There are few stations more versatile in a circuit workout than the agility ladder. From drills focusing on speed, to agility, to strength, whatever your goals are, there’s a way to incorporate your agility ladder into the mix. If you’re getting into circuit workouts and looking for the next tool to add to your collection, an agility ladder should be near the top of your list. For longer drills, a second ladder is even handy to have around when you need it.
Ladder agility drills are an excellent way to improve foot speed, agility, coordination and overall quickness.
They are an integral part of many SAQ programs and compliment many different sports and events.
Speed ladder drills are about quality and form rather than producing overload. The drills are not meant to leave you fatigued or breathless in the way that shuttle runs might, for example.
It is better to perform these drills at the start of a session after the warm up. Your muscles should be fresh to ensure good quality of movement. And because they will not leave you exhausted you can perform resistance or endurance training afterwards.
Important Tip:Print this page out and have it with you when you practise these ladder agility drills. It’s a good idea to have half a dozen dummy runs on each exercise before you begin to perform them at speed.
Here are some general guidelines for all the ladder agility drills below:
- Push off from the balls of your feet (not the toes)
- Pump your hands from shoulder height to hips (men) and from chest height to hips (women)
- Keep your elbows at 90 degrees at all times
- Keep your arms, shoulders and hands relaxed
- Try to keep your head still as much as possible
Here are 35 of the best agility ladder drills for circuit training programs. Each drill comes not only with a description, but also a video showing you how to perform them. Whether you’re an experienced user of the ladder looking for new varieties, or are adding the ladder to your routine for the first time, these drills have you covered.
Basic Agility Ladder Exercises
The agility ladder can really trip you up in the beginning, as even a tiny misstep causes it to pull out of position if the ends are not staked down. If you’re new to using the agility ladder, consider trying out some basic exercises first to get your feet wet without turning the difficulty up to ten. They’ll help you get acclimated to the ladder in the beginning, but remain useful additions to any circuit even when you’re comfortable with more complex drills.
Hopping down the length of the ladder is the most basic of all agility ladder exercises, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re not still getting a great workout when you do it. Simply hop along the entire ladder, landing one time in each square. You can perform hops with both feet at once, or add difficulty by going down with one foot and back with the other. Single leg hops force you to provide more force with each leg than when they are both being used, and also help you work on your balance as you are hopping on a narrow base.
Zig Zag Hops
Turn things up a notch by changing to a zig zag pattern with your hops. First hop into one of the squares, then hop forward and to the left so that you land next to the ladder even with the next rung. Hop back in then across to the right this time, even with the next rung. Adding in the extra hops makes each pass of the ladder more challenging, while the changes in direction help to build agility and balance. As with simple hops, you can move to one leg to increase the difficulty.
Change the way you move through the ladder by turning sideways than hopping down one block at a time, using one foot or both at the same time. Lateral hops are great for building your balance as it is a less natural way to move than forward and backwards, and also help you to develop your lateral movement for use in sports like basketball where you often need to move left or right while still keeping your hips pointing forward towards your opponent.
Lateral In and Out Side Hops
Start standing at the end ladder as if you were going to perform lateral hops, then take a small step back so you are not aligned with the ladder. Hop forward and to the side to hop into the first square of the ladder, then hop straight back to pop out of the ladder again. Continue down the ladder, moving to the next rung on the forward hop then straight back on the exit hops. If performing the hops on one leg, try it while hopping on the leg that matches the direction you are moving as well as the opposite leg and note the difference between the two when finding your balance.
Forward, Forward, Back Hops
Adding a change of direction adds more difficulty to your routine than you might imagine for what still seems like such simple moves. Two steps forward and one step back is enough to keep you progressing down the ladder, but it adds significantly more jumps to the pass and adds the tweak of needing to stop your forward momentum every two hops so you can’t just fly through on auto pilot.
Inside, Outside Straddle Hops
Agility ladder exercises which combine narrow and wide landings is another great way to keep your body guessing and get the most out of your ladder. For straddle hops start facing down the ladder then hop in with both feet. Take a half jump forward so you are level with the next rung and spread your legs to land straddling the ladder. Continue down the ladder landing in each square and on either side of each rung.
When you hear hopscotch you may think of the childhood game, but it’s also one of the best agility ladder exercises around. Starting at the end of the ladder, hop into the first square on just your left foot, then hop forward to straddle the next rung. Hop back in on your right foot and again straddle the following rung. Continue down the ladder alternating which foot is landing in the ladder each time.
