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Agility Ladder For Speed Training

Aaron King (00:00):

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm Aaron King with coach Bob king. And today we're gonna talk about what seems like a really simple topic that we, I just thought we'd go into a little bit of a deeper dive on just ladder drills, cuz we've obviously had a lot of videos go out about 'em and we get a lot of people looking for drills, but breaking down the way we use 'em where they fit in all the different I don't know, segments and things and ways that you can put it in. So CBK tell me how, how did you get started into like, why did the latter become such a big part of the program?


Coach Bob King (00:36):

I think over the time of my career, It just seems like I have at least to be able to see something go. I like that. I don't know exactly all the details or, you know, maybe what it's for, but it looks either cool or I like the concept. And we ran across the ladder back way back in our early training days. And even during those early training days, you know, we didn't have any budgets and we had if we wanted to get something we had to get come out of our own pocket or, you know, I'm talking about in a coaching school situation. And so the ladder was like, this thing is way cool because it did something for the feet that we all recognize, and that is quickness. Now, what I also knew was you know, I can go to go to the big old box department or the hard store.


Coach Bob King (01:22):

And I got a guy to give me about 25 paint sticks and we just spaced them out on the ground. And we had a, we had a very rudimentary ladder. At least we had the rung. So we used paint sticks in the beginning and we saved our money and we actually bought the real ladder. And it just grew from there now here's, here's where we really gotta focus. The ladder has its patterns and we're very familiar. One step, two-step hop, blah, blah, blah. The deal is athletes adapt any human, you know, who does a ladder drill, any kind of drill they're gonna adapt. That means they're gonna learn it and it's gonna become boring. And probably in some point in time, slow down because it's, I got it. I get it. This the feet aren't having any more fun. What we learned to do is create the themes and variations.


Coach Bob King (02:10):

And I'll just, I'll put it right here to say what really spurred me more onto this subject was a coaching clinic convention. We were all standing around talking and it was a speed topic. And some guy just kinda likes, you know, profiling. It was the strength coach. In other words, just the weightlifting powerlifting coach and his comment. I quote, the only thing you get from doing the ladder is good at doing the ladder. And it's like, dude, this is not the time or place to get into it. But that is a, you know, just patently incorrect. Now here's why I'm saying that. First of all, when we talk about doing the ladder, we always tell the athletes, you know, we're teaching the feet, teach the feet. What are we teaching it? Quickness, touch the ground, get off. Now from there, we always tell, especially the new ones, we always tell the new ones, especially that the distance from the ear to the brain, to the body part being instructed, which in this case is the feet is the same distances from here, New York City to London.


Coach Bob King (03:11):

It's just a huge space to get the ear to the brain, to the foot, to do what you want it to do. So with the ladder, we're now teaching the feet through the nervous system. Here's the deal with athletics coaches like to say, Hey, make the athletic play. And that means doing something that we didn't practice. You've got at some point react to a situation and do something that we just, we, we never practice before, but you make a play. So what we want to teach the feet is to help the feet learn to make a, make a play in order to do that, we have to challenge the brain ear foot combination to be able to do athletic things. And so we have magnified or we have mastered the basics. Now the spot stop right here with the basics mastered. I've always wondered about, you know, we do all this in the off-season.


Coach Bob King (04:02):

Why do we not do it in season? And whatever that sport is like for me, it was football track. And so what I started doing is bringing the ladder into my football coaching and using that as an extended warmup. You know, we just want to get the feet going fast so that we can practice fast. So yeah, we warm up, we stretch, we dynamic all that business. I want to have fast feet all the time. So we would use half a ladder as part of an extended warmup, in football once or twice a week. We didn't have to force feet to do it all the time, but we had certain days of practice that it would lend itself to be a better component.


Aaron King (04:42):

Okay. So when you talk about the ladder and teaching the feet, I guess let's just jump right into separate levels. I'm gonna come back to some of them, some of them, the technical things and laying it out for everyone. But just because you said that I think the immediate thing that comes to mind, okay, that's great. I can teach a kid how to run. What, what good does this do for an NBA player or an NFL player? If I get to a certain point and I already have all that distance between the brain and the ear to the feet already, we're good. I'm fast. Why, where does it fit from the development age, but all the way up to the elite age, the usability,


Coach Bob King (05:22):

That's really, that's a good question because we've done that. And what I notice working with pros, is they like the mastering of that device. They won't see, they can look down and see their feet moving fast. They want to see their performance and it's right there in front of them. And they, they want to show themselves and, and their teammates like, man, I got feet to wash my feet and I've, I've worked in the pros. I've had coaches ask me, you know, whenever we always talk about this guy, benches 4 million pounds, he squats two houses. He's the jumps, he vertical jumps the empire state building. Okay. The coach says, oh yeah, it's great. Can he play? And the other question I've always gotten from the offensive lineman, especially in a lot of basketball coaches is how're his feet. Now that said over my time, working between the back and forth with the Mavericks and the Cowboys, I noticed that especially with the offensive lineman, they had similar foot pattern or foot movement needs as the frontcourt in basketball, the forwards and centers, power forwards centers, those guys in the paint, those guys that footwork is very similar.


