No matter the sport or activity, we all strive in some way to become faster, more agile, and have better coordination. Incorporating agility ladder drills could be the trick, even if they seem intimidating after watching top athletes show off their elite footwork.

However, AJ Artis, the University of South Florida’s director of football strength and conditioning, believes the quick movements of footwork drills can help athletes of all sports and fitness levels. It’s why he recommends incorporating ladder drills to your workout routine in order to boost your footwork skills, as well as improve mobility and quickness.

“The ladder drills add a lot of components, such as quick feet, change of direction and explosion,” says Artis, who prior to joining the Bull, spent three seasons at the University of Tennessee, his final year as director of football sports and performance. “For the wide receiver position, it’s very key and beneficial for footwork because at the line of scrimmage, you have to use your feet a lot. As far as O-line, D-line and different positions, it’s useful as well. To create good habits in any sport, you have to have good feet — slow feet don’t eat.”

He was a three-year letterman at Campbell, playing receiver before transitioning to tight end his last two seasons.

Even for the non-athletic type, agility ladder drills can help improve mental performance as well as their overall fitness and coordination because the drills require quick thinking and processing visual information.

Artis says anyone beginning to incorporate the agility ladder into their routine should start out simple and then attack their progression. Like with anything you’re working to be good at, repetition is key, Artis says. With implementing simple and then challenging drills into your program two to three times a week, you’ll see steady progression. You can even use these drills as the buildup to your regular workout or as a finisher to really test your endurance.

Artis’ Agility Ladder Drill Workout

Artis, who was a three-year letterman at Campbell University playing wide receiver and tight end, suggests performing some sort of dynamic and static flexibility warmup before taking on this ladder drill in order to get the body warmed up for the movements.

The Workout:

Perform each exercise for 6 to 10 reps. If you’re new to these movements, start out at your own pace. The focus should be on proper technique and coordination rather than speed. After you become familiar with the moves, you’ll quickly become ready for more advanced drills, like the Double Trouble, Ickey Shuffle and Carioca.

1. Single-leg hop (down and back with both feet counts as one rep)

  • How to do it: While facing the ladder, while balancing on your right or left foot, hop into each rung until you reach the end. When you reach the end, hop back in each square on the opposite foot until you reach the end. For an added challenge, you can try hopping back backwards on the foot you started with for one set of reps and going down and back the same way on the opposite foot.

2. Double-leg Hop 

  • How to do it: While facing sideways, hop into each square on both feet until you reach the end. For a more explosive variation, jump as high as you can and focus on landing in an athletic stance.

3. Single-leg Lateral Hop (down and back with both feet counts as one rep)

  • How to do it: While positioned with the ladder at your right or left side and balancing on your right or left foot, hop into each square until you reach the end and return on the same foot, switching to the other foot for the next trip.

4. Lateral Double-leg Hop

  • How to do it: While position with the ladder at your right or left side, hop into each square until you reach the end and then hop back the opposite way.

5. Double In & Out Lateral

  • How to do it: This one is a little more on the advanced side but a good test. While facing the ladder, begin by stepping into the first rung with your right leg, then left leg, then step outside of the next rung, leading with the foot you started with. You’re taking two steps in each rung and two steps outside every rung.
The All-Strength Guide to Sports Training: Agility and mobility

Episode 3: Agility and mobility

Exercises to complement your power, strength, and speed.

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