Ladders are a great tool for developing fast feet, coordination and balance.
To improve running speed, you have to increase frequency (the number of times your feet hit the ground) or stride length (the distance you take in each step). The ladder enhances frequency by teaching the athlete to fire their muscles faster. The drills start out with the basic movement patterns so the athlete is able to focus in on correct running technique with an emphasis on using the arms properly and flexing at the hips and not rounding the back. As the athlete progresses in the patterns, their running movement should be at the unconscious level so they do not have to focus in on their technique and can focus in on the drill and how quickly they can move through it.
With the increase in coordination, the muscles learn the how to fire in the most efficient pattern, thus allowing the athlete to become quicker. Coordination also helps an athlete’ neuromuscular system adapt to a wide variety of movement situations.
The nature of the drill makes it closed, so to increase the intensity the athlete must perform the patterns on one leg, backwards or do it with limited vision. If you choose to do the patterns with one leg, always go one leg down and the other back. This will ensure that the athlete is working both legs equally. Before the coach increases the intensity, make sure the athlete can complete the patterns correctly with good form. Just because you have been doing the same drill for three weeks does not mean the athlete should move on to the next level.
See the Ladder Patterns on the article page and download them in pdf format.
Athletes must not be too fatigued so build in rest time between each pattern. I like to go down and have the athlete’s stay at the end until everyone in the group has gone then come back.
This allows each leg to be the lead leg, which will develop the athlete equally. You may find some athletes can go down with the right leg but have a hard time coming back with the left leg leading. This is normal and means that the athlete should really focus in on any imbalances he/she may have.
Teaching New Patterns:
When teaching a new pattern, have the athlete walk it and say what each foot should be doing (10). You will be amazed how quickly the athlete will pick up a complex pattern if he / she will say it out loud. You will want to switch up the patterns using both old and new so the workouts do not become too repetitive and the athlete looses focus on what he/she is trying to accomplish.
Two Ladders in a traveling bag for easy storage.