If you’ve ever watched a basketball or football game, it’s not just the halftime-leading three pointers or the game-winning touchdowns that keep us glued to the screen. It’s the remarkable speed, skill and agility of the athletes. Players need to react quickly, move seamlessly in all directions and jump with precision. That’s where the type II muscle fibers come in. So what’s the secret to activating these fast-twitch muscles? Agility ladder drills.
CeCe Marizu, a former Division I swimmer and Daily Burn 365 trainer says, “We’re creatures of habit and we tend to always stick to routines that we know. An agility ladder works on one’s coordination, balance and even our neurological patterns.” After all, sports are as much of a mental game as a physical one.
But even if the Super Bowl or the NBA final isn’t your goal, these agility ladder drills are sure to keep you on your toes — from cardio conditioning to honing better coordination and reflexes. Tack them onto your strength workout for a great heart-pumping finisher.
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5 Agility Ladder Drills to Train Like an Athlete
Ready to step up your fitness? “Master simplicity before moving onto more complex foot patterns,” Marizu says. As for your arms? They’re key to making each drill a full-body movement. “Try running like a toy soldier and see how quickly you move. Add in your arms, and you suddenly feel a lot more graceful and powerful at the same time,” Marizu says. Repeat each of Marizu’s ladder drills three to four times through.
1. Linear Run Through
Quick! Zip through this drill touching both feet inside in each box. At the end of the ladder, hustle back to the start to keep your heart rate up. As you progress, reduce the amount of time your feet are on the ground and add in high knees.
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2. Lateral Shuffle
Similar to the linear run through, the goal with this drill is to get both feet in the box while moving laterally. Marizu recommends a soft bend in your knees to help protect your joints. “This drill is a great way to get balance work in while keeping the move dynamic,” she says.
3. Squat Hop
Want to add some strength work to your drill? Insert a squat! The bodyweight exercise works your glutes, and you get your heart rate up even more by making it plyometric. “Squats add power by increasing the range of motion in the move,” Marizu says. If you want to amp things up, carry a weight, like a sandbag or kettlebell, to make it a goblet squat. Just don’t sacrifice proper squat form!
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4. Beast Crawl
The beast drill is great for strengthening your upper-body and core. But before you run or walk…you have to crawl. Proper beast form starts with getting into tabletop position and lining your shoulders directly above your wrists. Then, lift your knees an inch or two off the floor. “Once you have it, the move is almost like a puzzle. You move from side to side to find the right spot. Your whole body is engaged throughout the movement,” Marizu says.
5. Heisman Shuffle
The Heisman is the most advanced drill on the list, so don’t worry if you can’t nail it down right away. “The Heisman is hard, even for me!” Marizu says. To do this drill, alternate stepping each foot in and out of the box, and then pause to bring one knee up towards your chest to meet the opposite elbow. Alternate knees as you move through the boxes. “I count to myself and start moving super slow. Then, I find my own rhythm and increase the intensity,” Marizu says.
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