You may find that suicide drills make you suicidal and strength training weighs you down. But that’s all about to change when your team training switches to agility ladders. This is your chance to be too cool for school -- or, at least, the school playground -- as you skip through the rope or plastic squares like a third-grader in a hopscotch tournament. In doing agility ladder workouts, you emulate athletes in track and team sports, such as pro basketballer Candace Parker, a pioneer in throwing down dunks.
Whether you play field hockey, soccer, basketball, softball or another team sport, agility ladder workouts offer valuable benefits for your feet and ankles. Paul Sealey, strength coach for Texas A&M women’s soccer team, notes improvements to ankle strength and stability, foot strength, speed and quickness, and lateral movement. These exercises help your feet handle the rigor of sports such as soccer and reduce the risk of injury on uneven indoor and outdoor surfaces.
The Ickey Shuffle
The Ickey shuffle, also called the two-in, one-out, improves coordination and lower-body quickness and has become a mainstay of agility workouts. You start on the left side of the ladder for this classic ladder drill. Step into the first square with your right and then left foot. Next, seamlessly place your right foot outside the first square. Step with your left and then right foot into the second square, then step outside the second square to the left with just your left foot, before repeating the pattern to the end of the ladder.
The footwork variations for agility ladder workouts are seemingly infinite. You can hopscotch on one or two legs; hop forward with two feet into each square in turn; hop into each square with both feet and then hop out with both feet to the side or split your feet into straddling the square. Or perform Candace Parker’s recommended favorite, the speed ladder with sprint. Position yourself 5 yards from the ladder. Sprint to the first run, perform a drill through the ladder, and sprint out of the ladder another 5 yards. Go for two to three sets with seven or eight foot patterns.
You can alternatively make Parker’s speed ladder with a sprint into a 60-yard shuttle, recommended especially for field hockey players. Run to the base of the ladder and back to the start point, through the ladder and back to the start point, and through the ladder to the 15-yard mark and back to the start point. Repeat between one and 20 times, depending on your fitness, recommends Tim Robertson of Ohio-based Speed Strength Systems.
Scheduling and Technique
You’ll have more time to train in agility in the offseason, so schedule two to three workouts a week, recommends “Complete Conditioning for Basketball.” Plan shorter workouts once or twice a week in the preseason, with just a few agility ladder drills -- which make a perfect warmup -- during the in-season. As you get more comfortable, keep your eyes up during agility drills, and challenge yourself by performing drills backward and laterally.
- Jet: Lady Vols' Candace Parker Makes History with Slam Dunks
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- Stack 4W: Candace Parker's Lower-Body Power and Strength
- Training for Speed, Agility, and Quickness; Lee E. Brown, Vance Ferrigno
- Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images