Agility ladders, also sometimes called speed ladders, are a wonderful and inexpensive way to work on a variety of athletic skills.
A ladder can help with efficient and precise footwork, balance and rhythm, quick changes of direction, proper foot strike and lift, and linear and lateral speed. While all agility ladders work on the same basic blueprint, there are some materials, workmanship and design improvements that separate the lead contenders. Price can also be a consideration, but most ladders will start at around $30.
SKLZ Quick Agility Ladder
The SKLZ introductory model features 11 rungs spaced 15 inches apart over 15 feet of ladder. The flat, fluorescent rungs provide improved stability and visibility on nearly any surface. The sides of the ladder are a made out of medium weight nylon. The kit comes with both stakes and a carrying case. SKLZ offers a 30-day money back guarantee. Check it out on Amazon.com.
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SKLZ also offers a Pro version of this ladder with improved non-slip design. The white rungs are coated on the bottom with textured gripping material, which make it more usable on indoor surfaces. The Pro ladder is 20 feet long with 15 rungs that are 20 inches wide for a larger square that better accommodates older athletes with bigger feet.
Agility Ladder PRO
From Kings Sports Training, this Pro ladder is 18.75 feet long with 15 inches between each of its 16 rungs. The rungs are a highly visible orange that contrasts well against grass and other dark surfaces. A carrying bag is included, but there are no stakes in this kit. If you’re working with younger players who do not have experience on a speed ladder, make sure to secure the ladder to the ground.
ABC Speed & Agility Ladder
The ABC speed and agility ladder is named for its promise to improve “Agility, Balance, and Coordination.” While this isn’t exactly a unique function for an agility ladder, this company (Perform Better) does go the extra mile with downloadable drill sheets, instructional videos and an entire section of their website dedicated to their “Speed and Agility Training Zone.”
The ladder itself is 30 feet long with 19 individual 16×17 inch “squares.” This ladder can also be split into two 15-foot ladders. You can even attach the ladders together at a right angle for some unique drill opportunities.
Amber Sports 15-Foot Agility Ladder
Amber Sports’ agility ladder comes in two lengths (15 and 30 feet). If you invest in the 30-foot ladder, you can split it into two 15-foot ladders. Both lengths are 16 inches wide. This ladder does not come with stakes, so make sure you secure the ends, especially during indoor use.
Also, the rungs on this ladder are not secured in place. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you need from your speed ladder. Unlike most ladders, this one allows you to adjust the rung separation to create unique size variations. On the downside, there’s not a good way to make sure the rung stays there. If someone hits the rung, it may become crooked, requiring readjustment before the next player goes through. However, the adjustability of the rungs is a nice feature to have to mix up the drills.
Deluxe Professional Agility Ladder
If you’re looking for something a little more heavy duty, this ladder is a good option. It uses heavier metal rungs. This is excellent for athletes who will be running the ladder in cleats, since even the most durable plastics may crack or chip under cleats. The ladder itself is a little over 13 feet long with evenly spaced rungs. The only potential problem is the visibility of the rungs. The metal is highlighted with white stripes to help with this, but it doesn’t compare with the brightness of the neon oranges and yellows of plastic rungs.
Cintz 30-Foot Agility Ladder
The Cintz comes in both 30- and 15-foot lengths, but like the others, this 30-foot ladder will break into two 15-foots for better versatility. All together, there are 20 spaces. The flat plastic rungs are a highly visible neon yellow color. This kit does include a carrying case, although the ladder is fairly light weight. This speed ladder, like the Amber Sports ladder, suffers from non-locking rungs. Again, there are pros and cons to this feature, but be prepared to adjust the rungs from time to time when a player hits one.
Insanity: The Asylum Agility Ladder
This ladder was produced in conjunction with the infamous Insanity workout program. Since it’s designed for home use by non-athletes, it is a good choice to recommend for athletes to use on their own at home. The ladder has only four spaces and totals out at about 5 feet, but this compactness may be desirable for some players with limited space. The squares are not squares, measuring 17 by 14 inches. Overall, though, this is a serviceable ladder for athletes to work on their drills on their own time. Check it out on Amazon.com.
[scrapeazon asin=B005KUGJF0 height =”400″]
Important Features to Consider
The length of the ladder will usually vary from 5 to 30 feet. The shortest ladder you’ll find will have 4 squares, which is fine for personal use. For an athletic team that may have multiple runners at one time, you’ll obviously want to look at a 15 or 30 foot ladder.
A typical square size is between 14 and 17 inches, although not all squares are technically squares. Many are actually rectangles that are wider from side to side than they are tall. If perfect squares are really important to you, double check the dimensions.
Some ladders end with Velcro connections that allow you lengthen the ladder by adding on more sections from the same company.
Other ladders may have adjustable squares. The rungs can be moved up and down the ladder to make wider spaces or an uneven progression in size. This can make for some really interesting drills, but you must make sure to carefully tighten the rungs to prevent tripping.
