Agility Ladder 101

Apr 20th, 2013

Category: Agility Ladder

Agility Ladder 101

Agility Ladder 101 – A Bio Mechanical Analysis of Sports and the Agility Ladder

By, Mark Wine CSCS; NASM PT, PES, CES
Founder of Functional Muscle Fitness

The agility ladder is becoming one of the most commonly used training devices in sports performance training today. Its various drills and movement patterns make the agility ladder an easy and efficient form of training to improve agility. On the other hand, there is still some more traditional strength and conditioning coaches who argue that true agility stems from muscular strength, particularly within the quadriceps, and not from fancy footwork drills. Although the quads are crucial for superior agility, foot coordination and neuromuscular efficiency can significantly enhance agility (i.e. agility ladder training). This characteristic makes the agility ladder a superior method of training in order to increase athletic performance.

In this article I will cover the following topics:

An explanation of the demands of various sports and where the Agility Ladder fits in?

A single soccer match can be made up of approximately 1,346 changes of direction (1). Changes of direction (i.e. agility) require athletes to coordinate their feet and body’s balance in a rapid manner. This coordination can be labeled as the body’s motor function. The motor function is the body’s ability to analyze the sensory information (sense of internal and external change) and respond with specific action. Foot coordination and skill is a direct result of superior motor function that can be enhanced with the agility ladder.

Agility is directly correlated to lower extremity unilateral strength and power, particularly within the quadriceps. It is essential for any training program that it includes compound exercises such as back squats, front squats, lunges, etc… Strength within the quadriceps allows athletes to better control their bodies as they rapidly change direction or even when their leg becomes in contact with the ground during a sprint. The quadriceps are responsible for the eccentric (i.e. downward or deceleration) muscular action during activity. However, if agility and quickness had to do solely with muscular strength than power lifting athletes would be the quickest athletes on the planet; and we know this not to be true.

A proper agility training program incorporates complex strength, as well as complicated movement patterns, that elicit superior neuromuscular control and reactive responses. There is nothing more efficient in utilizing complicated movement patterns then the agility ladder. The agility ladder requires repetitive movements that synchronize the lower and upper halves of the body. The take from this, in regards to athletics, is that all sports require an ability to coordinate the upper and lower body. Athletes who can swiftly and properly perform the agility ladder elicit superior reactive abilities and agility.

Reactive ability utilizes the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC), which is the activation of tendons and ligaments in a spring like manner (i.e. stretch reflex). The SSC can be trained through hurdle jumps, counter movement lifts, the agility ladder, and many more. The SSC is involved in all agility and sprinting movements, which is why it is so vital to train. Agility ladder exercises train the SSC efficiently; however, a “light foot” technique must be kept throughout all agility ladder exercises (i.e. balls of the feet) in order to do so. Athletes who strike the ground flat footed will not activate the SSC and will see zero agility gains. Flat footed athletes must continue to work through basic agility ladder movements until they can utilize this “light foot” technique.

Copyright Functional Muscle Fitness LLC © 2013

SOURCES
1. Performance Characteristics according to playing position in elite soccer.
Di Salvo, Baron R, Tschan H, Calderon Montero FJ, Bachl N, and Pigozzi F.
International Journal of Sports Medicine 3: 224-227, 2007.

2. NASM Essentials of Personal Training 4th Edition
Michael A. Clark, Scott C. Lucett, Brian G. Sutton
©2012

Copyright Functional Muscle Fitness LLC © 2013

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