No matter what sport they play, most athletes can benefit from improving their foot speed and agility. Fast feet can help tennis players adjust to fast serves and hard body shots, allow basketball players to shuffle and stay with shifty ball handlers and give football players an edge when making cuts in the open field.
Luckily, just like strength or jumping ability, it is possible to improve your agility with careful training. Many coaches and athletes work on foot speed using agility ladders, which they can use to perform complex step patterns designed to promote quick movement and coordination.
While these drills can have a dramatic effect on players looking to improve their agility, athletes can experience a plateau after extensive training using only the agility ladder. Unlike resistance-based exercises, where the weight can be increased as athletes improve their strength, ladder drills alone are tough to make more difficult when they become too easy for well-conditioned athletes.
To get more out of your ladder workouts, here are three ways Stack recommends you can augment your drills to make them more difficult.
- Add resistance band: Try performing your standard two-foot drills with a mini band around your ankles. The added resistance will force your legs to work harder to move quickly. "This is also important for injury prevention," says Stack, "because strengthening the glutes can help you avoid knee valgus and ACL injuries."
- Look up: Most athletes tend to look down at their feet when working out on the ladder, even though you rarely see them staring at the ground when competing in their sports! To help you keep your head up, have a partner stand in front of you while you perform your drills. Have him or her hold up a random number of fingers, and shout them out when you see them.
- Play ball: In this variation, have a partner drop a tennis ball in a random direction as you complete the ladder. Move to grab it, with one hand, as quickly as possible. This will help improve not only your quickness and reaction time, but your hand-eye coordination as well.
To see the above exercises demonstrated on video, check out Stack's training guide here.