If you’re in search of agility ladder exercise to work on increasing your hip speed, hip switches are a great option. Stand so that your left foot is positioned facing down the ladder and your right foot is facing alongside it. Hop and turn your hips to the left so your left foot lands where your right foot was previously, and your right foot lands in the first square. Hop again to turn your hips back perpendicular to the ladder, with your left foot landing in the first square and your right foot outside the ladder. Continue alternating down the entire ladder, then come back the other way with your right foot starting aligned with the ladder and left foot down the outside.
Sideways Toe Taps
Stand with your right foot down in the first square with the ladder extending to the right and your left foot stepped back. Hop to your right slightly while pulling your right foot back out of the ladder and bringing your left foot forward to land in the first square. Hop to your right again, bringing your left foot out and your right foot into the second square to reset your stance, then continue for the length of the ladder.
Add some strength building to your agility ladder exercises with broad jumps. Take a deep squat then hop forward multiple squares at once. You can adjust the number of squares you target to your size and athletic ability. In addition to the strength training of the squats, aiming for precise jumps allows you to work on your body control.
Speed Building Agility Ladder Drills
Once you’ve mastered the basics of the agility ladder, it’s time to start ramping things up with faster movements. These drills require you to get your feet moving quickly and keep them that way for the entire length of the ladder. Not only will they improve your foot speed, but they also will have your heart pumping as they help to build your cardio.
One in Run
If you’re looking for agility ladder exercises to add into a chain of exercises, the one in run is a perfect addition for speed building. Run through the ladder as quickly as possible without skipping any squares and stepping one foot down in each of them as you go.
If you want to improve your foot speed, there is no better option than with fast feet. Start at one end of the ladder and move straight down it as fast as you can, being sure to touch both feet down in each square of the ladder. Performing fast feet well forces you to take short, choppy steps all while paying careful attention to avoid clipping the ladder with your toes as you progress forward.
Fast Feet with High Steps
Once you are comfortable completing fast feet without having to slow down too much you’re ready to increase the difficulty with the use of hurdles. Position them so that each hurdle is aligned directly over a rung. Adding hurdles forces you to make high, hopping steps to clear them, breaking up your flow and increasing the concentration required. To adjust the difficulty change the number of squares between hurdles. The shorter the distance the more difficult the exercise.
The Ickey Shuffle
Named because it bears a resemblance to an endzone dance from former Cincinnati Bengal’s running back Ickey Woods, the Ickey Shuffle is one of the more brain-breaking agility ladder exercises to first learn. Once you get used to it, however, it’s a great drill for getting your feet moving forward and laterally at the same time. Begin standing at the end of the ladder but positioned to the left of it. Step into the ladder with your right foot first, then follow with your left. Step outside of the ladder with your right foot level with the next rung, then lift your left foot up but don’t plant it back down. Reverse the move into the next square by going left, then right, and stepping outside with your left foot.
The Icky Shuffle With Cones
Whether you’re in a sport where you need to get low, or are simply looking to up the difficulty of your agility ladder exercises, adding cones to your Icky Shuffle takes it to another level. Position cones level with each rung such that they will be slightly outside of where you plant your feet on your outer steps. As you go through the ladder when you lift your inner foot up lean down with your outer hand to touch the top of the cone. For an easier exercise use taller safety style cones, whereas cut-top sports cones make it more challenging.
Forward, Forward, Back
Just like you can transform a standard run through the ladder into fast feet to make it a speed drill, you can alter your forward, forward, back as well. Simply move forward two squares, then back one, being sure to tap both feet in each square as you go. Just like with hopping, the change of direction breaks up your flow and keeps you concentrated on your movement for the entire ladder.
The sideways run is one of the better agility ladder exercises for building lateral movement speed. Stand with one foot in the first square and the other in the second while facing perpendicular to the ladder. Step into the next square with your lead leg before brining your read leg to replace it in the square it just left. Always move your lead leg first and avoid crossing over your feet, moving instead with a side shuffle motion.
Sideways Fast Feet
Keep your feet moving with sideways fast feet. Stand next to the end of the ladder, facing perpendicular to it, with your left foot closest to the ladder. Step into the first square with your left foot before doing the same with your right foot. Continue in the same pattern into the second square and on down the line. Repeat the moves with your right foot as the lead foot.
One of the most famous agility drills from yesteryear is high stepping through two columns of tires. With an agility ladder you get all of the benefit of tire running without the risk of catching your toe in a lip and falling on your fast. There are three different ways to run the ladder with high knees, with the common rule being you should always be lifting your knees as close to knee height as possible.
For the simplest method, simply take one step in each square, allowing you to clear the ladder quickly. For a slightly more challenging run, stand so that your feet are straddling one side of the ladder and step one foot down in each square, and one foot down next to each rung. Finally, you can do high stepping fast feet, with each foot making a stop in each square of the ladder.
