Not only will adding ladder drills to your training routine make you a faster runner, but it will also increase explosive power, agility, and coordination, among others, to help you become a more well-rounded runner.
The drills involve using a ladder-like structure marked on the ground, with the athlete performing a series of quick and precise foot movements through the rungs of the ladder.
They’re becoming increasingly popular in the past few years, thanks to their ability to not only challenge your body but your mind as well! What’s best is that they’re highly versatile and can be adapted to suit any fitness level.
Plus they are fun!!! It’s a great way to feel a little more playful and challenge yourself in a different way than another lap around the track. It’s often a great reminder that you aren’t picking up your feet enough as well!
Consider trying out these 7 ladder drills and adding them to your weekly training routine to improve your speed, agility, and coordination to become a better and faster runner.
What Are Ladder Drills?
Ladder drills, also referred to as agility ladder drills and speed ladder drills, are a form of high-intensity interval training that combines short bursts of energy with brief periods of recovery.
You can easily use an agility ladder to challenge yourself in some workout routines.
Here’s an easy one to start with: Stand at one end of the ladder. Next, start running along the entire ladder, putting your feet in the middle of each box until you reach the other side. Turn around quickly and run back to the other end of the ladder.
And that’s one of the simplest ladder drills you can do. Making sure you have the right form can greatly help get all the benefits out of this incredible cardio workout.
These are a super cheap add to your toolkit!
- Ladder drill kit, plus cones (bend and reach or hops!) – $20
- Agility ladder + mini bands – $11
- Hex Agility rings for more variety – $45
Let’s take a look at the benefits in more detail.
6 Benefits of Ladder Drills
Adding some ladder drills to your training routine will do you a lot of good! Here are some of the top benefits of ladder drills:
1. Make You a Faster Runner
Agility drills are extremely fast-paced. They are best performed in short, intense bursts that gradually increase in speed. Your quads, calves, core, and glutes will all feel the burn as you do these exercises.
2. Improves Footwork
Ladder drills are also an excellent way to develop your foot speed and increase your agility for sports like football, soccer, martial arts, basketball, and even running.
In running, we’re often working to improve our cadence. Which means learning how to move your feet faster!
3. Increases Cardiovascular Health
Ladder drills are an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular health. Doing these exercises increases your heart rate and breathing, which strengthens your lungs and heart over time.
Consider these like doing plyometric movements, that are ideal for runners to work some fast twitch muscles.
4. Improves Explosive Power
When you perform ladder drills regularly, your muscles adapt by becoming stronger and more efficient in generating explosive power. This translates to increased stride length, stride frequency, and overall speed
5. Adaptable Form of Exercise
After you’ve mastered the basic ladder drill, try a more advanced variation, such as the high-knee ladder drill or the crossover ladder drill, which involve lateral movements as you step outside the ladder during the exercise.
There are so many varieties, as you’ll see from the workouts below!
6. Enhances Neuromuscular Connection
Doing ladder drills regularly enhances neuromuscular connections between the brain and the lower body, improving the communication and synchronization of muscle contractions. This leads to better muscle recruitment and firing patterns, allowing you to generate more power and force with each stride.
THIS ONE IS HUGE!!! I love drills that help us create these pathways, so that while we are running the body just knows what to do and we don’t have to think about good running form.
How to Do Ladder Drills With Perfect Form
To get started, you can start by doing 2–4 sets of 3–5 reps of each drill. You can vary this depending on your current fitness level. Ideally, you should choose your sets and reps based on how well you can keep your form throughout each set.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Your head and neck should be in a neutral position, and your shoulders should be directly above your hips.
- Throughout the action, keep your chin tucked, as if you were cradling an egg beneath your chin.
- Activate your core. Your pelvis should be slightly tucked throughout the movements and your ribs should be down so as to engage your core.
- When each foot lands or takes off, maintain a level pelvis position and appropriate hip and knee alignment. Your feet should quickly touch the ground. Maintain a ball-of-the-foot stance.
