Watching Luis Badillo Jr. move through a speed ladder looks fake. It seems impossible that a person can move with such speed and precision that you have to wonder if the videos are sped up.
But his videos are most definitely real. Scary thing is that he only started training in 2014.
Now the “King Feet of Miami” is training some of the world’s best athletes, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Marshawn Lynch, Brandin Cooks, Devonta Freeman and a host of other pros across multiple sports.
Take a look through his Instagram and you’ll notice his workouts are centered around agility ladders, mini-hurdles and cones. He places the equipment in a variety of patterns to challenge footwork, coordination, balance, technique and precision with the goal of creating quicker and faster athletes.
“No matter what sport you’re playing, you need to be quick, you need to be fast, you need to be able to react and you need to be explosive,” he says.
Some coaches will disagree with this type of training, and they have a point. For years, agility ladder drills were seen as a sort of silver bullet for speed. As a result, speed workouts ended up including lots of ladder drills and failed to address other critical components of speed.
Truth is, ladders, hurdles and cones play an important part in speed development, but aren’t the be-all to end-all. Athletes need to lift weights to develop strength and power, do plyometric exercises, sprint and perform agility drills with reaction components. Combined with the type of footwork drills Badillo has his athletes perform, it’s possible to develop a well-rounded speed skill set.
“Footwork is beneficial for any athlete in any sport, at any position and any at age or size,” he explains.
“Obviously, I’m not going to use a ladder during a game but it’s the outcome of what the ladder is going to do for me,” adds Badillo. “It’s going to make me a lot more comfortable with my footwork, coordination, rhythm, explosiveness and balance. All of these are key elements to be successful in any sport.”
If you’ve done any type of speed training, you likely have some experience with basic versions of ladder, hurdle and cone drills. It also probably seems impossible to do these drills even at a fraction of the speed as Badillo, but that’s OK. Even Badillo was rough around the edges when he began training with ladders.
“I struggled a lot. I was flat-footed. I felt like I was trying to muscle my way through the ladder. I would fatigue quickly. I couldn’t finish 10 minutes of doing the ladder,” he recalls. “So I started experimenting with keeping my body relaxed, breathing and doing a lot of repetitions to build muscle memory.”
But he clearly made some amazing strides in the last few years, and so can you by implementing the following tips from Badillo.
Stay light on your feet. Don’t stomp your way through the ladder. Stay light and quick on your feet by…
Staying on the balls of your feet. You never want to be flat-footed, which causes you to spend too much time on the ground, slows you down and wastes valuable energy.
Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. This puts you in the ideal position to control your footwork.
Pump your arms as quickly as possible. A fast arm action helps your feet move quicker in the direction that you need to go.
Wear proper shoes. Your training shoes should be lightweight, comfortable and offer traction and support. Badillo’s go-to is the Reebok Print Smooth Ultraknit.
Below is one of Badillo’s favorite drills that will help you get faster. Do ladders drills up to three times per week, and always challenge yourself by changing the patterns.
Two-Feet In, Two-Feet Out
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