If you’re looking for a way to mix up your workouts, look no further than these agility ladder drills led by certified trainer Chris Freytag! These fast-paced ladder exercises get your heart pumping and burn tons of calories.
Agility ladder drills aren’t just for the elite athlete. Ladder exercises can be the perfect way to get started with athletic style training, even for the nonathlete. Plus, a speed and agility ladder workout is a great way to get your heart pumping (and calories melting).
The agility ladder, also known as a speed ladder, improves three key fitness factors—speed, agility, and quickness—in addition to strengthening your joints, ligaments, and tendons. Let’s explore the benefits of agility ladder training and 11 awesome agility ladder exercises!
The Benefits Of Agility Ladder Exercises
An agility ladder workout is great for so many reasons. Yes, your heart rate gets up there and you’re going to burn calories, but there’s so much more to it than that. Ladder drills will mix up your workout and keep you interested even when you’re in a fitness rut. Here are just some of the benefits of speed ladder training.
1. Improves Speed, Agility, and Quickness
Whether you’re a pro athlete or an exercise newbie, agility ladder drills are the perfect form of cross-training because they help improve your speed, agility, and quickness.
- Speed: your ability to move in one direction as fast as possible
- Agility: your coordination—your ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions
- Quickness: your ability to react or switch positions quickly
These three factors not only improve your athletic performance in other sports and activities but can help you boost your fitness level for virtually any type of workout you do, from strength training and dance to pilates or bodyweight workouts in between!
2. Great For Heart Health
An agility ladder workout gets your heart pumping and is a great form of cardio. Getting your heart rate up through cardiovascular exercise is a great way to keep your heart healthy and young. Because agility ladder drills require so much precision and focus, they can elevate your heart rate in a short amount of time. The CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of heart-pumping cardio per week; agility ladder exercises can certainly be a part of that!
3. Agility Ladder Drills Burn Tons Of Calories
Because speed ladder drills are a great form of cardio, they also burn mega calories! They are considered a type of high-intensity interval training, they do what I always preach is the best method to attack your fat: accomplish more in less time!
By going “all-out” in short bursts of intense effort and then taking a brief pause, you typically blast fat and burn more calories than you would be doing most lower-intensity, steady-state cardio activities.
Related: Beginner’s Guide To HIIT
4. Keeps You Mentally Sharp
Stay young with a workout that will keep you on your toes and thinking fast! These agility ladder drills require you to focus and concentrate, connecting your brain to your body. This type of improved coordination not only benefits your daily life, but keeps your mind young.
Speed ladder drills are so powerful they could even prevent Alzheimer’s. Studies even show that Alzheimer’s patients who participate in exercise programs including balance and coordination components retain more muscle strength and control than patients who do not.
Plus, from the moment you put your foot into the first ladder exercise, your brain will be focused and your training session will speed by.
5. It’s FUN!
We all get bored sometimes with our workout, so if you feel like you’re in a rut and sick of slogging away on the treadmill one more time, try this workout! It’s an amazing feeling to perform athlete-style speed and agility training. Step into the first phase of becoming more athletic and agile with a ladder drill – I promise your body can do it. You can do ladder exercises outside, in the garage, or in the basement. It’s something different, and it’s just plain fun. Your kids will have a blast with it too!
The 11 Agility Ladder Drills
Put together, these 11 agility ladder drills make up one kick-butt workout. This workout is considered a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout because it requires you to expend all-out effort for short bursts of time and then rest.
- Perform each drill two times in a row.
- Move down the ladder, shuffle back to the beginning of the ladder again and do it one more time.
- Do that for each of the 11 ladder drills.
- Take a rest to catch your breath and then repeat all 11 again!
Watch the videos for a demonstration of each move and read the description of each drill to learn how to do each move.
Your Agility Ladder Workout
1. Single Foot In Each Square Ladder Exercise
Place one foot in each square, alternating. Be sure to pick up your feet and move the full length of the ladder.
The higher you can pick your knees up while running through the ladder, the more efficient and effective this exercise will be.
2. Two Feet In Each Square Ladder Exercise
Place two feet in each square before moving onto the next. You want to stay on the balls of your feet and move your feet quickly for this agility ladder drill.
