An Ode to Ladder Drills: Why To Keep Doing Them

An Ode to Ladder Drills: Why To Keep Doing Them

Yesterday, I created a fun infographic on ladder drills.

At first, I thought I would receive hate mail, but overall, the response was positive.

Here is the infographic:

At first glance, my design skills are stellar.

At second glance, holy shit? Ladders don’t help with speed? Has the world flipped upside down?

Well, yes. And exercise physiology is pretty cool. ;-O

The honest truth is, ladders won’t make you that much faster. Strength, for one, is a big factor in speed development.

None of this is to say ditch the ladder drills and only train for strength.

At the end of the day, it ALL matters. Ladder drills, total body strength, power, mechanics, coordination, flexibility/mobility, resisted sprinting, improving stride length and stride frequency, and core stability/intermuscular coordination.

As long as you’re doing all of these, the addition of ladder drills can serve a plethora of benefits for all athletes. They’re a great complement to all the other areas of speed training.

With that said, what can ladder drills do?

1) Improve coordination.

More often than not, I’ll see trainers on IG posting videos of their youth clients performing ladder drills with no real purpose.

I especially see same-arm-same-leg (ipsilateral) movements, and it makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

Remember: ladder drills serve a purpose. They’re not to gain followers, show off flashy drills, or just make kids go through the motions.

Ensure kids are coordinated first before you move on. Contralateral movement is key to improve coordination and running mechanics.

2) Improve running mechanics.

And this segues me to running mechanics.

Ladder drills are a great way to reinforce arm movement and get kids pumping.

Arm movement allows for optimal intermuscular coordination (upper body working in conjunction with the lower body), and full extension of the hips to improve maximal running speed.

3) Improve footwork.

Dragging the feet is like nails on a chalkboard.

Ladders encourage athletes to pick their feet up off the ground and be precise with their steps.

Also, it reinforces moving the feet quickly in an “athletic stance” with the hips low (butt back) and knees slightly bent.

4) Provide proper warm up and movement prep.

For more elite athletes who have mastered contralateral coordination, ladder drills serve as a fantastic warm up for more complex agility drills.

They can also serve as warm up for foot skills drills, and encourage a strong neuromuscular connection between the brain and feet.

To conclude, ladder drills are not ALL bad.

They serve a purpose, but ensure they’re being executed with pristine form. Otherwise, you’re wasting your athletes’ time.

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