Functional Training: Ladder Exercises to Increase Speed & Agility
Wherever you are in your fitness journey, it is important to implement speed and agility exercises into your regular routine. A large part of functional training involves preventing injury by strengthening your core, improving stability and increasing your reaction time. Don’t worry if you feel very uncoordinated at first; speed and agility can be developed and enhanced with practice and consistency.
As an added bonus, performing quick bursts of bodyweight exercises between weight training can optimize your time in the gym and blast unwanted fat. If you’re tired of pop squats and mountain climbers, utilizing a foot ladder can keep your interval workouts exciting and fun while improving speed and agility! Ladder exercises are ideal for improving footwork as well as quickness and coordination. The versatility of ladder exercises makes them suitable for all levels of ability from beginners to elite athletes.
A standard foot or agility ladder lays flat on the ground, has several rungs separated by chords and can vary in length depending on your preference. Exercises are completed to exhaustion- about 15-20 ‘reps’ or ‘steps’ one way. Because an agility ladder is very portable and easy to set up and break down, it can travel with you in the gym while you complete your regular weight-training program.
Here are a few tips before you start implementing ladder drills into your workout routine:
1. Always begin with a warm-up.
Begin by foam rolling large muscle groups for 5-10 minutes to perform self-myofascial release. Myofascial release allows you to access more of the muscle itself during your workouts. Next, try moving your body with static and dynamic stretches to raise your heart rate and body temperature to allow your body to adapt slowly before performing explosive power and strength exercises.
2. Use your arms to motivate your legs.
Quick bursts of explosive energy require a fast start. When accelerating, utilize your arms to create a tempo that will increase the force you need to drive the legs into the ground faster and more efficiently. Pull from the elbow and push forward with your forearm, alternating the legs throughout the movement.
3. Keep up the intensity!
Less is often more when it comes to improving speed and agility. Push as hard as you can for a short but intense burst of 20-30 seconds max. Ladder exercises are not intended to be steady heart rate cardio exercises but, rather, high intensity interval exercises. Push as hard as you can and you will reap the results!
Now that you’re warmed up and prepared to work hard, add this fat-burning foot ladder program to your workouts between weighted sets and feel the difference a few steps can make!
Perform all 3 exercises back to back as quickly and as accurately as possible with 20 seconds of rest between each exercise. Be sure to go down and back through the ladder to complete one rep.
1. Side step with high knees
High knees build on explosive quick hops for coordination and quad strength. Whichever direction you’re going will be the lead leg. Be sure to repeat on the other leg to return. Facing sideways, take quick lateral steps by pushing off your back leg while pulling your leading leg up high. Step into each box with both feet then thrust your knee high to the next.
2. Side straddle hop with low squat
This quick lateral movement with a wide squat focuses on your hips, glutes and inner thighs. Start with feet together and hop to the outside of the first box, landing in a wide squat. Pop up and inside the box with both feet while avoiding “clapping” your feet.
3. In and Out
This tempo drill follows a four count of in-in-out-out. Facing sideways, touch your toes in and out of each box once. It helps to repeat “in-in-out-out” in your head while you get started to remind yourself of which foot goes where! Again, whichever direction you’re going will indicate the lead leg. Be sure to repeat on your other leg to return.
Remember, your workout is what you make of it. If you’re in the gym doing work, you’re already ahead of the rest. Be safe, work smart and give it your all!
About the writer:
Lauren Rae is a wellness writer, fitness model, and personal trainer. She seeks to inspire others through proper exercise technique, lifestyle and nutritional coaching.