Agility Ladder Training

August 22, 2008

First off, yesterday was my unofficial last day at SST for the summer *subtle tear*, as it was last summer full of good times and a great experience! More on this after the weekend when I’ll recap my summer there…

Anyways, moving on to some content.

Do agility ladders really train agility?? 

Before I answer, let’s look at agility from both a sporting context as well as the one we are training via the ladder.

In a sporting context, agility is seen as the ability to change directions in a quick and efficient manner. The skill of agility comes into play in an unpredictable way in reaction to an unpredictable opponent or object.

In the context of the ladder drills we put athletes through, they perform pre-planned movements with the goal of achieving the desired “foot in-foot out” pattern proficiently. We are not really training change of direction with many of these drills, but testing a coordination pattern of some level of complexity. If we are using it to train change of direction, can we really make it unpredictable?? I ask this because then we’d be probably asking our athletes to react to an unpredictable command or stimulus, but in such a way that they perform the drill “in” the ladder.

Then the question becomes, would this really transfer to agility in sport?? I would argue no for two reasons: 1) with agility ladder drills, we don’t coach change of direction technique, we coach “do this pattern and don’t knock the bars of the ladder” and 2) Because we want the athletes to step in and out of the ladder in a certain pattern, we are imposing a spatial constraint since each box is a certain size square. This will disrupt the natural movement pattern depending on how they go through the ladder (if they have to take a longer step or short step in order to be within a box).

As you can gather, I don’t believe that agility ladders really develop agility in a sporting sense. I think they develop coordination. Not any less important of a skill, just a different skill entirely.



4 Responses to “Agility Ladder Training”

  1. Patrick Says:

    Great post Chris!
    You’ve pointed out the value of these drills and captured their limitations. I’ve struggled to figure-out what it was about them that seemed so non sport-specific given that there is nothing random in the movement patterns.
    Do you think there is are predictive qualities of these movements? As you point out, they are great at developing coordination and I think that innately coordinated people will shine doing these movements.

  2. Chris Brown Says:

    Innately coordinated individuals would find it easier to perform the drills (they’ll also be more confident about doing them, not over-thinking about how they might screw up in front of their peers and the coach), so give them harder variations that aren’t so easy for them to master. With more uncoordinated athletes, we’d obviously stay with the basics longer. I’m not sure if you wanted me to comment on that, I’m not quite understanding your question.

  3. Patrick Says:

    My question was a little unclear. I’m wondering if you think these drill should be added to an initial athlete assessment to help determine their level of coordination? And if you think that coaches should track progress on these drills to see if their athletes are making progress.
    I believe that in most cases the best athletes will tend to learn and perform these drills much faster than others yet I’ve never seen them being used as anthing other than a warm-up during assessments.
    Kind of like the penta jump – almost immediately you can see who the best athletes are based on their distance and on how smoothly them link the jumps together.

  4. Chris Brown Says:

    I don’t think we need to make it part of an assessment. Does that mean I don’t “assess” it…no, I have the mindset that I’m always assessing while their training. I think the only way to make it an official assessment is to time it, and then the priority becomes speed rather than quality. I do want to see speed with the drills, just speed as it can be expressed by each individual’s capabilities (are they moving in control as they perform the drill). The better they get, the faster they will go through it.

    About tracking progress on it, I wouldn’t other than an observational sense while the athlete performs them during their warm-ups,etc. I really believe that post-testing isn’t necessarily the best way to determine a program’s effectiveness, I think the athlete’s games/season should be since that is what we are training them for.

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