Dribble like Messi – Improve your agility and mobility

Training exercises you can do to improve your agility for those quick dribbles.

Dribbling the ball is never easy. You’re tasked to keep the ball glued to your feet when running at pace while your eyes scan the environment for defenders. That’s even before you include making quick cuts and changes in direction to avoid said defenders. It’s a lot of coordination between mind and body.

From a physical perspective, it’s a lot of stress on your body as you’re constantly looking to balance yourself while your legs are moving away from you. How do the likes of Messi and Mane twist and turn while staying on their feet and not injuring themselves? According to renowned physio, Reggie Tang, it’s all about having a strong core to keep your body planted when moving at pace.

Especially important are your hamstrings and glutes that need to keep you stable while also preparing your body to be comfortable with your legs stretching out away from the body. If you want to have Messi-like agility, implement these simple exercises to prepare your body for those mazy runs.

Bridge exercises

Lay down on the floor and push your butt up to create a slope shape with your body. When doing this, make sure you feel the tension in your butt (glutes) and your hamstrings, not in your back. Limit to just 5 repetitions for first-timers.

Reggie emphasizes that “you want to work on your hamstrings and glutes so take your time when elevating your butt. If you start feeling any other parts of your body being worked out, stop. This is how you injure your back and other parts of your body.” And if you’ve mastered this technique, try doing this with one leg instead of two to increase the load and intensity.

Single-leg Russian deadlifts

Balance yourself on one leg. In this pose, lean forward while stretching out your free leg behind to counter-balance yourself. If you’re having some challenge with balance, try doing this alongside a wall or railing for some support. Do 3 sets of 10 on each leg.

“Your hamstrings on your balancing leg and your core should be engaged to control the movement and weight of your body. This will not just strengthen your hamstrings but also help you improve your balance and all-round agility,” says Reggie.

Improving agility through balancing exercises

You will need a cushion or pillow to do this exercise. Stand on one foot on the cushion and attempt to stretch your free leg forward, backwards and sideways. To push yourself further, reach out your hands to challenge your hips to keep your body balanced. If you don’t have a cushion, you can do this on one knee on your bed as an alternative.

“Many sit for most of the day either at school or work. This leads to the weakening of your muscles around the hips which are crucial when changing directions and dribbling in football. These balancing exercises will activate and strengthen your hips, knee and your ankles while helping you improve your balance so that you won’t get knocked off the ball easily by the defender,” shared Reggie.


One of the most popular and effective core exercises, complete 3 sets of 10 squats as part of this exercise plan. When squatting, make sure the weight isn’t on your knees but on your heels as you move your butt backwards in a sitting motion.

Reggie added that “squats are very effective in working out your lower back, glutes and hamstrings which forms a big part of your core. This can strengthen and give your a little bit more power in your sprints.”


Start with lunges to the front and back to ensure your knees go down in a 90 degree angle. Do it slow to focus on your technique. When you’re more confident, you can include side lunges too.

“This is another great exercise to strengthen your back, legs and hips – all crucial if you want to improve your agility in a fast moving game of football,” says Reggie.

Reginald (Reggie) Tang has over 14 years of experience as a physiotherapist and is also the physio for the Singapore National Rugby Team. You can visit Reggie and his team of physios at Physio Solutions for all your physio and fitness consultation needs.

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