Material (Sides and Rungs)
The sides of most ladders are a sturdy nylon rope or belt. The rung material is more varied. It may be a flat plastic bar, a similar but thinner nylon material, an elastic material or a steel chain.
Comes With Ties or Stakes
For improved safety, look for ties or stakes with your kit. These will help hold the ladder in place, at least on grass surfaces.
A lightweight ladder will be more convenient for portability, but there are some drawbacks. A light ladder may shift too easily due to physical impact, wind, etc. If the ladder does not come with stakes, or if the four corners are not enough to keep the ladder stable, you may want to use additional stakes to hold it down.
You can do this by using thick wire bent in the shape of a horseshoe or rectangle, similar to a hoop (or “wicket”) in croquet. Drive the hoop all the way into the ground over the edges of the ladder to help keep it firm to the ground.
Another option, of course, is to invest in a heavier agility ladder. These ladders will typically cost more, and the rungs will typically be made of steel chains or bars. This can make the ladder harder to transport, since it is heavier and may not fold up as neatly. However, the function and the safety of the ladder will almost always be improved with additional weight.
No matter the weight of the ladder, it’s always an extra bonus for a kit to include a carrying case. These just make life easier. A case that includes a shoulder strap is ideal, so your hands can be free for other tasks.
You can increase the intensity of an agility ladder by using a raised version, sometimes called a high step runner. These should only be used by athletes who have mastered flat agility runners and high knees, since the raised ropes can pose a tripping hazard for those with less-than-nimble footwork.
DIY Agility Ladders
There are some who enjoy the customization, quality of material and savings that comes from making their own ladders. The materials needed can generally be found in a hardware store, and may include rope, chain, and other similar items. This isn’t a bad option for those who are handy, but it is essential to make sure the rungs are evenly taut to prevent loose material that can cause tripping. You’ll also have to invest in thicker materials to avoid the tight knots and tangles that can happen when bundling and transporting thin ropes.
Other coaches prefer the temporary ladders made of chalk, spray paint or tape. Chalk can only be used on concrete and asphalt, which aren’t ideal for running drills. Spray paint can be laid down on grass, but keep in mind that some spray paints can kill grass by blocking the photosynthesis process. If you have permanent access to a location, you may even consider taping down the shape of a ladder. However, this clearly works best on indoor surfaces and cannot be moved.
With any of these DIY ladders, there are two main problems. The first is preventing tripping hazards, and the second is getting the squares even and consistent. Considering the low entry cost on many models, a pre-made agility ladder is usually the way to go.
If you have a ladder that splits in two (or if you simply buy two ladders), you will expand your ability to run drills. A typical speed ladder is long, single row of boxes. If you place two ladders side by side, you now have a row of two boxes. This can expand the number of drills you can complete, or at least make it easier for athletes to determine where their outside foot should be. You may also be able to connect the ladders at an angle to create different shapes. With four ladders, of course, you can create a square that can be run clockwise and counter-clockwise. By having a coach or teammate call out a direction change, the square pattern can help work on another facet of agility.
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” and so on. Only once these two phases are mastered can you begin to work on increasing the speed.
Proper form is important as well. 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 properly while you stand straight with your chest out and head up. It can also help to keep the knees slightly bent upon landing to provide an extra boost on the lift.
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 and lighter movement. However, this may vary by sport and by coach, so always be aware of how your feet should be landing.
There are hundreds of drills to try, so make sure to mix it up as often 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.
Drills for Agility Ladders
One Foot and Two Foot Runs
If you’re new, start with the basics. A One Foot run involves placing one foot in each square. Square one gets the left foot, square two the right foot and so on.
The Two Foot run ends with both feet in each box. Place one foot at a time in the first box, then the second, and so on.
Turn sideways for this drill with the length of the ladder on your right side. Place your right foot on the far side of the first box, then the left foot just to the left of your right foot, as if you were standing with your feet close together. Then place your right foot on the far side of the second box, followed by the left foot. Repeat this motion for every square. Then return by leading with the left foot. When the speed picks up on this drill, try to keep only one foot on the ground at a time.
Run this drill by raising your knees to a right angle. The pattern will follow the Two Foot run pattern with each foot landing one at a time in each square, starting with the right foot.
You can do high knee drill variations on many drills, as long as they don’t involve hopping or skipping squares, but make sure to master the steps before adding the high knee.
Forward & Lateral Hop Through
This drill involves keeping the feet together and skipping squares as you bunny hop through the ladder. Jump into the second square, then the fourth and so on. When switching to a lateral hop, make sure to return back down the ladder without changing the direction you’re facing in order to work both left and right directional movement.
Cross Over Lateral
Begin by facing with the ladder running toward your right side. Start with your left foot forward of your right foot. Cross your left leg over your right and place your left foot on the far 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. Repeat down the length of the ladder, and then return by crossing the right foot in front.
In In Out Out
Begin this drill by standing on the side of the ladder with your toes facing the 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 to outside behind 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.
These reviews and drills are just a list compiled by Zaynez over the years and are just our opinion. Feel free to leave a comment or question and we’d be more than happy to discuss.
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