Apr 21, 2017
Ladder to Success

Are you searching for a way to strengthen your athletes’ speed, coordination, balance, and agility? Exercises that utilize an agility ladder can do just that. These ladders are typically made of nylon straps with plastic strips placed 15-18 inches apart. Most have buttons that allow extra sections of ladder to be attached, so coaches can make the ladder as short or long as a specific workout calls for.

While doing footwork exercises is something that could benefit most any athlete, they are often overlooked. In an article for Redefining Strength, author Cori Lefkowith discusses some of the positive benefits of agility ladder drills. For him, these drills do far more than increase speed and balance–they also improve the link between the mind and body.

“By improving your mind-body connection, you will be able to more quickly recruit the correct muscles to do work a.k.a lift weights or run,” writes Lefkowith. “This will help you prevent and alleviate pain and injury as well as react more quickly and be more coordinated.”

Making sure that athletes are doing each drill correctly will help them reap the most benefits. According to an article for Strength Systems by Chad Ravannack, athletes should begin each drill slowly and understand the movements before speeding up their pace. From there, athletes can increase their speed. They should stop increasing when they are no longer able to hold the correct form throughout the exercise. Ravannack also suggests starting athletes with easier drills, then moving on to more complicated ones as their footwork improves.

“The progression from easy drills to more difficult ones usually takes place over several weeks,” he writes. “After a couple of weeks mastering a few drills, gradually add one new drill while eliminating an old one. This process allows every training session to be at a high intensity.”

But where in a workout should this exercise be placed? In an article for Sport Fitness Advisor, Certified Personal Trainer Phil Davies explains that drills using an agility ladder should be done directly following the warm up. Doing this ensures that the athletes’ muscles aren’t tired, and they will be able to keep the form of the movement longer, allowing them to get the most from the exercise.

When implementing agility ladder drills, Ravannack recommends incorporating three or four different drills into one workout, repeating each one three to four times. And similar to any workout, knowing the desired outcome will help you choose which drill to implement on any given day.

“Set a purpose before scheduling the ladder drills into your workout plan,” writes Ravannack. “If you want to increase foot quickness, focus on drills that require fast foot movements. If range of mobility is the goal, focus on agility drills.”

Whatever drill you implement, Davies gives a few hints that can help keep your athletes moving quickly and correctly:

  1. Push off from the balls of your feet.
  2. Keep your elbows at 90 degrees.
  3. Keep your arms, shoulders, and hands relaxed.
  4. Keep your head still throughout the drill.

He then goes on to give multiple examples of agility ladder drills. Here are two of those examples:

The In-Out-Drill

  1. Start with your feet hip width apart at the start of the ladder.
  2. Starting with your left foot, step into the first square, immediately followed by your right foot.
  3. Step with your left foot outside of (to the left of) the second square.
  4. Quickly step with your right foot outside of (to the right of) the second square.
  5. Step with your left foot into the third square, followed by your right foot.
  6. Repeat this pattern for the entire length of the ladder.

Check out this video from Hoops King to see the In-Out Drill in action.

The Tango Drill

  1. Start with both feet outside of the first square and to the left.
  2. Cross your left leg over your right and into the center of the first square.
  3. Step with your right foot to the right of (outside of) the first square, directly followed by your left foot.
  4. Cross your right foot over your left and into the center of the second square.
  5. Step with your left foot to the left of (outside of) the third square, directly followed by your right foot.
  6. Repeat this pattern for the entire length of the ladder.

To see an example of the Tango Drill, check out this videofrom PE Made Easy.

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