Ladder workouts are one of the best ways to ramp up your fitness level, send your metabolic rate soaring, and help improve your cardiovascular conditioning all at once.
Agility refers to your ability to change positions quickly, using quick, controlled movements. If you’re an athlete, this skill will clearly give you an advantage over your competitors, and it’s commonly used in the military to improve combat performance and general fitness.
However even non-athletes and civilians can benefit from agility training. For starters, agility training is fun. Say goodbye to tedious treadmill workouts that have you counting down the minutes until you’re done. Agility workouts are fast-paced and constantly changing. They keep actively engaged in both mind and body, providing an exciting workout you’ll actually look forward to.
Further, agility training helps to improve your functional movements, which are those you need to get through the day. It improves the rate at which your muscles contract, which otherwise tends to decline as you age. It also improves your balance, including dynamic balance (or balance while you’re in motion), and enhances your natural reflexes so you’ll react with a renewed swiftness.1
If you’ve ever felt like a bit of a klutz, agility training can also be invaluable as it helps with coordination. As you get older, agility training helps you maintain your independence.
There are many different forms of agility training, but one of my favorites is the agility ladder. It provides a platform for virtually unlimited movements to work your entire body.
What Are the Benefits of Agility Ladder Training?
An agility ladder is an inexpensive piece of exercise equipment that you can roll out on any flat surface. You can also “draw” an agility ladder on your floor using tape. You then practice moving through the rungs in various ways.
If you’re just starting out, you may simply walk through the ladder, but as you become more advanced you can progress through sideways shuffles, skipping rungs and much more.
Such movements help to strengthen your joints, ligaments, and tendons while improving coordination and focus. It also provides a workout for your heart. Will Elson, personal training manager at New York Health and Racquet Club in New York City told Reuters:2
“It boosts cardio with fast foot strikes and knee lifts, while incorporating balance and joint stability… It also has the benefits of working on coordination. And it’s fun in a confined space.”
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research even found that agility training is as effective or more effective than traditional military physical training at enhancing physical fitness. In addition, agility training had the added benefit of improving cognitive performance as well, including memory and vigilance.3 Elson continued:
“It’s a great exercise to force someone to focus, to learn a movement pattern and be able to execute it without looking down… The body is learning something new.”
30 Agility Ladder Drills
If you’re wondering where to start using an agility ladder, check out the video above, which demonstrates 30 agility ladder exercises designed to increase speed and body control. Aim to do such workouts one or two times a week, and land on the balls of your feet.
Ideally you should try not to look down. Instead, focus on a spot on the ground about one yard in front of your feet. One set of an exercise is generally moving down the ladder and back up again.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) also recommends agility ladder drills to boost quickness, foot speed, coordination, and body awareness. The following drill should be done using a 10-yard-long agility ladder (or one drawn on the ground with approximately 16″ x 16″ squares between each rung).4
- Two-footed Forward/Backward Jumps
“Stand alongside the agility ladder with your chest facing the squares. Quickly jump into the ladder, landing …