Agility drill ladders are a popular training tool with high school, college, and pro athletes – used to increase foot speed, agility and first step quickness. In my experience however, they aren’t as effective of a tool as they’re often cracked up to be in terms of sport-specific movement. Today I’m going over a few reasons to ditch the agility drill ladders and what you can do for better results.
What’s The Hype With Agility Drill Ladders?
It’s easy to see the appeal of using ladders when it comes to working with athletes. I remember when I was in high school and college working on those quick in and out’s, the ickey shuffle and lateral steps… often regarded as effective methods to increase speed, change of direction and athleticism. The truth is that I just got really good at doing agility drill ladders, but this didn’t necessarily transfer over to the field.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitley used agility drill ladders when programming for youth since it definitely allows them to develop coordination, balance, and spacial awareness. Beyond this, ladders aren’t great for developing athletes at the high school level or above (keep reading for more on that).
How Agility Drill Ladders Limit Your Training
The problem is that agility drill ladders create a particular footwork sequence – you have a set amount of feet before you to complete a single pattern of movement. As an athlete, playing sports is unpredictable and the footwork you use on the field can’t be rehearsed. It’s important to create those situations for yourself in the gym, so you feel more confident bringing them to competition like jukes, cutting, and quick turn-arounds.
An issue I often see when athletes use agility drill ladders, is they tend to spend a lot of energy trying to learn and master the sequence while the feet can’t even keep up. In my opinion, time would be better spent working on skills that apply directly to your game. Be selective with your training protocols and go for whatever give you the best bang for your buck.
Best Method For Agility Training
There’s a ton of ways to build foundational agility without using the agility drill ladders we’re oh so familiar with… my suggestion is to keep it simple with a few drills like the ones below:
Grab a line on the floor (it could be as basic as a piece of tape) and perform double and single leg hops laterally and forward/backwards. Basic drills like these build strength through the foot and ankle so that when you go to cut hard on the field, you can push off with more force and avoid injury. Eventually, I like to begin advancing athletes through these to eventually use the low hurdles which require more work in the hip flexors.
You can also work on some quicker footwork going over the hurdles, rather than the agility drill ladders to work on extra hip flexion and stability. Anything that elevates your work load will give you more significant results.
Agility Training Progressions
If you’re a high school or college level athlete, here’s how I suggest you start progression your training from the ground up:
Begin by working on basics – foundational plyometrics are so important to building agility. If you want to develop quick feet, a powerful first step, and fly through changes of direction, you need to start from the ground up. Think of it like a house that stands on a strong foundation. Rather than using agility drill ladders, start with the drills above and progress over time to taller hurdles. Eventually you can start working on true agility training like the workouts below:
If you’re ready to take your agility to the next level, I highly suggest taking a look at my athlete-proven program Game Speed Agility where I’ve boiled agility down to basic elements
- Force Management
- Cognitive Conditioning
To succeed you’ve got to outwork the competition. Make the difference this upcoming season with quality workouts, smart programming, and skills that work: