Carioca Exercises

Carioca exercises can improve your footwork for tennis and other sports.
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The word “carioca” sounds more difficult than the actual exercise. This simple drill improves your agility, and you can use it as a dynamic warmup or as part of your cardio workout. Because it requires no equipment, carioca is a versatile exercise that you can do in a field, at the gym or even in a hotel hallway if you’re traveling.

How to Carioca

To do a carioca exercise, begin in an open area with room to move sideways in both directions. Start with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart, knees soft. Use your left foot to push off, crossing it behind the right foot and transferring your weight onto it. Move your right foot to the side until you’re back to your starting stance. Now cross your left foot in front, stepping onto it. Move your right foot to the side. Continue moving to your right, crossing the left foot behind, then forward, until you reach the end of your planned distance. Then reverse your direction.

Progressing the Drill

Once you get the footwork down, think about your upper body. As you run sideways, reach your arms straight out at shoulder height to aid your balance. Keep your shoulders straight, and twist your hips each time your legs cross. Move on the balls of your feet, keeping your knees slightly bent. Once it starts to feel natural, increase your speed.

Muscles Worked

Carioca strengthens your heart as the blood pumps faster. You’ll also feel it in your lower body. Because your knees stay bent, your quadriceps begin to burn. Your calves and your hip abductors, the muscles in your outer thighs, will grow stronger. Keep your abdominals engaged while doing carioca exercises, and you’ll work your core.


Carioca can improve your performance in sports that require agility, lateral moves and fast footwork, such as tennis and basketball. Many other drills train forward and back movement, but it’s important to practice moving sideways and changing direction quickly, as you do in carioca. Carioca also helps improve hip mobility.

Carioca Ladder Drills

Basketball coach Mike Meister offers a forward version of carioca using an agility ladder. Begin facing the ladder, and step your left foot into the middle of the first box. Cross your right foot behind, keeping it in the box. Step a little to the left and then to the right to return to the start position. Movements are small, with your foot staying in one box for each step of the carioca pattern before moving to the next box. On your way back through the ladder, lead with your right foot.

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