- Throughout each exercise, remember to keep your arms moving. Your arm swing needs to come from your shoulders, with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Your arms should be active but relaxed at all times, and the speed of your arm swing should be the same as the speed at which your feet are moving.
- Your head should remain still and your gaze should be directed forward as you anticipate the next step.
- Put your foot in the gap in the middle of the ladder’s rungs.
- You should move with ease and fluidity. Prioritize improving your technique over your speed.
How Often Should You Do Ladder Drills?
When starting ladder training for the first time, many athletes discover that even a single practice each week makes a significant difference in their speed and agility.
If you want to get faster and more agile, though, you need to incorporate agility ladder drills into your exercise routine at least twice each week.
You don’t need a lot of time to see results from ladder drills! Just 5 to10 minutes of agility drills, twice a week, will do the trick.
Like I said, this is similar to adding in plyomterics after a strength session. Short and sweet.
If you don’t have a ladder, you can make one out of duct tape. Find a hard floor that doesn’t get used much or that you can cover with a rug or mat when you’re not using it. You can tape out a ladder to the floor of your home gym, garage, basement, or any other suitable place in your home.
Once you have a ladder, you can easily start doing speed and agility drills on a regular basis as part of your training.
Start with a Warm-Up Before a Ladder Workout
Before beginning any ladder workout, bear in mind that these are high-intensity, demanding workouts that ask a lot from your heart, lungs, and muscles.
And so, before beginning any of the speed ladder drills described in this article, runners and athletes should perform a full dynamic warm-up.
This is because it’s important that the muscles and nervous system are ready to handle the intense workout the body will go through during these ladder drills.
3 Best Speed Ladder Drills
In it comes to physical fitness, speed is the ability to move the entire body or a part of it as quickly as possible. And so, the speed ladder drills listed below are designed to help runners and athletes improve their speed so that they can show it during a race or other game.
Any sport where speed is crucial, such as running, basketball, football, tennis, and baseball, can benefit from these workouts. Interestingly, this is also the reason why these ladders are commonly known as basketball ladders and softball ladders.
1. Lateral High Knees
This agility ladder drill is useful for enhancing speed, agility, and footwork through lateral running. This drill is suitable for both beginners and advanced runners and athletes.
With the help of this exercise, athletes will learn to maintain quick footwork while improving their balance and coordination. Here’s how to do it:
Start by standing sideways at one end of the ladder. To begin, lift your right foot, driving the knee to waist height and then quickly place your foot into the first box of the ladder.
Next, do the same thing with your left foot by raising it to waist height and placing it into the first box as well.
As soon as the second foot touches the ground, repeat the steps above to move through all the runs.
Once you’re at the other end of the ladder, repeat the process by starting with the opposite foot. This will help balance both sides.
You can either do this by time or reps, with two reps making one set.
2. High Knee Runs
This drill is similar to the last one. In addition to focusing on enhancing speed, it incorporates demanding cardio training, which is an essential part of any speed training program.
This routine is fantastic for developing speed and agility as well as core strength since it forces runners to use their calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, outer thighs, and abdominal muscles.
It’s a great way to improve coordination, and flexibility, and even boost momentum. Here’s how to do it:
Start by standing at one end of the ladder. To begin, raise one foot making sure to lift the knee to waist height, and then place that foot into the first box.
Next, raise your other foot but this time place it in the second box.
Keep repeating these steps to run through all the boxes in the ladder.
3. Carioca Speed Ladder Drill
The Carioca running drill involves shuffling sideways or doing a lateral shuffle while walking with your knees crossed. Cariocas, among other things, increase speed, coordination, core strength, and cardiovascular fitness.
Start by standing sideways, with one shoulder pointing towards the top of the ladder.
Next, begin the drill by stepping into the first box with your leading foot. Then bring the opposite foot over the top of the leading foot and land in the second box.
Repeat the process by taking the other foot around the back of your front foot to land in the next box.
Continue moving up the ladder by bringing your back foot forward. Make sure to alternative moving in front of and behind the front foot.
4 Best Agility Ladder Drills
Agility is defined as the ability to quickly and accurately shift the direction of one’s entire body in space. It is one of the most important skills for athletes in all sports, like basketball and football.
