Reprint: Agility Ladder training

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Today’s post is a blast from the past. I wrote it n 2008 during my second summer at a sport performance facility. This was written for my old blog which was used to write out and assimilate my thoughts as I was learning at warp speed in the gym.

The great thing is this post still represents my thoughts on the value of agility ladder drills within a training program. The bottom line being that the name “agility ladder” is a misnomer and probably marketing-inspired. I hope you enjoy reading it if you haven’t before. Please feel free to share this with someone if you feel they would benefit from it, or to leave a comment below.

Have a great week everyone!

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Do agility ladders really train agility??

Before I answer, let’s look at agility from both a sporting context as well as the one we are training via the ladder.

In a sporting context, agility is seen as the ability to change directions in a quick and efficient manner. The skill of agility comes into play in an unpredictable way in reaction to an unpredictable opponent or object.

In the context of the ladder drills we put athletes through, they perform pre-planned movements with the goal of achieving the desired “foot in-foot out” pattern proficiently. We are not really training change of direction with many of these drills, but testing a coordination pattern of some level of complexity. If we are using it to train change of direction, can we really make it unpredictable?? I ask this because then we’d be probably asking our athletes to react to an unpredictable command or stimulus, but in such a way that they perform the drill “in” the ladder.

Then the question becomes, would this really transfer to agility in sport?? I would argue no for two reasons: 1) with agility ladder drills, we don’t coach change of direction technique, we coach “do this pattern and don’t knock the bars of the ladder” and 2) Because we want the athletes to step in and out of the ladder in a certain pattern, we are imposing a spatial constraint since each box is a certain size square. This will disrupt the natural movement pattern depending on how they go through the ladder (if they have to take a longer step or short step in order to be within a box).

As you can gather, I don’t believe that agility ladders really develop agility in a sporting sense. I think they develop coordination. Not any less important of a skill, just a different skill entirely.

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