Coach Bob King (06:27):

And so it was really easy to translate from one to the next. And I carried drills over from football to basketball, but they weren't football, basketball drills, they were foot drills. And so that's where it became a very, very versatile tool. Also, what that means is the versatility of it is works like this. You have the ladder, however many rungs your ladder has in and how many boxes, whatever you wanna call it. They are easy to break into half or just fold in half. And so now you have a, ladder and to keep that boredom from setting in, we came up with variations. Now one of my favorite variations is carrying a medicine ball. So we're gonna add whatever your size is. 6, 8, 9, 10 pounds to your body weight. Now you have to overcome that and you don't have any arms to help you overcome it.


Coach Bob King (07:13):

So it's all feet. Where were we teaching the feet? So that's what we're gonna do is, is help you. Now the variations come with, we will be, we'll put a cone down. Kids will run through the ladder with the medicine ball. When they reach the cone, they drop the ball and take off. And that's, here's where the athleticism comes in. If you're doing the ladder, we have, we have a very simple rule. If you make a mistake recover, when you make a mistake, it's very common. You'll see this where somebody will goof up or whatever, and they'll stop. And they'll kinda laugh at themselves and go back and start over and come back and make the mistake again in the same place. So what we tell 'em is if you make a mistake, recover, that's athletic, and that way you're teaching defeat to stumble or to do whatever and get the pattern back no different than coming out of a, a, a pass route and breaking and, and getting caught up in defender's feet and having to recover and the same thing in any other sport where there's an opponent or even a, a yard line or a Stripe that gets in your way that you can recover from.


Coach Bob King (08:16):

So we've used this extensively as that kind of a tool. Another great one I love is the half a ladder. And there's a, there's a ton of these. And we won't even get, 'em all covered. Half a ladder, we carry a medicine ball, get to the end of the ladder. You dump the ball and you sprint 10 or whatever. We have a cone marked out too. And so we call 'em transitions. So standing still to starting, that's a transition from zero to something getting to the end of the ladder with a confined stride, dropping the ball, getting your arms back, and accelerating. That's another transition from a short stride to a full-speed stride. So anytime you can build in transitions, it's very helpful. So we find different ways to do that at the advanced level, we, with the older athletes and, and that veterans we'll add cables to it. And we can do a half a ladder where we do certain patterns go back and forth on, on the half ladder two or three times. And they have a resistance coming, one direction. They come back with assistance and then we do turn around. And anytime you do any resistance medicine, ball, cable belts, something like that, always do the contrast. And that means no resistance goes full speed or, you know, whatever you're doing, make sure you do it. So everything is opened up and moving fluidly. So contrast always with a resist or a Cy.


Aaron King (09:33):

I tell you what those drills that you just mentioned with the medicine ball with the cables are some of my favorite workouts. Cause that that is full body. It is core. It is calves. Yes, it is everything. And I've been doing ladder my whole life. And at the, just, later on, it was like, my whole workout might just be a ladder workout and it might be the best one I had all week. And you can't do that at the developmental levels. A kid is just trying to learn to get their feet to function. So let's, let's go down to that level and, and talk about the athletic development principles and things like that about teaching footwork, using the ladder for the younger athletes.


Coach Bob King (10:14):

Yeah. With the young ones. Here's, here's what I've always told people. It's like, look, you know, even high school and on up high school colleges, especially the pro you're there to facilitate and instruct and give feedback and, and things of that nature. Maybe you introduce something new, but if you want to find out how good a coach, you are, go down, just drop down, and see if you can teach it because that's all coaching is teaching. And so I have 'em as young as nine, and I tell a parent, I don't babysit. You bring 'em in, I'll see if they can handle the timeframe. And we only do about a half-hour and handle the timeframe, the instruction, and pay attention. And if they can I'll work with them because they have challenged me over time to be number one, very patient number two, know my stuff.


Coach Bob King (11:03):

You know, if I'm going to coach speed or the ladder, whatever it is, do you know your stuff, coach. And that way I can teach them and corrections are, are huge. In other words, there's, there's a right way and a wrong way for a foot pattern in the ladder, as it is, you know, first of all, stay off your heels and, and flat feet and heels are very common with the young ones. And the second thing that goes out the window is the arms. They don't know what to do with them. So, we get that instruction right off the bat on how to use the limbs properly and correctly. We don't do all the gadgets. We have what we, you know, well, we, the half ladder becomes the teaching ladder. And so new people and young kids get the half ladder because we don't want to, you know, spend it's frustrating for the athlete, if they're on a full ladder and they just can't finish it, cuz they mess up all the time. We're gonna put 'em on a half ladder. So they have a chance for success and go, yeah, I got this. So teaching the young ones has been a great coaching learning experience.