Similar to the single foot in each square, the extra challenge to this move is to also pick up your knees. Think high knees down the ladder. This will push your heart rate further and uses a bigger range of motion.
3. Lateral Stepping Ladder Exercise
Stand lateral to the agility ladder with your right foot ready to lead. Start going down the agility ladder by placing two feet in each square. Stay on the balls of the feet and as you move laterally; you want to keep your toes and hips facing forward the entire time until you reach the end of the ladder.
Do this same thing on the other side, leading with the left foot. Facing laterally and sprinting down the ladder forces us to move in a different plane of motion and challenges our minds as well.
4. Jumping Jack Feet Ladder Exercise
Jump two feet together inside a square, then jump out while moving down the ladder. Just as you would do regular jumping jacks, continue to use your arms in an overhead position to increase the heart rate.
Stay on the balls of the feet as you jack them out and in down the entire ladder.
5. In In Out Out Ladder Exercise
Begin by placing the right foot in the square and then the left foot. Then you will step outside of the ladder with the right foot, then the left, leaving both feet on the outside of the ladder.
You will follow the pattern of in in, out out, leading with the same foot as you go down the entire ladder. Once you come back, the challenge is to start with the opposite foot, making sure you are evening out your body and not always choosing the more dominant foot to lead.
6. Lateral Carioca Ladder Exercise
Start by standing on the left side of the ladder, allowing your left foot to be the leading leg. Step sideways with your lead foot (left) into the first square, then cross-step your opposite foot over the lead foot as you move to the second box.
You will grapevine down the entire ladder with the “non-leading” foot either stepping in front or behind the lead leg. Continue to move laterally across the ladder while focusing on quick footwork and stable hip movement. Repeat this pattern on the other side.
7. Cross-Overs Ladder Exercise
One foot crosses the front and steps into the square; two feet step to the side and then continue to repeat down the ladder. The goal is to keep one foot in the square and two feet on the side as you make your way down.
To quicken your pace down the ladder you want to stay on the balls of your feet and allow the hips to help with this pattern. In terms of agility drills, this is fast, fun, and a heart pumper!
8. Icky Shuffle Ladder Exercise
This is one of our favorite agility ladder drills. Begin by starting on one side of the ladder (doesn’t matter which side because you will do both sides), but for our sake, we are going to start on the right side. Take a lateral step into the first square with the left foot, then immediately follow with the right foot.
Then you will step laterally to the left side of the ladder with the left foot. The right foot will then lead into the second box.
The left foot will meet the right in the second square, then take a step to the outside of the ladder on the right with the right foot. Continue down the entire ladder focusing on quickness and agility. The pattern will always be two feet into the square, one foot on the outside, but each time you will lead with the opposite leg.
9. Single Foot Hops Ladder Exercise
Begin by standing on the left foot. Hop through the ladder on the left foot the entire way down the ladder.
Once you reach the end of the ladder and you make your way back to the starting position, you will stand on the right foot and complete the same pattern on the opposite foot.
10. Side Shuffle Speed Ladder Exercise
Start on the right side of the ladder. The right foot will always step inside each square and the left, outside foot will always be on the outside of the ladder.
Begin by leading with the inside foot stepping into the first square. The opposite foot (left) will step on the outside of the ladder following in the footsteps.
You will repeat this pattern all the way down the ladder. Once returning to the start position, start on the opposite side of the ladder leading with the opposite foot. The key to quickness is staying light on the balls of your feet and a soft bend through the knees the entire way down the ladder.
11. Walking Push-ups Ladder Exercise
This is a full-body agility drill. Start in a high plank position, shoulders stacked directly over the wrists and legs long behind you. Walk the lead arm into the first square of the ladder, squeeze your core and drop down to the bottom of a push-up. When you come to the top of the push-up you will walk your hands into the next two squares.
Move laterally down the agility ladder, doing a push-up in each square. Make sure you take this one slow at first so you can get your form right.
Repeat on both sides of the ladder switching the leading arm. Walking push-ups are a good way to incorporate strength movements with the agility ladder.
Ready to get started with an agility workout? First, you need a ladder. There are several different options if you want to do agility ladder drills right: buy a roll-out mat, one with plastic slats, or simply draw your own with chalk.
