Agility—it’s the combo of speed and coordination that enables pro athletes to sprint, stop, turn on a dime, and run again. “Ladder drills improve your speed, boost your coordination, and teach you how to control your center of mass,” says Ronald Jean, a certified strength and conditioning coach and an Advantage Trainer at Equinox Sports Club Beverly Hills. “Plus, they increase your aerobic capacity and strengthen your muscles.”
Ready to lay down the ladder? Follow Jean’s lead in these 10 moves—a mix of running drills that hit your legs hard and ground moves to challenge your upper body. The exercises look tough, but don’t be intimidated: They can all be modified (see “take it down a notch” for the easier variation).
Two or three times a week, perform this routine below as a circuit, doing each move for 30 to 60 seconds in order without resting in between. Then repeat the entire circuit once more.
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Stand straddling the ladder lengthwise, body centered over a square. Quickly step right foot in square, then left foot; immediately step right foot outside the square to the right and left foot to the left. Repeat. To increase the challenge, move forward as you go.
Take it down a notch: Instead of running, step your feet in and out of the square.
Get in plank position parallel to the ladder with left hand in the center of a square and right hand on the ground beside it. Bend elbows, lowering chest toward the ground, then powerfully push up as you hop your feet and hands to the left. Land with right hand in the center of the square with feet and left hand on the ground beside it. Repeat in the opposite direction to return to the starting position. Continue, moving from side to side.
Take it down a notch: Skip the push-up and do a walking plank instead, slowly walking your feet and hands from side to side.
Stand at one end of the ladder, facing it lengthwise. Run forward for 3 squares, alternating which foot lands in a square each time; then step right foot outside the ladder to the right, and left foot outside the ladder to the left. Repeat the entire sequence, this time moving backward. Continue, moving forward and back.
Take it down a notch: Only move forward, and do so at a slow pace. As you get comfortable, try only moving backward.
Stand with right side next to one end of the ladder. Quickly step right foot, then left foot, into the square to the right. Repeat, moving at a quick pace to the right. When you reach the end of the ladder, repeat the shuffle, this time moving to the left and leading with left foot. Continue, shuffling from side to side.
Take it down a notch: Begin by walking, then slowly pick up the pace as you get more comfortable.
Get in plank position on one end of the ladder with hands in adjacent squares and feet together. Quickly move right hand, then left hand, to the right as you hop your feet to the right; land with hands two squares to the right of starting position. Immediately repeat to the left. Continue, moving side to side.
Take it down a notch: Move at a slow pace.
Stand in a square close to one end of the ladder and shift weight to left leg, bending right knee so right foot is behind you. Hop to the right for three squares, landing in each square with left foot. Then hop to the left for three squares. Continue, hopping from side to side on one leg. Switch legs halfway through set.
Take it down a notch: Hop with both legs, moving at a slow pace.
Stand in one square, facing an end of the ladder lengthwise. Shift weight to left leg and bend right knee, raising foot behind you. Hop twice, then jump straight up with both feet; repeat. Switch legs (hop on right leg) halfway through set.
Take it down a notch: Do two small jumps with feet together, then one higher jump.
Get in plank position with your hands in the center of two adjacent squares and feet hip-width apart (lower knees to the ground if necessary). Bend elbows, lowering chest toward the ground, then push up to starting position. Bend elbows again, then explosively push up, raising hands off the ground. Repeat.
Take it down a notch: Just do regular push-ups with your knees on the ground or legs extended.
Place a second ladder on the ground parallel to the first, and about two feet apart. Stand with your right side next to the middle of a ladder and hold a ViPR with hands in front of thighs and palms facing each other. Shift weight to left foot as you bend forward from hips and bring ViPR across your body to the left. Push off left foot and shuffle twice to the right—stepping feet into a square, the ground between the ladders, a square in the far ladder, and then outside the far ladder—as you bring ViPR across your body to the right. Land on your right foot with left knee bent and ViPR at your right side. Immediately repeat in the opposite direction. Continue, moving from side to side.
Take it down a notch: Use only one ladder and “skate” from side to side without the ViPR.
Get in plank position with your body perpendicular to the ladder, hands in the centers of two adjacent squares. Bend elbows, lowering chest toward the ground, then explosively push up as you hop your hands and feet to the right, landing with each hand one square to the right. Immediately repeat. Then reverse direction, doing two traveling push-ups to the left. Continue, moving from side to side.
Take it down a notch: Stay in plank position (don’t do push-ups), and walk your hands and feet from side to side.
By Jeanine Detz