with a minimum subtotal of $100 less discounts. Free shipping is only available in the contiguous U.S. and excludes Fitness and Digital items.
For media inquiries please contact us at
With a subscription, you'll get your favorite Onnit products whenever you want at 15% off MSRP unless otherwise noted. All automatic, worry free, and with our same great money back guarantee.
Cancel or adjust your order at any time, hassle free. Your payment method will only be charged right before your order ships. The discount applied every time is 15% off MSRP (unless otherwise noted) or the current sale discount, whichever is greater. For more information, see the complete Onnit Subscription Terms & Conditions and Frequently Asked Questions.

Secure Shopping

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access any information on our website. We incorporate physical, electronic, and administrative procedures to safeguard the confidentiality of your personal information, including Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for the encryption of all financial transactions through the website. We use industry-standard, 256bit SSL encryption to protect your personal information online, and we also take several steps to protect your personal information in our facilities. For example, when you visit the website, you access servers that are kept in a secure physical environment, behind a locked cage and a hardware firewall. After a transaction, your credit card information is not stored on our servers.