But that’s not all, runners need it too!
Agility requires a great deal of coordination, quick reflexes, balance, speed, and the ability to respond appropriately to changing circumstances.
As a runner, this can help you build up speed at the end of a race, navigate around boulders during a trail run, or simply do daily tasks with more ease.
1. The Ickey Shuffle
This drill, named after former American Football star Elbert L. ‘Ickey’ Woods, may look complicated at first, but it just consists of three basic moves. The key is to perfect your movement pattern.
When done right, this drill can help athletes get faster and more agile all over, especially in their lower bodies.
The foundation of this drill is the 2-in-1-out footwork pattern. This implies that two feet will enter before one moves out. Here’s how to do it:
Start by standing at one end of the ladder and to its side.
Then step into the first box of the ladder with one foot, and follow it immediately with the second foot. Let’s say you first started with the right foot and then followed it with the left foot.
Next, immediately push the right foot (first foot) outside the second box and then place the left foot (second foot) inside the second box. After that, move the right foot into the second box as well.
Follow that by immediately pushing the left foot outside and then move the right foot up into the third box, and bring the left foot into the third box as well. Once the left foot is inside, push the right foot outside the box.
Continue this pattern all the way up the rung. Once you’ve completed all the boxes, run back to the starting point.
Once you master this advanced speed drill, you can backtrack your way through the ladder in the opposite direction to get to the starting point inside of running back.
2. Hopscotch Ladder Drill
If you’ve ever played the well-known hopscotch game as a kid, then this drill is fairly straightforward. But that doesn’t mean that it’s hard for people who have never done it before.
This is one of the agility ladder drills that help athletes become more explosive, decelerate, accelerate, and change directions quickly.
This step ladder exercise requires rapid jumping in and out of boxes, which requires outstanding foot-eye coordination and lower body reaction time. Here’s how to do it:
Start by standing at one end of the ladder while facing forward.
To begin, jump with both feet into the first box. Then push both feet outside the ladder without resting. The ladder will be between your feet at this point.
Next. jump inside the second box with both feet and immediately spring outside the box as we did earlier.
Keep repeating this pattern until you’ve completed all the boxes.
Quite similar to the hopscotch game, you can add variations like jumping into odd or even number boxes only by skipping a box.
3. Two-footed Forward/Backward Jumps Agility Drill
This is a great agility drill that improves explosive power while increasing agility and also coordination.
Start by standing at one end of the ladder while facing the ladder. To begin, jump into the second box, then immediately backward into the first box, then jump forward into the third box, and back into the second box.
Keep repeating this pattern by jumping back and forth until you have gone through the length of the entire ladder. Then turn back and repeat on your way back to the starting point.
4. Lateral Single-Leg Hops
This is a great agility ladder exercise that you can do with one leg, and is great for both beginners and athletes that have prior experience with agility training.
Start by standing on your right foot while standing sideways on the right side of the ladder. Do this drill by hopping through the length of the ladder in each box on your right foot.
When you reach the end of the ladder, turn around and hop back. Then switch sides and repeat the drill.
Start on your stronger side and then move on to the weaker one in case you have an imbalance. Do more reps on the less strong side to build strength, agility, and balance.
How to Do Ladder Drills Safely and Avoid Injury
See a doctor before starting any new workout plan if you have a history of health problems. Proper exercise technique is important to make sure an exercise routine is safe and effective, but you may need to change each exercise to get the best results based on your own needs.
Pay close attention to your body when you work out, and stop right away if you feel sharp pain or discomfort.
To keep making progress and build up your body’s strength, make sure your exercise program includes the right warm-ups, rest, and food.
In the end, your results will depend on your ability to recover adequately from your exercises to become stronger over time. So make sure to rest for 24 to 48 hours before working out the same muscle groups again to allow for adequate recovery.
Looking for additional speed work training?
- Fastest Mile Time and Averages
- How to do Tempo Runs
- Why Hill Sprints Make You Faster
- Incredible benefits of Sprinting
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