Agility ladders are a great way to work on quick and precise footwork as well as lateral movement and speed. Both of these are important to baseball players, especially when playing the outfield. Players need to learn how to get to the ball by moving in any direction while not tripping over their own feet.
Ladder Drills for Baseball
The following are some of the best drills to get started on an agility ladder as well as those which require a nimble footwork to work on quick lateral movement. Don’t forget to check out the tips at the end for ideas on how to maximize your performance training on agility ladders.
One Foot and Two Foot Runs
This is one of the most basic drills to help players get used to an agility ladder.
The One Foot drill places one foot in each square. The left foot goes in square one, the right foot in square two, and so on.
The Two Foot run ends with both feet in each box. Place the right foot in the right half of the first box followed by the left foot in the left half. Repeat down the ladder, then turn around and return by leading with the left foot.
It may help to think of the ground as hot lava to reinforce the idea of quick feet.
During this drill, focus on keeping only one foot on the ground at a time.
Turn sideways in front of the first box with the length of the ladder down your right side. Place your right foot on the far side of the first box. Pick up your right foot and place your left foot on the far left of the first box. Repeat this motion for every square. Then return by leading with the left foot.
Ickey Shuffle with a Touch
Touching the ground on this drill helps simulate a combination of lateral movement and fielding.
Start by standing just to the left of the first square with the length of the ladder running straight ahead of you. Take your inside foot (right foot) and step into the right side of the first square followed by the left foot to the left side of the first square. Step to the right with the right foot landing on the outside of the ladder next to the rung separating the first and second squares. As the right foot hits on this step, bend down and touch your fingers to the ground. Then repeat the motion in reverse stepping into the second square with the left foot then the right. Step the left foot to the outside of the ladder next to the rung separating the second and third square while touching the left hand to the ground. Repeat down the length of the ladder.
Cross Over Lateral
Begin by standing with the ladder running toward your right side. Start with your left foot just ahead of your right foot. Cross your left leg over your right and place your left foot on the left side of the first box. Then step your right foot to the right side of the first square. You should now be in the same starting position with your feet close together. Repeat down the length of the ladder, and then return by crossing the right foot in front.
When you have the pattern on this drill down, run it like the Lateral Shuffle by keeping only one foot on the ground at a time.
In In Out Out
Stand on the side of the ladder with your toes facing the right side of the first square and with the ladder running to your right. Step your right foot into the first box, and then your left foot beside it. Then jump your right foot backwards to place it outside the second box, followed by your left foot. This should put you in the same starting position but behind the second box. Repeat this down the ladder before returning by leading with your left foot.
Again, try to work on keeping only one foot on the ground at a time to improve balance and agile footwork.
The Snake (Crossover Step)
Start by standing to the left of the first square with your toes no farther than the midline of the first square. The length of the ladder should be running in front of you.
Lift your left foot and twist your hips to the right so your left foot lands facing 90 degrees to the right. Then twist your hips to the left to have your right foot land on the right-hand outside of the ladder turning 90 degrees to the left (toward the end of the ladder). Now place your left foot to the left of your right foot facing the same direction. You should end this first sequence facing the same direction as you started, with the length of the ladder running in front of you and with both feet to the right side of the ladder. Make sure your toes are no farther than midway of the second square. Repeat this motion with your hips twisting to the left so your right foot steps into the second square facing 90 degrees to the left.
This drill helps with quick direction changes that are initiated through the hips to help maintain balance and speed.
These drills and others can be found at Ranger Strength, The Ultimate Pitcher, FootballGC, From the Keeper Zone, and Hoops Playbook. You can also find some visual demonstration of new, innovative drills on YouTube or through websites like Kings Sports Training.
Quick Tips for Effective Ladder Drills
When you begin a new drill, aim for accuracy instead of speed. Get the footwork down first. Practice exactly where the feet should be landing. Then work on getting a rhythm, even if it’s slow. It can help to count the steps “1, 2, 3 … 1, 2, 3” or “In In Out, In In Out” and so on. Only once the precise footwork is perfect can you begin to work on increasing the speed.
Proper form in the rest of the body is important as well. Keep an athletic stance as you would on the field. Keep your knees soft and your center of gravity low. Try to keep your arms up with your elbows bent at a right angle. When you are learning the footwork, you will probably have to look down at your feet. However, aim to get to a point where your feet are landing correctly while you keep your head up.
For most drills, you want to land on the ball of your foot rather than the toe, heel or whole foot. This helps you get quicker springing action. Again, picture the ground as hot lava.
There are hundreds of drills to try, so make sure to mix it up as often as soon as the drills are mastered. One reason that speed ladders are sometimes questioned as effective tools is because they begin to rely on muscle memory and habit formation rather than quick, adept movements and an increased response time to new stimuli. Don’t continue using stale drills that have become too easy and predictable. When you are able to run the drill quickly with perfect footwork, consider moving onto the next challenge.
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