3 Ladder Exercises to Improve Agility and Burn Fat


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Wherever you are in your fitness journey, it is important to implement speed and agility exercises into your regular routine. ‘Functional Training’ involves improving upon these characteristics to prevent injury by strengthening your core, improving stability and increasing your reaction time. As an added bonus, functional training exercises performed between weight training exercises can help you maximize your time in the gym and burn unwanted body fat. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite functional training techniques: Ladder Exercises.

A standard foot or agility ladder lays flat on the ground, has several rungs separated by chords, and can vary in length depending on your preference. Because agility ladders are very portable and easy to set up and break down, it can travel with you to the gym, or you can even use it at home. You can find a foot ladder for purchase at your local sporting goods store or favorite online retailer.

Ladder exercises are ideal for improving footwork as well as quickness and coordination. I love utilizing a foot ladder because it keeps my interval workouts exciting and fun while improving my speed and agility! The versatility of ladder exercises makes them acceptable for all levels of ability from beginners to elite athletes. Don’t worry if you don’t feel very coordinated at first; speed and agility can be developed and enhanced with practice and consistency.

Here are a few tips before you start implementing ladder drills into your workout routine:

     1. Always begin with a warm-up.

Moving your body with static and dynamic stretches will raise your heart rate and body temperature, allowing your body to adapt slowly before performing explosive and strength exercises.

     2. Arms motivate the legs.

Quick bursts of explosive energy require a quick start. When accelerating, utilize your arms to create a tempo that will increase the force you need to drive the legs into the ground faster and more efficiently. Pull from the elbow and push forward with your forearm, alternating with the legs.

     3. Keep up the intensity!

Less is more when it comes to improving speed and agility, so push as hard as you can for a short, intense burst for a maximum of 20-30 seconds. These are not steady heart rate cardio exercises; these are high intensity interval exercises. Push as hard as you can and reap the results.

Now that you’re warmed up and prepared to work hard, add this fat burning foot ladder program to your workouts between weighted sets and feel the difference a few steps can make!

Perform all 3 exercises back to back as quickly and as accurately as possible with 15-20 seconds of rest between each exercise. Be sure to go down and back through the ladder to complete one rep. Repeat the entire circuit a minimum of 4 times total.

     1. Side step with high knees

High knees build on explosive quick hops for coordination and quad strength. Whichever direction you’re heading in will be your ‘lead’ leg. Be sure to repeat on the other leg to return. Facing sideways, take quick lateral steps by pushing off your back leg while pulling your leading leg up high. Step into each box with both feet then, high knees to the next.

     2. Side straddle hop with low squat

This quick movement with a wide squat at the bottom focuses on your hips, glutes and inner thighs. Start with your feet together and hop to the outside of first box landing in a wide squat. Pop up and inside the box with both feet while avoiding ‘clapping’ your feet.

     3.  In and Out

This tempoed drill follows a four count of in-in-out-out. Facing sideways, touch your toes in and out of each box once. It helps to repeat “in-in-out-out” in your head while you get started to remind yourself of which foot goes where! Again, whichever direction you’re going will be the lead leg. Be sure to repeat on other leg to return.

Here’s what it looks like:

Give it a try and be sure to let us know how you do, and always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise plan.

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