Fitness Corner: Agility Ladder Drills

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Athletes and coaches are often presented with various training products that guarantee a 5 inch improvement in their vertical jump or a significant increase in their overall speed. Whether or not these products can actually deliver the promised results, on the other hand, is sometimes questionable. This is not the case with the Agility Ladder.

The increasingly popular agility ladder is a fun and effective training tool for any athlete who desires to improve agility, footwork, balance, and coordination. An agility ladder is typically ten yards long, 16" wide with spacers 17" wide. The ladder has hard, plastic rungs forming squares and lies flat on the ground. Personally, I have successfully implemented agility ladder training into the training regimens of athletes from the youth through the professional level and in virtually every ground-based sport.

Agility ladder training can prove to be an effective mode of training during warm-ups—killing two birds with one stone. Not only is the athlete warming the body up for practice, but he/she is also executing high quality movements as well.

There are hundreds of agility ladder drills which develop various aspects of movement. Here are three drills which can help an athlete develop a quicker first step and overall foot quickness.

Drill #1 -Hot Feet
Purpose:
• Improve ground contact time and foot quickness
Technique:
• Start with both feet outside the ladder
• Move forward through the ladder, keeping your knees high with each step, making sure you place both feet in each rung
Coaching Points:
• Toe-up, knee-up, heel-up
• Explode off the balls of your feet
• Stay tall
• Keep your eyes focused straight ahead
• Coordinate arm and leg action

Drill # 2- Cross Over Step
Purpose:
• Enhance your ability to change direction quickly
Technique:
• Start with both feet to one side of the ladder
• Using the outside leg, quickly step into the middle of the first ladder rung while placing the inside leg outside the ladder
• The outside leg is always placed inside the ladder rung while the inside leg simultaneously moves to the outside of the ladder
Coaching Points:
• Stay on the balls of your feet
• Think quickly and make explosive movements
Snap your hips when changing direction

Drill #3 -Diagonals
Purpose:
• Improve lateral foot quickness and movement
Technique:
• Start with your left foot slightly outside the ladder and your right foot six inches off the ground inside the first ladder rung
• Quickly touch your right foot to the ground inside the ladder rung, then quickly move it to the outside of the ladder
• In the same motion, move your left foot into the rung where your right foot just was
• Continue this rapid, in-and-out pattern for the length of the ladder, alternating your starting foot in each rung and moving
Coaching Points:
• Explode off the balls of your feet
• Focus on keeping your head up
• Keep your hips over the middle of the ladder while moving forward
• Think quickly, act quickly

*Assistant strength and conditioning coach Duane Carlisle joined the 49ers this off-season from the Philadelphia Eagles. He is in charge of directing all of the speed, agility, and conditioning programs for all positions on the team. He has spent the last 13 years pushing athletes to perform to their maximum potential. Carlisle has also developed workout videos which can be viewed, * by clicking here!

Question for Coach Parker: I'm 23 years old. I weigh 170lbs. I stand 5'8". I played ball in High school and at a local junior college here in Sacramento. Since graduating I've lost mass (most in my legs), speed, agility. I still lift and belong to a flag football league locally. Right now my leg routine consists of 20 minute warm up on a cardio machine, stretch, leg extensions, leg curls, walking lunges, squats, RDL's, calf raises, and calf extensions. I'm not seeing the results I want. I want the mass, explosiveness, and agility back.
A: From looking at your workout, it looks like you are overtraining. If you'd cut your routine in half you would get more size, more strength and more explosiveness. The term for what you are doing is overtraining your legs, and you are right that legs are the most important part of the body to train for football. So again, if you'd cut your routine in about half, I think you'd see a lot better results. For every person who trains serious for weights and for every one who doesn't do enough, there are a 100 who do too much. It sounds like you are in that latter category. Weights will not improve your agility, but they will improve you strength and explosiveness which are both a big part of agility.

To have a question answered by our head strength coach Johnny Parker, please email Parker at
fitnesscorner@niners.nfl.com

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