Agility Ladder Training - 5 Do's and 5 Don'ts

Agility Ladder Training - 5 Do's and 5 Don'ts

Agility ladders been around for decades, and are still used regularly by sport coaches, trainers, and individual athletes. Their popularity seems to be as high as ever these days.
We picked up our first agility ladder at St Bernard's over 20 years ago, and in those early days it was one of the main ways we trained for speed, agility and quickness.
Today, we've learned more as an industry about their effectiveness. At Power Source we do still use ladders, but not for the same reasons we used to.
My opinion on ladders has evolved and can be best summarized as "They are a good tool, but only when used for specific reasons."
If you use agility ladders yourself, or with your team, there are times I do and do not recommend using them.
DO use ladders as a warm up tool at the start of a workout or practice. The drills can be varied to fit a wide range of ability levels, and there are enough drills to keep things fresh from workout to workout.
DON'T use them to improve sprint times or mechanics. Taking short, compact strides as you do in the ladder is exactly the opposite of how elite sprinters run.
DO use it for coordination development. They are almost on par with jump ropes as a coordination tool, yet you can use one ladder to train many, many people at once.
DON'T use it for actual agility (change of direction) training, unless you have a very specific skill deficit and you want to use the ladder strategically to get a lot of reps in to fix it.
DO use it as part of a conditioning circuit. It adds some variety to running and is lower impact provided you keep the volume to a reasonable level.
DON'T stay on the tips of your toes when doing ladder drills. If you can find a single video of an elite athlete, in any sport, running "on their toes" as you typically see with ladder footwork, please send it to me and I'll retract this statement in a follow up post.
DO make contact with the base of your toes on each stride, which is your true power source. You should see people's heels about 1" off ground when its being done correctly.
DON'T skip actual sprint work and full speed cutting drills for ladder training if you need to get faster for your sport. You'll never see noticeable progress when you have to open up and really cover ground unless you train that way.
DO use it to improve specific skills like hip rotation, crossover steps, controlled stopping, and body control.
DON'T go at a speed where you never make a mistake. Once you master a pattern, challenge your feet to move even faster!
There are many great fitness tools out there today, with the ladder being one of them. Understand what it can and cannot do for your athletic ability, and use them appropriately.

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