Oct 27th, 2017
Author: PJF Performance
Category: Performance Enhancement
Below is a short video describing our current stance on agility ladders for speed development. Many athletes and coaches prioritize agility ladders as a form of speed training, however, the science doesn’t really add up!
A few things to keep in mind here:
We LOVE agility ladder work, just not for speed development. We use ladders and rings for kinesthetic awareness (knowing where our body is in space), neuromuscular coordination, nervous system activation, grooving sport specific footwork patterns and several other reasons. It’s essential that coaches understand WHY they use certain methodologies. If you use agility ladders for the right reasons, they will help athletes improve. However, if you prioritize ladders as your main form of speed development, you will never get the results you want.
I went through a simple force plate test to show you why ladders don’t work for speed training. A simple two step cut was over 1200 newtons of peak concentric force on the push-off leg. A ground contact of a “Ickey shuffle” ladder drill was only 570 newtons of peak concentric force. I used peak concentric force for simplicity, but the impulse difference is even bigger! This simple test should show you that tip-toeing through ladder drills is far too low of force to actually improve your speed. To simplify things, speed pretty much comes down to 1) Total force- how much force can you put into the floor. 2) Rate of force development- how fast can you produce force. 3) Angles of force production- how can you improve the angle of force applied into the ground. We know that ladders can’t improve total force production since it’s not even half the force of a 2 step cut. Some trainers would argue that you’re improving rate of force development with ladders since the ground contact time is short, but this is incorrect. If a two step cut requires 1200 newtons of force, what good is it to improve the rate at which we can produce 570 newtons? Rate of force development training needs to be specific to the task, which means we need to teach our bodies to produce HIGH force FASTER. By improving the rate of force development of LOW total forces we are essentially getting better at going nowhere. Typical ladder work is also not reflective of sport specific acceleration angles, so by tip-toeing through the ladder we aren’t improving speed through enhancing the angle of force applied into the ground.
That being said, there ARE certain ways to use the ladder that require higher force. We utilize some of these drills in our online program and I will cover these drills in future posts. When you’re trying to improve speed and multi-directional explosiveness make sure your drills involve covering max distance in a short period of time. Add in reaction components whenever possible. There are thousands of ways to improve sport specific speed but prioritizing ladder drills is not the way to go!
Stay tuned for more on this topic in the future! Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions.