Quick Feet Drills for Football Players
Football players are always looking for ways to increase their agility, but this doesn’t just come from explosive moves in the weight room and repetitive lunges. Spending some time on drills that specifically reinforce quick feet is essential.
Some of the following drills require equipment that the team likely has on hand. These include an agility ladder, agility hurdles, jump ropes and markers/cones.
If you are trying to work on quick feet drills at home or in the gym, you may not have access to a ladder or hurdles. You can still work on these drills by using obstacles for hurdles (like similarly sized cardboard boxes) and tape or chalk for the ladder, but you can also save these activities for group practices.
For every player, it’s worth picking up a properly sized jump rope. Between the rope drills, the fast steps, the karaoke steps, and the touch sprints, you’ll be getting plenty of agile footwork practice with little investment in equipment.
Jumping rope is great for both cardio and footwork. You can also get training in quickly with many variations of 5-minute rope drills.
You’ll want to make sure your rope is the correct length. If it’s too long, you’ll have to keep your hands too far apart, and you will have a harder time passing the rope under your feet. If it’s too short, you’ll trip or have to jump unnecessarily high, which decreases the foot nimbleness in favor of a sort of plyometric cardio workout.
For a chart to pick a rope length according to your height, check out RX Jump Ropes.
Here are a couple of jump rope steps to work on quick feet.
For this jump, make a jogging motion by jumping from one foot to another. Instead of kicking your heels back, try to bring your knees up in front. This is essentially a one-footed hop between passes of the rope that ends with you landing on the opposite foot.
Keep one foot in front and the other in back, about 1 to 2 feet apart. In midair on every jump, switch feet. The farther apart your feet are front to back, the quicker your reflexes have to be to jump over the rope.
A double under is just like it sounds. The rope goes under your feet twice between jumps. This requires you to spin the rope from your wrists rapidly while timing your jumps perfectly.
For this jump, keep your feet locked together and hop laterally from left to right. Keep your torso upright and lean left or right from the hips down to mimic a skier.
If you’ve ever seen a boxer bounce lightly from one foot to another, you’ll know the footwork for the boxer jump. Jump up slightly and land to the right on your right foot without letting your left foot touch the ground. Then jump slightly and land to your left without letting your right foot touch.
For a full but short 5-minute workout with a variety of steps, try Stack’s Speed Rope Workout.
Partner up with another player for this drill. Establish a 10-yard length of space that serves as the mirror. Standing about 2 feet from one another, have one player run with random speed and direction (left and right). The other player will try to keep up by staying directly in front of their partner.
Fast steps are simply running in place as fast as possible. Stand in an athletic stance with knees slightly bent, shoulders forward and arms out in front. Land on the ball of the foot and rebound back as quickly as possible. This is a “ground is hot lava” drill. Keep your steps low (less than 3 inches off the ground) and run the drill for 15 to 20 seconds at a time for 3 to 5 sets.
The NFL calls this drill “Machine Guns” and uses it to train the nervous system for better reaction time.
Set up markers about 5 to 10 meters apart. Sprint between the markers, making sure to stop and touch the marker or the ground near it before turning around.
You can also set up 3 or more markers in zigzag, circular and other patterns to work on all angles of agile movement.
Karaoke (or crossover) steps are often used as a quick warm up, but with more focus this is a great training exercise for lateral agility.
This simple step is just a front foot crossover that moves laterally left and right. Starting in a standing or athletic position (knees and torso slightly bent), cross the right foot in front of the left. Then pick up the left foot and step toward the left before crossing the right foot over again. Repeat crossing the opposite direction. The faster you go, the less time your foot should remain on the ground with each step.
Agility ladders are also sometimes referred to as “speed ladders,” and with good reason. Agility and speed work hand-in-hand. The goal is to work through the steps slowly to get the pattern down and then to pick up speed for quicker footwork. Pretend the ground is hot lava and keep contact with the ground minimal.
There are dozens of drills out there with increasingly intricate footwork. Once a step is mastered, move onto learning a new drill pattern to keep your mind alert and focused.
Here are a few sample agility drills.
Turn sideways for this drill with the length of the ladder on your right side. Place your right foot on the far side of the first box, then the left foot just to the left of your right foot, as if you were standing with your feet close together. Then place your right foot on the far side of the second box, followed by the left foot. Repeat this motion for every square. Then return by leading with the left foot. When the speed picks up on this drill, try to keep only one foot on the ground at a time.
Cross Over Lateral
Begin by standing with the ladder running toward your right side. Start with your left foot just ahead of your right foot. Cross your left leg over your right and place your left foot on the left side of the first box. Then step your right foot to the right side of the first square. You should now be in the same starting position with your feet close together. Repeat down the length of the ladder, and then return by crossing the right foot in front.
When you have the pattern on this drill down, run it like the Lateral Shuffle by keeping only one foot on the ground at a time.
The Snake (Crossover Step)
This drill helps with quick direction changes that are initiated through the hips to help maintain balance and speed.
Start by standing to the left of the first square with your toes no farther than the midline of the first square. The length of the ladder should be running in front of you.
Lift your left foot and twist your hips to the right so your left foot lands facing 90 degrees to the right. Then twist your hips to the left to have your right foot land on the right-hand outside of the ladder turning 90 degrees to the left (toward the end of the ladder). Now place your left foot to the left of your right foot facing the same direction. You should end this first sequence facing the same direction as you started, with the length of the ladder running in front of you and with both feet to the right side of the ladder. Make sure your toes are no farther than midway of the second square. Repeat this motion with your hips twisting to the left so your right foot steps into the second square facing 90 degrees to the left.
Agility hurdles can be run with similar drills used on agility ladders. The main difference, of course, is getting the height from jumping hurdles. You can also use the hurdles as markers or to weave in and out for practice on changing directions quickly. Some hurdles have an adjustable height, but most others have a fixed height, usually in the increments of 6, 9, 12, 18 or 24 inches.
With the crossover, you want the hurdles in a straight line, but you will run the drill laterally. As you run to the right, raise the knees high and step to the side with your hips aimed in the direction of travel.
For this drill, your feet will touch the ground rapidly 3 times in between each hurdle. Keep the hurdles spaced about 2 feet apart. The goal is to the steps close together. This one is trickier than it sounds, because the spacing of the steps can lead a player to make too few or too many steps.
For some more agility hurdle drills, check out King Sports Training.
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