4 Running Back Agility Drills Young Athletes Should Master

Running backs need to be the most agile players on the field to break tackles and find holes for big gains. Try agility drills for running backs.


That split-second ability to shift direction and gain a key first down, or explosively burst through a hole for a game-changing 50-yard run, separates the elite athlete from the competition.

Practice the following four running back drills during the off-season to give you and your team the edge opponents dread when fall arrives. The cones and hurdles give you practice using your eyes and feet behind the scrimmage line to avoid tackles, spot a hole, and dart across the line for extra yards.


  • Four cones
  • Measuring tape or yardstick
  • Water bottle


  • Perform dynamic lower-body warm-up (e.g. forward, side and reverse lunges; forward, backward and lateral leg swings; and walking toe touches--raising foot to touch opposite hand).
  • Do uphill drills on a slightly inclined surface (dirt, grass, turf or pavement) that is not too steep to prevent cones and hurdles from sliding or tipping.
  • Finish with static lower-body cool-down stretches for optimal flexibility.
  • Two sets per drill; rest 15-30 seconds between sets (simulating approximate time between downs).
  • Hydrate before, during, and after workout.
  • Perform drills on non-consecutive days for efficient recovery.

Uphill Zig Zag Run When sharply changing direction diagonally, running uphill not only is more challenging than flat terrain running but also more effectively builds the leg and hip power required for surging through defensive holes across the line.

  • Arrange the four cones 5 yards apart in a zig-zag pattern.
  • Assume football stance and quickly zig-zag through each cone space and return to start.

Uphill Lateral Cone Jumps and 10 Yard Forward Sprint. Laterally jump over three cones at the line of scrimmage (representing opposing tacklers) and sprint forward through an opening for positive yardage.

  • Place three cones laterally 2 feet apart and the last cone 10 yards in front.
  • Swiftly laterally jump over the first three cones and sprint to the last cone.
  • Without rest, turn around and run downhill to start position.

Flat Terrain Multidirection Cone Sprints Spacing cones laterally, forward and diagonally from a few feet apart to several yards is designed for agility, speed and endurance.

  • Place two cones 5 feet laterally apart and a third cone 5 feet diagonally left.
  • Place the fourth cone 20 yards diagonally right from the third cone.
  • Step laterally right between the first two cones.
  • Shift directions and run left to the third cone (as if evading a tackle and/or finding a hole).
  • Dash diagonally right to fourth cone.
  • Backpedal to beginning.

Flat Terrain Single-Leg Cone Hops and Run Hopping with one leg over two cones simulates jumping out of a tackler's grasp near the line and running through a small hole (represented by two cones closely spaced apart) to pick up the first down.

  • Arrange two cones 1 foot apart in front of each other.
  • Place the other two cones 2 feet laterally apart and spaced 5 yards ahead of the other cones.
  • Laterally hop over the first two cones with right leg (left foot off ground).
  • Explosively run 5 yards forward through the other two cones.
  • Backpedal to beginning.
  • For the next set, laterally hop over the first two cones with left leg (right foot off ground) and then run through the other cones.

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