Spending any time improving your footwork with a ladder is better than nothing, but here are a few tips you can keep in mind for the best results.
Go at Your Own Pace
It’s easy to watch a few footwork ladder drill videos and be intimidated or to push yourself too hard, which can lead to injury.
However, the point of practice is not to replicate what someone else is doing. Instead, it’s to improve your baseline over time.
If you need to start slower, then, by all means, start where you’re at and improve from there. Also, it can be helpful to ease into these kinds of drills if you’ve never done them before.
Ladder drills, in particular, will challenge you to stay on your toes, which can lead to some discomfort if you overdo it the first few times out.
Practice with a Purpose
It’s easy to throw down a latter and run through a few basic drills and then move on to the next thing. However, what’s better is showing up with a game plan.
Learn or bookmark a few resources with a handful of drills and commit to running through each a set number of times. Also, set your rest period between each exercise, so that you’re challenging yourself and ideally track your performance – a simple note your phone will do the trick.
Here’s an example plan using the drills covered in this guide:
Slowly and lightly move through all five drills to build some muscle memory and warm up your body.
Run through each drill four times (each “time” is the equivalent to one length of the ladder) alternating which foot you start with for each time you work your way down the ladder.
Rest for 10 seconds after completing each length of the ladder.
Rest for 20 seconds after completing each drill.
Repeat the entire circuit twice.
Simple planning, as described above, will help you maximize your time working on your footwork by dedicating a predetermined amount of effort. It will also ensure you’re bringing new drills with you to help switch up your routine and continue challenging yourself.
Last but not least, you’ll be able to gauge your improvement over time, which is super motivating.
Move Your Arms
Your footwork is the main emphasis when working on an agility ladder, but don’t forget to keep your arms involved.
Keep them at your side, and with each step, you can pulse or lightly swing each arm so that your entire body stays involved.
Where to Look
When you’re first getting started or learning a new ladder drill, it’s going to be helpful to look at your feet.
However, as you get more comfortable, you will want to begin lifting your head and looking straight forward as you would when playing a tennis match. It’s a quick and easy way to take a simple drill and increase the difficulty level.
Work Both Sides of Your Body
Many drills will have you lead with one foot as you make your way down the ladder, which means one side is getting more work than the other. To balance things out, be sure to repeat drills with the opposite foot leading.
With or Without Your Racquet
Another easy way to switch up drills on the ladder and keep things fresh is to hold your racquet. To start, get comfortable without your racquet and then add it in to see how it changes up the feel.
Another fun way to improve your speed is by timing yourself and working to beat your previous best.
Pick a ladder drill and challenge yourself to complete that drill a specific number of times and then measure how long it takes you to complete it from start to finish.
Not only is it fun to measure your performance, but it gives you a target to continually try to improve.
Practice with a Friend
If you like the idea of practicing your footwork, but you’re having trouble getting started or motivating yourself, then suggest the idea to a friend and go practice together.
It’s helpful to have a cheerleader as well as someone to challenge you, and it will make things like tracking your time easier too.
On or Off Court
You can practice your footwork with a ladder anywhere – on our off court.
Your backyard or driveway are great options for setting up your ladder on days you might not have enough time to make it to the court, but you still want to work on your game.
Another excellent time to practice your footwork with a ladder is while waiting for players to exit a public court. Instead of sitting and wasting your time, you can break out your ladder and run a few quick drills.
Incorporate Other Footwork Drills
The ladder is one of many tools a player can use to improve their footwork, but it can be exciting when you start to combine different equipment such as cones to make a full-fledged circuit.
Of course, you don’t need to start here, but keep it in mind as your movement improves, and you’re looking for new ways to challenge yourself.
A great way to use ladder drills is to run through them ahead of a match to get your body warm before even stepping on the court.
They’re great because they get your mental and physical muscles working so that you head into your match sharp and focused.