Coaches prize athletes who are quick on their feet, because they give the whole team an edge. The ability to spontaneously move fast in multiple directions can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
Below are 10 agility ladder drills that combine ladder movements (e.g., hops and jumps) with multi-directional sprinting to enhance lower-body muscular endurance, particularly when required late in games or matches. They also improve vertical and horizontal jumping performance.
The multi-directional sprints (e.g., backpedaling, running forward, diagonally and laterally) are excellent drills for sports where you must instantly change direction to get to a ball or chase an opponent. Single-leg hopping movements improve balance and are excellent for sports such as wrestling, basketball and football.
- Agility ladder
- Three cones
- Med ball (60%-70% of your 1RM)
- Water bottle
Perform a dynamic upper- and lower-body warmup (e.g., Arm Raises and Lunges). Finish with a cooldown comprising upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility.
Perform drills 1-5 and 6-10 on alternate, non-consecutive days to allow for sufficient recovery. Do two circuits of the five drills. Rest 15-30 seconds between drills to promote endurance (simulating the brief pauses during games and matches).
Holding a med ball overhead during sprint and ladder drills strengthens the chest, shoulders, upper back and arm muscles and intensifies the drill.
Hydrate after performing two or three drills and again after completing the first circuit of all five drills.
Rest for 60 seconds while hydrating before starting the second circuit.
Agility Ladder Drills
1. Single-Leg Forward Hops between Ladder Spaces/Forward/Reverse Sprints
- Place a cone 40 yards from the ladder.
- Hop through the ladder on your left foot.
- Immediately sprint to the cone.
- Backpedal to the ladder.
- Turn around and hop through the ladder on your right foot.
2. Lateral Jumps In/Out of Ladder Spaces/Cariocas
- Place a cone 20 yards from the ladder.
- Stand alongside the ladder and jump in and out of each space with both feet together.
- Immediately follow with lateral sprints (cariocas) to the cone.
- Carioca back to the opposite side of the ladder and jump in and out of the spaces back to the start.
Cariocas and lateral jumps enhance lateral movement on the basketball court and football field when moving sideways to defend an opponent. These are great agility movements for runners eluding tackles and sidestepping opponents.
3. Med Ball Simulated Tire Drill (Through Ladder Spaces)
- Holding the med ball overhead, high-step forward (driving knees toward waist) through the ladder (as if going through a football tire drill).
- Turn around and repeat high steps back to start position.
4. Horizontal Jumps/Diagonal Sprints
- Arrange three cones 20 yards apart in a zig zag pattern (20 yards diagonally right, 20 yards diagonally left, and 20 yards diagonally right).
- Face the ladder in an athletic stance.
- Explosively jump forward, skipping two ladder spaces.
- Upon landing, immediately jump forward again, skipping two spaces.
- Continue horizontal jumps to the end of the ladder.
- Quickly sprint diagonally right to the first cone, diagonally left to the second cone and diagonally right to the third cone.
- Rest 10 seconds, turn around and diagonally sprint to each cone back to the ladder and finish with horizontal jumps back to start position.
5. Med Ball Single-Leg Lateral Hops (Inside/Outside Ladder Spaces)
- Hold the med ball overhead and stand alongside the ladder.
- Hop with your left foot laterally in and out of the ladder to the end.
- Without rest, turn and hop in and out with your right foot back to start position.
This is a wonderful balance exercise that translates to the football field when sidestepping an opponent using one foot or attempting to stay in bounds.
6. Explosive Push-Ups between Ladder Spaces
- Assume push-up position with your hands in the first ladder space.
- Lower yourself slowly, then explosively push up with your hands leaving the floor.
- Advance with your hands and feet to the second ladder space and repeat the explosive Push-Up.
- Continue explosive Push-Ups to the end of ladder.
This drill combines upper-body power and upper-body muscular endurance for pushing away wrestling, football and hockey opponents as well as building chest, shoulder, arm and back muscles.
7. Forward and Backward Crabwalks in Ladder Spaces
- Assume a seated position facing the ladder.
- Bend your knees with your feet on the floor and use your arms to elevate your hips.
- Walk forward with your feet and hands through each ladder space with your hips continually raised off the floor.
- Continue to the end of the ladder, then walk backward on your feet and hands to start position.
Crabwalks build triceps, shoulder and upper-back muscles, strengthen abdominal and lower-body muscles, and boost upper- and lower-body muscular endurance.
8. Simulated Tire Drill with Lateral High Steps In/Out of Ladder/Multi-Directional Sprints
- Arrange three cones 10 yards apart with Cone 1 10 yards diagonally to the right from the end of the ladder, Cone 2 diagonally to the left, and Cone 3 diagonally to the right.
- Stand alongside the ladder and high-step laterally (knees to waist) with one foot inside the ladder and the other foot outside the ladder.
- Sprint diagonally right, then diagonally left, then diagonally right.
- Backpedal to the ladder and repeat lateral high steps inside/outside the ladder back to start position.
Lateral high steps and multi-directional sprints are useful movements, particularly in football when avoiding tackles and running across the field to catch a pass.
9. Med Ball Reverse High Step Simulated Tire Drill/Reverse Sprint
- Set a cone 40 yards from the end of the ladder.
- With your back to the start of ladder, hold the med ball overhead and perform reverse high steps through the ladder spaces to the end.
- Immediately follow with a reverse sprint to the cone.
- Turn and backpedal to the ladder.
- Repeat high steps through the ladder back to start position.
10. Two Vertical Jumps in Each Ladder Space
- Jump as high as possible two times in each ladder space and continue until the end.
It’s important not to pause between jumps, since momentarily stopping minimizes the explosiveness you want to develop. Upon landing, immediately jump as high as you can for the next jump. Step into the next space and continue the double jumps.