Wasting your time on an agility ladder

Feb 22, 2024

 by Brian Saunders

Warning:  Agility Ladders DO NOT make you faster


The first thing is reaction time. You can be the fastest and quickest player in the world, but if you react slowly to a scenario you will never get the chance to show off that speed. Some refer to this as “reactive agility.” Regardless of the name it helps an athlete perform better. An agility ladder isn’t going to do anything for this performance measure because you’re not reacting to anything during the drill. When using the ladder you are given the exact placements of where and when to place your feet.  

Speed and quickness is another component of agility. In most cases, this isn’t top-end speed, but rather an athlete's ability to accelerate quickly. To accelerate quickly you need to produce a lot of force in a short amount of time (referred to as Rate of Force Development). An agility ladder won’t help with this because you're only moving your feet quickly and not moving your body quickly since you’re not producing any force. Have you ever seen a sprinter take really small steps to reach their top speed? I hope not. They’re trying to push as hard as they can through the ground to develop as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time to get moving faster than everyone else. To increase your speed you can perform basic weight training exercises for your legs. Back Squats have been shown time and time again to improve sprint times. 

Change of direction is the final component of agility we will talk about. To do this you need to be able to accelerate, decelerate, stop, and re-accelerate in any direction very quickly. Just like we stated above, you’re not moving your body very fast to begin with, so you’re not accelerating or decelerating by using the ladder. Your body's ability to absorb force and use that energy is a big component of being able to decelerate and accelerate again. Plyometric drills such as depth jumps and hurdle jumps can be very effective for this training. 

Most experts agree that agility ladders are almost completely useless for improving one’s agility, they can have some use in training. For young kids, you can teach them body awareness by having them do basic drills of moving their feet in the correct pattern. Teaching this could help them with their overall body control. More control can equate to better efficiency of movement which could help train agility in the future. The final use of this ladder could simply be for a warm-up. You can get an athlete’s brain and legs firing with some simple movements to start the workout. It could be used as a way to prepare the body for the real agility drills, plyometric, or weight training drills that could follow.