Inside, Outside Fast Feet
For an exercise which will have your lungs burning when you add it into any circuit or ladder series, you can’t beat inside, outside fast feet. Stand at the end of the ladder facing down its length and step into the first square with your left foot then your right foot. Next step your left foot to the left of the next rung followed by your right foot to the right of the same rung, so that you are straddling the ladder. By the time you reach the end of the ladder you will have taken two steps in every box and two steps next to every rung, leading to one excellent cardio workout in addition to great foot speed training.
Crossover Sideways Run
The fastest way to progress through a ladder while moving laterally is the crossover sideways run. Starting with your left foot next to the ladder and perpendicular to the length of it, step your right leg in front of your left leg to step down in the first square. Bring your left leg forward into the second square before again crossing your right leg over into the third square, and so on for the rest of the ladder. Once you have gone in one direction, be sure to do another pass with your left leg as the one passing in front and your right leg passing behind.
Agility Training Agility Ladder Drills
Going fast is fun, but the agility ladder got its name for a reason. It is an outstanding tool for building your coordination by working on movements which require quick and precise foot movement through the ladder. The agility building exercises will improve your balance and coordination in no time.
The caraoka step is a popular warm up technique in sports like tennis, soccer and martial arts where it is important for competitors to open up their hips. Not only is it great for loosening up, it’s also a great agility ladder exercise due to its complex foot movement.
Begin standing facing perpendicular to the ladder with your left foot as lead. Step it into the first square, then step your right foot behind your left and into the second square. Bring your left leg into the third square then move your right foot in front of your left this time before placing it in the fourth square. Always alternate passing your right foot behind one time, then in front the next. As with all lead foot exercises you should also perform it in the reverse with your right foot leading for balance.
The centipede is a simple agility focused drill for ladders which combines lateral movement with forward and backward movements. Stand to the side of the ladder with your toes pointing at the opening rung and your left leg leading. Step into the first square with your left leg then your right leg, then take lateral steps into the second square, again leading with your left leg. Now step backwards out of the ladder, with your left leg first, so that your toes are pointed at the next rung. Repeat the series of in, over, out down the length of the ladder, then come back the other way with your right leg leading.
Sideways Single Toe Taps
This can be one of the more confusing steps to figure out at first because it involves unbalanced steps between your two legs, with your lead leg touching down twice for every one step your rear leg takes. Stand perpendicular to the ladder with your left leg leading and set back so that the ladder is aligned slightly in front of you. Step your left foot forward at an angle into the first square. Slide your right leg parallel to the ladder so it is even with the first square but still not in it, then bring your left foot out of the square and next to your right. Continue with the two-for-one pattern, and repeat with your right foot as the one touching down in the squares.
Single Leg Outside Toe Touches
Another unbalanced movement involves moving down the middle of the ladder while touching one leg outside at each rung. Begin facing down the ladder then step your left foot forward and down on the left of the first rung. Step into the first square with your right foot followed by your left foot to complete one round of the movement. To progress down the ladder, always lead with the step to the outside, followed by your other foot then bringing the first foot into the same square.
A common agility exercise ladder drill for strikers is the bouncing jab step, and it’s a great addition even if you don’t take boxing or Muay Thai classes. Stand perpendicular to the ladder with your left leg in the lead. Turn your hips and shoulders slightly so your right leg and shoulder are further back. Hop forward to plant your left foot in the first square while extending your left hand to throw a jab. Hop and shift your weight onto your right foot as you bring your hand back to your hand, then hop forward into the second square as you throw a second jab. If you are using the drill to assist your striking martial art, change your lead food to match your natural stance if needed, and don’t reverse your feet when coming back down the ladder, staying instead in your best stance.
Step Behind Crossovers
Step behind crossovers are an exercise which builds your speed and agility at the same time. Stand slightly to the right of the end of the ladder then step into the first square with your left leg. Cross your right leg behind your left so that it lands on the left side of the ladder, then bring your left foot across your right so you are standing to the left of the ladder. Step into the next square with your right foot, then cross your left leg behind and outside before bringing your right foot back outside. Always step into the next square with your inside leg, then step the outside leg behind.
Crossover Fast Feet
If you’re ready to really test your agility then crossover fast feet are the way to go. As with other fast feet exercises you’ll step both feet in each square, with the added complexity of crossing your legs. Starting next to the end of the ladder facing perpendicular to it, cross your right leg in front of your left and step down in the first square. Bring your left foot back behind the right and also into the first square, then repeat down the rest of the ladder.
Muscle Building Agility Ladder Drills
Not everything you do on the agility ladder has to be about speed and quick feet, however. You can also incorporate your agility ladder into your muscle building plans as well, with options to strengthen your muscles from your chest all the way down to your legs.
