Zig Zag Run Drill

Purpose of the Zig-Zag Run Drill

The purpose of the Zig-Zag Run Drills is to develop the running backs’ hip flexibility, their body balance and increase the running backs’ overall body control. The running backs’ should learn and practice correct stepping and foot placement when making hard cuts and keeping a good body balance to be able to accelerate immeditately out of the cut.
It also helps to improve the secure ball carrying abilities of the running backs as they are carrying a football while running the drill.

Description of the Zig-Zag Run Drill

The Zig-Zag running should be done either around cones, slalom poles or as a variation around themselves.

  1. Place 5 to 7 cones about 3-5 yards apart in one straight line. – 3 yards works more on the cut step itself as if forces the running back to make the cuts quickly one after the other, while the 5 yard splits work more on the get unter control and accelerate part of the skill.
  2. Let the running backs run zig-zagging around the cones alternating passing them left and right
  3. The running back should keep his eyes up, drop hips to change direction, gather (no stutter steps) before direction change, head north and south and accelerate.


  • Use slalom poles to force the runningback to run more around the poles preventing to lean over the middle as they would be able to do over cones.
  • Use other players as even bigger obstacles to run more around than over.
  • When run with players as “slalom poles” you can also incorporate some strip drill and let them slap at the football of the ballcarrying running back, or let them try to actually strip it – but that should never be so much that it would break the stride of the running back as this is primarily an agility running drill.

When running the drill with beginners start slow, maybe even walk them through the drill then pick up speed…

Coaching Points for the Zig-Zag Run Drill

  • No stutter steps – make sure the running backs don’t stutter step in(to) the cut but rather shortening their stride already before the cut than just taking extra steps on the spot of the cut.
  • “Use all cleats” – running back should plant outside foot in original direction, don’t turn foot already in new direction – 2 reasons: firstly, you can’t roll the ankle that way, secondly: that way you make much more use of all cleats of the shoe, so slipping and sliding is limited
  • Body balance and control
  • Knee over planting foot – with the knee over the planting foot the risk for slipping and sliding is further reduced.
  • Explode off planted foot quickly – for that the body weight/body focus must not get completely over or even beyond the planting foot, as for the acceleration it first has to be shifted into the new direction, and the player gets stuck in the cut…
  • Protecting the ball – when all foot and body mechanics are of sufficient quality, start focussing on the ball handling as well.

Don’t start off by trying to fix everything at once. As easy as the drill looks, there are pretty complex mechanics required to run it perfectly, so give the runningbacks time to get things right one by one.

Equipment  for the Zig-Zag Run Drill

  • Footballs – ideally one for each running back
  • cones and/or
  • eventually slalom poles