The Illinois agility test is a popular test that requires you to sprint and change direction around multiple obstacles. In this article, we’re going to cover how to set up and conduct the test. We’ll also provide normative data and answer common questions on the test.
What is the Illinois agility test?
The Illinois agility test (IAT), also known as the Illinois agility run, involves athletes accelerating, decelerating and changing direction 11 times with approximately 90-180 degree turns around multiple cones in the fastest time possible over a 60m distance.
Let’s break the test down further…
To perform the test, athletes start in a laying position face down on the floor. They must then stand up as fast as possible and sprint forwards 10 m to a cone, complete a 180° turn at the cone and then sprint back 10 m to another cone and complete another 180° turn.
They must then weave in and out of 4 cones over a 10 m distance, complete a 180° turn and then weave back through the 4 cones. Finally, the athlete will complete a 180° turn, sprint forwards 10 m to a cone, complete another 180° turn and sprint 10 m to the finish line.
Despite the Illinois agility test’s name, the test is a measure of change of direction speed, rather than a measure of agility. The reason for this is that the movements performed during the test are pre-planned. The test also requires athletes to weave through cones at a high speed, which also tests an athlete’s manoeuvrability.
Note: The difference between agility and change of direction
- Agility – “a rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus.”
- Change of direction – “a rapid whole-body movement with a pre-planned change of velocity or direction.”
From this perspective, the IAT measures the physical factors contributing to agility but does not test the perceptual and decision-making components required to be agile in real-world sporting domains.
However, an athlete’s ability to change direction and sprint fast around objects is important as most field sports require short-distance sprints around players etc. and rapid changes of direction. The athlete that can change direction and run the fastest is likely to provide their team with a physical and tactical advantage over their opponent.
Important sport science note:
The Illinois agility test requires four 10 m sprints in addition to multiple changes of direction. The speed at which an athlete completes those sprints will have a significant influence on how long it takes for them to complete the test.
We must take caution with this as an athlete may be fast at sprinting but poor at changing direction, but as they finished the test with a “fast time”, their poor change of direction speed may not be identified.
In addition, any improvements in time may be due to an improvement in speed or metabolic capacity (given the length of the test) rather than improving their ability to change direction.
It’s recommended by Nimphius and colleagues that how an athlete performs the change of direction movements should be focused on more than the total time it takes for them to complete the test.
How to administer the Illinois agility test
To perform the Illinois agility test, you will need:
- 10m x 5m testing area
- Stopwatch or timing gates
- Measuring tape
- Recording sheet
- Test administrator
- Eight cones
- Two sets of timing gates (if available)
How to set up the Illinois agility test:
The figure below demonstrates the setup for the Illinois agility test:
To set up for the Illinois agility test, place the 8 cones as shown in the image above (cones are indicated by the orange circles) – four cones should be used to mark the start and finish lines and the two turning points and four cones should be 3.3m apart along the middle of the course.
If you have access to timing gates, place one channel of the timing gates on either side of the start cone and the other channel of the timing gates on either side of the end cone.
How to prepare for the Illinois agility test:
To prepare for the illinois agility test, we recommend:
- Familiarising yourself with the test – this includes becoming familiar with the route and the different changes of direction. To do this, we recommend that you walk through the test and then practice the test at sub-maximal intensity. It’s important to do this so that the athlete’s test time is a true reflection of their performance rather than the learning effect.
- Completing a warm-up – the warm-up should be the same each time you undertake the test and include specific movements like those required by the test (e.g. short distant sprints, 90-degree weaving turns and 180-degree turns) and build up to be at a similar intensity.
How to conduct Illinois agility test:
- The athlete will start the test in a laying position face down on the floor with their head just behind the start line, arms bent and hands under their shoulders.
- The test administrator will stand in line with the start and finish line and will count “three, two, one go”. On “go” the athlete must stand up as fast as possible and accelerate towards the first cone and complete a 180° turn and then sprint towards the second cone and complete another 180° turn (see diagram for details).
- They must then weave in and out of 4 cones over a 10 m distance, complete a 180° turn and then weave back through the 4 cones.
- Finally, the athlete will complete a 180° turn, sprint forwards 10 m towards the second to last cone, complete another 180° turn and sprint 10 m to the finish line.
- All turns must be made around the cone and not over the cone.
- The time is stopped once the athlete passes through the finish line/timing gates.
