By Sherwin Vasallo, Acceleration Performance

Agility is the ability to change the body's position effectively and
efficiently, and requires a combination of balance, coordination,
speed, reflexes, and strength.  When we watch our favorite superstars –
Allen Iverson, Steve Nash or Kobe Bryant, we are amazed at the way they
move through or around defenses, whether it is single coverage, double
team, triple team or zone.  They move instinctively, fluidly and
accurately.  Is this an innate trait that was passed down from their
family bloodline or was it taught to them by an extraordinary strength
coach?  We may never know the true answer to the questions, bottom-line
– they have it!  Fortunately, there is hope for us all and perhaps,
maybe one day, you can be the one that will have agility like Iverson!

The Acceleration Performance team has developed training methods that have enhanced our clients’ agility, which in turn, has vastly improved their overall game!  The following are our 5 top agility training drills that have proved to be extremely effective for basketball.  So without further adieu, the TOP 5:

  1. Partner reaction drill (mirror drill)

  2. Deceleration drill

  3. Lateral sprint drill

  4. Shock drops

  5. Unilateral strength training (1 legged work)

1. Partner reaction drill (mirror drill) – stand facing your partner, approximately 1 arms length away.  Designate one partner to be the leader and the other to be the follower.  The leader will initiate the first lower body movement either step forward, to the side, backward etc.  The following partner will follow the same movements (as if being on the other end of a mirror, or as if each partner’s ankles are connected together by sticks).  Start slow and once you have built up a rhythm the leader can pick up the pace!  Perform 20-30 reps or 30 second sets.


2.  Deceleration drill – Quite possibly the most under looked skill when training for agility.  As we all practice or train for acceleration, same should go for deceleration!  Place cones 10 yards apart from each other.  Begin the drill by lining up behind the first cone or end line.  Accelerate out of the block toward the 10 yard marker at full speed, decelerate and stop at the end cone.  Repeat.  Be sure to decelerate in stride; this is not to be confused with a jump stop.  Perform 5-7 reps per side.  You must be able to decelerate on the left and right sides.


3.  Lateral sprint drill – Due to the non-linear nature of basketball, all athletes require not only to be fast and quick linearly (straight line forward and backward), but also in side to side and diagonal directions.  This drill has the exact same set up as the previous drill – cones 10 yards apart from each other.  Begin by facing to the left or right, and accelerate out of the block while maintaining focus to the facing side (this should look like a sideways sprint).  Again, decelerate in stride at the end cone and maintain strong and proper athletic position.  Be sure to train both directions, perform 5-7 reps per side.  You can replace the drill with defensive slides/shuffles.

4.  Shock drops – A crucial element of agility is the ability to control the eccentric loads placed on the lower body.  Shock drops are an excellent eccentric overload drill that will surely develop eccentric control.  Note:  The use of a mirror or a certified strength coach is an asset when performing this drill.  Often the knee(s) can collapse inwards, creating a potential for injury.  Please consult a sport medicine professional prior to starting any strength training programs. 

Beginners should start off with a 12 inch platform and gradually build up.  Furthermore, beginners should perform this drill bilaterally (initially), then switch to unilateral training.  Step onto the platform and simply drop off and land on both feet into an athletic position. Stick the land and hold of 1 full second.  Step up onto the platform and repeat.  When landing, be sure to ‘control’ the landing - do not absorb the land to allow the knees, hips and ankles to fully flex.  If this allowed, you will not train or enhance eccentric control. 


Once 12 inches no longer becomes a challenge, graduate the platform to 18 inch up to 24 inches (some can go up to 32-36 inches for their shock drop drills).  Again, once bilateral challenges are mastered, switch to unilateral (single leg) shock drops.  This will definitely expose any weaknesses or lack of eccentric control.  Follow the same platform height progressions and soon after you will notice an amazing improvement in the ability to change directions. 

5.  Unilateral Strength training (1 legged training) – As mentioned before, strength and balance are critical       

Elements of agility. 


The above exercise, the 1 legged-squat is one of our staple exercises to develop unilateral strength and balance.  Contrary to what most people may believe, on the basketball court, athletes are continually on one leg – moving laterally, jumping, dunking, etc.  If unilateral strength is not developed, there is no possible way to reach true athletic potential – period! 

The 1 legged-squat is one of our advanced exercises.  If you lack the strength to fully squat down to a near sitting position, while maintaining balance, we recommend this alternative – the Bulgarian split squat. 


To perform the split squat, use a bench or a 24-32 inch box to prop your back leg up.  Take a full lunge step forward and maintain a strong, neutral spine.  Be sure to load the hell to mid foot of the front leg to place emphasis on the posterior chain.  Lower yourself, in a controlled fashion, maintain neutral spine position and lower to a minimum of 90 degrees at the front knee.  TIP:  Place an Airex pad below the back knee.  This pad does not serve as a cushion for the knee but rather, as a target for the back knee to touch to correct muscular asymmetries.   Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps


There you have it – the Acceleration Performance top 5 drills for agility training.  We definitely hope that you will apply the rules and exercises to your basketball training program.  We do for our clients, and we see the results! 

Sherwin Vasallo is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certified Athletic Therapist and a Certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor.  He is the owner and head Strength Coach for Acceleration Performance.  Sherwin is also the head Strength Coach for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen athletic program. He has worked with many clients ranging for the NFL,CFL, Canadian National Basketball team, Professional basketball, University and potential Olympians. For more information on Acceleration Performance please visit

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