Ladders will range in price according to which variety you choose, but as you can see from the video above, I like the roll-out kind. They stay in place and are of better quality.
This is the kind of ladder I have, from SPRI. You can purchase one on Amazon by clicking below.
If you want to make your own agility ladder using chalk or duct tape, create boxes that are roughly 16 x 13, and make the whole ladder roughly 15 ft long.
Of course, if the dimensions of the squares aren’t precisely the same as the ones you’d buy online, it’s not a huge deal. Just get outdoors and move those feet to the end of the ladder!
Give just one of these ladder exercises a try as part of your next workout. Don’t expect to be an expert the first time, just have fun and repeat!
Agility Ladder Drill FAQs
Are agility ladders a good workout?
The agility ladder can provide you with a killer cardio workout. Just keep in mind that proper form is the priority, not how hard you push yourself! If your form starts to falter then it’s time to take a break and come back fresh for another go around later on.
How many calories do agility ladder drills burn?
Agility ladder drills are very similar to high-intensity interval training in terms of calorie burn. Ladder exercises will burn anywhere from 300-to 900 calories in one hour. Be aware that calorie burn is entirely dependent on several factors like age, weight, and fitness level. For example, certain ladder drills burn more calories because the footwork is more intricate while other drills are more straightforward. Calorie burn during agility work also varies based on the intensity of the drills. You might complete one set of a drill at a warmup exertion level and then move on to another, more intense set.
How do I improve my agility ladder exercises?
Practice makes perfect! The only way to get better at anything is by practicing often and in different ways so that you can find what works best for your body.
What does the agility ladder improve?
Agility ladders are an easy way to get started on your fitness journey. Ladder exercises will help strengthen joints, ligaments, and tendons as well as improve agility and quickness while also increasing your brainpower. Speed training and agility ladder drills help improve brain-to-muscle connection. Ladder drills also improve the ability to pivot which is an important factor for balance especially as we age.
How long should an agility ladder be?
Agility ladders come in different lengths, with their main difference being the number of rungs. Some have 8, some 11 or 12, and others 15. The more rungs an agility ladder has the smaller its spacing will be. In general agility ladder rungs are typically spaced 18 inches apart and create boxes that are 20 inches wide. The length of the ladder doesn’t matter as long as it works for you and you’re having fun!
Can you make your own agility ladder?
Yes, an agility ladder is easy to DIY. You can use a rope or jump rope to create an agility ladder – be careful not to trip, and focus on high knees! Or use a long piece of material that’s at least two feet longer than the desired length for the ladders, and three short pieces about 12 inches in length. Another technique to make your own regulation agility ladder is to use a roll of duct tape and some free paint-stirring sticks.
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Anna on November 17, 2021 at 1:13 PM
I've never tried an agility ladder before but I see that it seems like a real killer cardio! You convinced me to try. It should be a perfect workout after Christmas break, to burn all the extra calories :)
Chris Freytag, CPT on November 18, 2021 at 2:17 PM
So happy we convinced you to try! It is truly a fun and different way to do cardio! Switch up the patterns and you'll have a blast. Plus it keeps your brain in the game as well!
Laurence Horowitz on April 4, 2021 at 6:46 PM
I'm in my 70's, have been an athlete my entire life--did many of these back when I played tennis in high school and college; but now I have Parkinson's Disease and am having a heck of a time even remembering how to do many of the reps, let alone with speed. It's been quite a challenge, but doing the ladder exerciseds have helped to improve both my physical and cognitive ability. I actually had to relearn how to walk correctly several years ago. Ladder exercises, daily tai chi chu'an, and using the TRX machine I purchased (along with interval training) is helping me to grow younger. As a surfer, tennis player and martial arts master, I never enjoyed nor believed in exercising, but as I move into the latter stage of my life, I've become a believer in fitness exercises such as daily use of the agility ladder as a necessary part of my daily health maintenance routine.
Joshua on October 28, 2020 at 9:26 AM
how much sets and reps tho?
Chris Freytag on October 28, 2020 at 3:48 PM
Whatever you're comfortable with. I would do 3 or 4 reps for each move.