- The athlete will complete the test three times. They may have 3-5 minutes of rest in between each test to recover. You can either record the athlete’s best time of the three trials or you can record the athlete’s average time over the three tests.
- Please note that if you would like to change the athletes turning direction, you can swap the start and finish line around – we highly recommend doing this!
Creating reliable and valid data for the illinois agility test
To maximise the reliability and validity the test, there are several factors we must consider:
Illinois agility test norms
We can use the table below from Davis et al. (2000) to interpret our athlete’s time. The table outlines what they considered an excellent, above average, average, below average and poor time was to complete the Illinois agility test for 16-19-year-olds.
There is limited normative data for the Illinois agility test – caution must be taken when comparing your athletes’ times to the times above as it is unknown what sport and level the 16-19-year-old athletes completed at so it may not be relative to your athletes.
If this is a test you place high importance on, it may be beneficial for you to start building your own database of athletes’ times and categorise what you deem is excellent or poor so that it is relevant to your context and athlete population.
What other agility tests are used by athletes & coaches?
Most tests associated with agility are in actual fact a measure of change of direction as the movements are pre-planned and do not require athletes to respond to a stimulus.
These tests include the t-test, 505 agility test and the pro-agility test. Each test measures a different type of change of direction ability and are underpinned by slightly different physical requirements, which can be seen in the table below.
In order to test for agility, the test must include a stimulus an athlete reacts to, these tests include:
If you would like to learn more about these tests, we recommend you read Nimphius et al (2017) paper where they discuss these measures of agility.
Frequently asked questions on the illinois agility test
Who created the Illinois agility test
Getchell created the Illinois agility test in 1979 when he was researching the characteristics of agility at the University of Illinois…this is where the test got its name from.
How many feet total is the Illinois agility test
The Illinois agility test is 196.85 feet in total.
How long is the Illinois agility test in meters
The Illinois agility test is 60m in total and typically takes between 13 – 19 seconds to complete.
What sort of data does the Illinois agility test measure?
The time it takes to complete the Illinois agility test is used as a measurement or indicator of an athlete’s change of direction speed and manoeuvrability when waving through obstacles at a high speed.
The time it takes to complete the test Illinois agility test doesn’t provide us with any indication of how those changes of direction are performed and if an athlete is fast at sprinting but poor at changing direction so a visual analysis when the athlete is undertaking the test is beneficial.
How to train for Illinois agility test
Instead of training specifically for the Illinois agility test, we would recommend that you train to improve the physical qualities that you need for your sport (e.g. change of direction and agility). From training those qualities, it is likely it will improve your Illinois agility test time.
The deterministic model of agility performance indicates how change of direction speed and agility is influenced by:
Agility performance is underpinned by change of direction speed and perceptual and decision making. Those qualities are then underpinned by the other factors in the image above.
By improving the factors in the model, an athlete should be able to change direction faster and react quicker to improve their agility. We’ll delve into how to improve change of direction and agility in more detail in another article later on, so keep a lookout!
The Illinois agility test involves athletes accelerating, decelerating and changing direction 11 times with approximately 90-180 degree turns around multiple cones in the fastest time possible over a 60m distance.
The test measures change of direction speed and athlete’s ability to move, although due to the length of the test and the requirement of multiple 10 m sprints, the test doesn’t tell us much about how an athlete changes direction and other factors such as athletes metabolic capacity and sprint speed may influence the test results.
Other tests that are a better measure of an athlete’s change of direction speed is the t-test, 505 agility test and the pro agility test which you can check out on the links below:
- Nimphius et al. (2017) – Change of direction and agility tests: challenging our current measures of performance.
- Getchell, B (1979) – Physical fitness: a way of life.
- Young & Farrow (2006) – A review of agility: practical applications for strength and conditioning.
- Vrbik et a. (2016) – The influence of familiarisation on physical fitness test results.
- Gymnica, A (2016) – Differences in pre-planned agility and reactive agility performance in sports games.
- Sheppard & Young (2005) – Agility literature review: classifications, training, and testing.
- Lockie et al. (2013) – Reliability and validity of a new test of change-of-direction speed for field-based sports: the change of direction and acceleration test (CODAT).
If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is: Shaw, W (2022). The Illinois agility test (IAT). Available from: https://sportscienceinsider.com/illinois-agility-test/ [Accessed dd/mm/yyyy].
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Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.