Aaron King (12:06):

All right. So let's, let's add a little bit of, of layers there and, and some takeaways. Cause I get them quite a lot. How many times for X, how many times do I do this drill or that drill? Let's start with younger athletes. How many times a week and how are you using the ladder?


Coach Bob King (12:25):

When we have us, let's say, for example, the summer program we use the ladder anywhere from two to three days a week. And so we have because I need to catalog what I do. We have names for what, what we do with our gear. So we have zero to 10, zero to 30, change the direction as sport-specific as possible, change the direction. And then with the ladder, we have what we call, we call a lot of steps. And so I couldn't come over with a better name, but a lot of steps. So what we're gonna do is just, we're just, that's it, baby. We're throwing the ladder out and we're going to roll with it for about 20 or 30 minutes. And you gotta understand that is a long time. And what we do, we sprinkle in speed breaks.


Coach Bob King (13:07):

We always take speed breaks get a drink of water and that kind of thing. And whether it's the medicine ball or, or bands, we will use a lot of steps just to wear the feet out. So that, that imprinting takes place. Now back more to your original question, if you're new at it, we will go through the menu, and let's, I'm gonna just say there are 10 items on the basic beginner menu. And we'll try to go through each one twice and start to repeat now with new athletes, new, younger ones. They don't really catalog in their mind. Well, we already did. Or we already did that cuz they're still trying to figure out what to do with what we're doing. So what we'll do is go through each one twice and I won't belabor it. So if there is you know, let's say, for example, just two, two steps, first of all, don't over coach.


Coach Bob King (13:58):

And so if we do a two-step pattern, I say right foot first, you're gonna see a right foot, right foot left, left. Right, right, right, right. Left the lead. Foot's gonna change, roll with it. If you spend all day trying to get just the right foot first, you're gonna be frustrated as a coach, but you're accomplishing what you want in two steps. And that can be difficult because they may wanna run with one step or mix it up. We, we have a, one of them, the most we do on the ladder is three steps in each box. And what we've learned to, you know, we, we kid the kids because we'll say all right, three-step, or as we like to say between two and eight, because they'll end up running in place in one box. Why is that important? When we tie their feet up like that on the li multiple steps in each box, we follow it up every time with one step and we just say unleash it. And they can just fly through. They'll mess up because their feet get turned loose and they just take off. And that's a contrast. Then we go do the speed break. And we're just, we're winning. The kids are getting better when you mess up the ladder, you see it, it gets all tangled. So when you start running through and you don't mess it up, you see that too. And so you can measure and personally see, Hey, I'm getting this I'm better.


Aaron King (15:11):

And how many times a week are, is a, is an elite athlete using the ladder? Are we just using it as warmups? What are we doing?


Coach Bob King (15:17):

Well, that's the same principle. We'll use it as an extended warmup on a, pretty much daily basis. I will take it out just to remove it because it keeps it fresh to an extent. And let me just say this, that the latter we're talking about is, is what you're hearing in this, this particular episode, but it is not the only thing that day. Even if I have a lot of step programs going, that's a piece of the puzzle because it goes with a change of direction day. So we'll do a lot of steps and then we'll move over to cone work and get the change of direction on a bigger scale. So there's a context to this. So if you look at a, a workout script, it'll say, you know, warm up, lead up the ladder and it'll list the drills. And it may be five to eight minutes worth of drills. So if we're talking about a 45 or 50-minute program, you know, just barely a 10th of that is the ladder, but it is so fast and effective, you do it. And so if we did a warmup with the ladder every day, I don't think it'd be overkill. I just rotate all my stimuli in and out of the program for freshness.


Aaron King (16:19):

All right. And I think what we're gonna do is go into some other topics in another episode, but we wanted to take a little bit of a fundamental approach to the agility ladder. And I think there's a lot more we could touch on here. We could probably talk about it for an hour and really overanalyze it, but I just wanted to start with a little bit of a framework of why and where, and how we do it. So I think that that's all for today unless you have any final thoughts on the agility ladder that you want a takeaway for folks that are thinking about their speed agility program. Yeah.


Coach Bob King (16:51):

But really mostly just a summary. A ladder is a tool. The ladder is good for an extended warmup and the ladder will carry over into your sports season to maintain contact with the benefits and gains that you made in the off-season. Yeah.


Aaron King (17:04):

And to be clear, we are focusing on the ladder in this conversation, but that is not the only thing you should be doing in your program. It is one of many, many things, but we wanted to focus on a single topic today, but that's all we have. If you want more information, go to And then, of course, coach Bob king is on Twitter, Instagram YouTube as @CoachBobKing and I'm Aaron King and I'm @deepsnap on everything except for TikTok I'm  @shortsnap. And I do a lot of travel on outdoor our stuff, but if you want the real speed stuff, go head up, coach Kings, social media, and But until next time, thanks for joining.



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