Agility ladder drills are an awesome tool for runners: they’re very effective as a form of cross-training, they improve your explosive power abilities – making you a faster runner – improve co-ordination, and also make a great warm-up exercise.
In this article, I’ll explain why agility ladder drills are so important to runners and how to use them to get fast.
When you run your first marathon or first major race, the main goal is to cross the finish line. But as you get better at running, you start to form goals to get faster.
There are all kinds of drills and cross-training to help you achieve that, but some are proven to work better than others. If this is your first time trying agility ladder drills, you’ll watch yourself surpassing your own records.
The main purpose of agility ladder drills is to make you stronger and more agile.
Sure, you could lift weights to strengthen your core and legs, which has immense value. But improving your agility and strength ( at the same time) will jump-start your running to a new level.
What Are Agility Ladder Drills?
You don’t have to use an actual ladder. In fact, you shouldn’t. But the tool you use should have the ladder shape.
Investing in an agility training ladder is a wise choice, especially if you’re really serious about maximizing your running speed.
The typical agility ladder comes with sturdy cables, tied to adjustable plastic rungs. It lies flat on the ground, ready for tendon-building, ligament-strengthening, joint-securing power movement.
You’ll be using your legs and core (with arms for stability and balance) to perform quick but powerful jumps, side-steps, and skips to move in, out, and around the rungs of the ladder.
Just remember there’s no toe-tap dancing here. These moves are designed to be quick and powerful to help maximize your speed by leaps and bounds.
The Benefits of Ladder Drills for Runners
Speed: They’ll Make You Faster
Agility drills are fast-paced. They’re designed to be done in quick bursts, moving faster as you go. They’ll make your muscles burn, strengthening your quads, calves, core, and glutes all at the same time.
Ladder drills burn fat and calories, fast-tracking your weight loss goals.
Your reflexes will speed up, and that’s the beauty of agility ladder drills. Not only will you run faster, but you’ll be quicker to react to unexpected circumstances.
Strength: Explosive Power
You’ll need it at the start of the race. When you encounter hills in the middle of your run, you’ll thank yourself for the agility ladder drills. And you’ll need explosive power at the end of your race when you’re crushing it with your best finishing time.
Sharpness: The Ability to Adapt
If you want to be fast, you have to be agile. A lot of people think they’ll get fast if they just keep running as fast as they can. You will improve if you do this, but it will be a slow and frustrating journey.
To see real results at a steady pace, you need to do sprints and strength training.
And you need agility ladder drills.
If you’re running on public streets, trails, or any non-path (in other words: anywhere other than a designated track), you need agility to respond quickly to bumps in the road, sudden turns, and unexpected weather changes.
Without agility, your body will be slow to respond, depriving you of precious time or leaving you vulnerable to injuries.
After a few weeks of consistent agility ladder drills (one or two sessions per week), you’ll notice your body becoming more adaptable to the curves your run throws at you.
Here’s Our Recommended Agility Ladders For Runners
Perhaps the best part of agility ladders is that they’re a relatively cheap training aid, and can be packed up and fit into almost no space!
You can also use an agility ladder practically anywhere you have some space – whether it’s in a park, your garden, or your hallspace.
Here’s our picks of the best agility ladders on the market today:
[amazon bestseller=”agility ladder” items=”4″]
The 6 Most Effective Aligity Ladder Drills to Knock Your Running Out of the Park
1. Salsa Dancing
If you’ve tried salsa on the dance floor, you know it involves coordinated counting and popping hips. The salsa ladder drill uses those same techniques.
Each section of the ladder gets 2 counts: You’ll stand on the left side of the ladder, facing the right. Your right foot goes inside the rung, pointing toward the center of the ladder.
Then your left foot steps across, outside the edge of ladder on the left side (but still pointing toward the inside of the ladder). To do it, keep your hips wide so that your toes will be able to point inside the ladder.
Then you’ll take your right and start again with the next rung of the ladder, dance-stepping your way across the ladder.
Tip: Be sure to start slow, work on getting your motor system and coordination just right, then move faster at the end.
2. The Lateral Side Shuffle
Don’t always move in one direction when it comes to ladder drills. Rotating your body to the side is a key part of building agility.
Set up your starting position like you’re ready to run a race: arms bent at your sides, set to propel you forward.
Move your right foot inside the rung, then follow with your left.
Then move your right foot outside the edge of the ladder. Your left will follow, but it won’t go all the way outside the rung. Instead, it’ll lead the next step into the rung, with the right foot following.
Tip: Step with your toes first and then use those toes to immediately propel yourself into the next step. These steps should go as fast as possible, so your heel barely touches the ground, if it all.
3. 1 – 2 – Pop
This variation of the shuffle adds an explosive element for an extra boost of speed and strength.
Instead of landing right outside the ladder with your lead foot, you’re going to pop your entire body up, shooting it out way beyond the mere edge of the ladder.
So lead your right foot to the center, follow with your left, then pop your body out to the edge. Hop back in with your foot and lead with it on the next rung.
Tip: Angles are everything on this ladder drill. Experiment with different angles to see what helps your body move forward and what keeps you balanced. In this case, angles = agility.
4. Straddle Hops
These will strengthen your adductor muscles, on the inside of your thighs. We call them ‘straddle hops,’ but they’re a lot like playing hopscotch when you were a kid.
Straddle the agility ladder with both feet, then jump into the center of the rung, both legs at the same time.
Jump forward and out to land outside of the next rung. Synchronize your arms and legs to propel the jump.
Tip: Hold your bodyweight above your toes. You’ll need excellent balance to keep this ladder drill moving smoothly and quickly, so steady, even bodyweight makes all the difference.
5. The Knee Tuck Hop
Focus on establishing single-leg stability and explosiveness on this one.
Heads up: your back leg won’t touch the ground until the end.
Get into a hopping position. Your left leg will be off the ground, bent at a 90-degree angle.
Hop forward into the first rung, using your arms to propel the jump. Stay in the same position, hopping on to the next rung, and through the full ladder.
When you finish, hop back with the other foot to make sure it’s even.
Tip: This agility ladder drill helps with injury reduction. You can either synchronize your hands and knees or use both hands on the jump, depending on your coordination.
6. Hip Switches
You need a full range of motion in your hips. You’ll be doing a full swing from back to back, rotating your body with the power of the hips.
Start with one foot inside the gap of the rung and one foot outside. Use your hips to swing your body so it faces the side of the ladder. One foot should be in one open gap, and one should be in the next one.
Then swing your body and jump forward at the same time, moving back to starting position (but this time in the next rung).
Tip: Unlike the squat, keep most of your weight on your toes. The purpose is to get across the ladder as fast as you can.
How to Incorporate Agility Ladder Drills Into Your Weekly Running Routine
Try to include two full sets of these 6 agility ladder drills once or twice a week. Doing all 6 at once will be a challenge since you’re building muscle and doing intense cardio at the same time. But since the point is speed, you’ll get through it quickly and see fast results.
Take 30 seconds to one minute to rest in between your first and second sets. If you need 30 seconds in between each agility ladder drill, that’s fine too.
It’s always better to refresh yourself so you can attack the agility ladder drill with all you’ve got. Just remember to cool down after the workout.
Each week you should feel yourself getting faster and finding the drills easier. When that happens, add in more sets and work on propelling your body further with each jump.
Looking for an agility ladder now?
Here are our top picks of the best ones on the market today:
[amazon bestseller=”agility ladder” items=”4″]