The wide walk is a great way to engage and build the muscles in your lower body. Stand with your feet wider than your hips and your left foot in the first square of the ladder. Step your left foot forward into the next square, then your right foot forward outside the ladder. Continue walking with small, squatted steps until you reach the end, then turn around and come back with your right foot in the ladder.
Hopping Pushup Walks
This is not a workout for anyone seeking a rest round. Put your feet, toes down, in the first square of the ladder then extend your body out into the pushup position. You can do wide push ups, narrow push ups, diamond push ups or any other variation you prefer. Lower your chest to the ground like a normal push up then explode back up with enough force to allow you to propel your body off the ground slightly. Drive yourself forward as you leave the ground so that your feet land in the next square. You’ll be feeling it by the end of the ladder!
Sideways Plank Walk
For an easier chest exercise which also hits your core, try plank walks. Plant both hands in the same square of the ladder, with your body extending perpendicularly and the rest of your weight on your toes. Keep your body as straight as possible, then walk sideways down the ladder by moving your hands and feet along the ladder, planting your hands in each square.
Sideways Plank Walk With Pushups
Split the difference between the two prior agility ladder exercises by performing a sideways plank walk with an additional pushup at each new square. You can adjust the type of pushup by changing your starting squares. For wide pushups, instead of placing both hands in one square and keeping your elbows tight to your body, place one hand in the first square and the other in the third to create a wider base.
Linear Plank Crawl
Changing the direction of movement in your plank crawl isn’t just a great way to keep things fresh, it also works different muscle groups to go forward and back than it does side to side. Begin with both hands in the same square while in the plank position, then walk your hands forward into the next square one at a time before bringing your feet forward one at a time as well.
Reverse Plank Crawl
Once you get to the end of the ladder, it’s time to work your way back again. Just as switching from sideways movement to forward movement engages your muscles in new ways, so too does switching to go in reverse, as you change from pulling yourself forward to pushing yourself backwards.
Adding explosive exercises to your ladder drills is not only a great change of pace, but also an excellent way to build some muscle on the ladder. With jump squats, sink your butt down into a deep squat, then hop up and forward into the next square. Higher jumps will require more effort, making for a better workout, but make sure not to go so hard that you can’t maintain your balance and stay in the right squares.
More Agility Ladder Drills
Hop Scotch Drill
This is one of the simplest ladder agility drills, even for those who are too old to remember playing hop scotch (or just won’t admit to it!).
- Start with your feet hip width apart at the bottom of the ladder
- Jump up with both feet and land on the left foot only in the first square
- Immediately push off with your left foot and land with both feet in the second square
- Immediately push off with both feet and land on your right foot only
- Push off from your right foot and land on both feet.
- Repeat this pattern for the full length of the ladder
- Another basic drill to master but no less effective.
- Start with your feet hip width apart at the bottom of the ladder
- Step into the first square with yourleftfoot first, immediately followed by yourrightfoot
- With your left foot step outside to the left the second square, then immediately step outside the second square with yourrightfoot
- Step back into the third square with your left foot first, followed by yourrightfoot.
- Repeat this pattern in fluid motion for the length of the ladder
Lateral Feet Drill
- The ladder agility drills from now on require more practise and greater coordination. Be sure to give yourself several dummy runs before attempting at speed.
- Start with both feet outside of the first square and to the left
- Step into the first square with yourleftfoot first, immediately followed by yourrightfoot… in a 1-2 motion
- Step to theright, outside the first square again with your left foot fist, followed by your right
- Now step diagonally left into the second square, with the left foot leading always keeping the same 1-2 motion
- Now step out to the left-hand side of the second square and repeat for the full length of the ladder
- If you perform several sets of this drill start at different sides of the ladder so your lead foot changes each time
- Named after the dance, when you perform this drill correctly you’ll see why. Or should it be the Foxtrot?
- Start with both feet outside of the first square and to the left
- Cross your left leg over yourrightand into the centre of the first square. Yourrightleg
should immediately follow to therightof the first square, followed by your left leg
- It’s a 1-2-3 motion like you’re dancing
- From here yourrightfoot comes across your left and into the centre of the second square as the pattern is repeated in the opposite direction
- Repeat for the full length of the ladder
Five Count Drill
This is the most difficult to master of these ladder agility drills and requires patience even for the most dexterous. When you can perform this exercise smoothly, with speed you’re ahead of most of the competition!
- Start with your feet hip width apart at the bottom of the ladder
- Step out to the right of the first square With your right foot immediately followed by
placing your left foot into the first square
- Bring your right foot along side your left in the first square then step into the second square with your left foot immediately followed by theright
- Count these first five steps in a 1-2-3-4-5 manor
- Reverse the sequence by stepping out to the right of the third square with your left foot
- Repeat for the full length of the ladder
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.