The Best 9 Ladder Drills for Soccer that Your Team Needs

By Noa Cornberg,
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Soccer is a demanding game that requires the coordination of different muscle groups in the player’s body to the highest possible level. Ladder drills are one of the most inexpensive and simplest ways of incorporating the exercise of all these muscles in the training regime of the athletes.

This training tool might appear simple, but when in the hands of the right coach and used the right way, it can be effective in honing all the basic skills of a player, including speed, agility, quickness, balance, and coordination.

The main benefit of the agility ladder for soccer player training is that it can be used for a lot of fast-paced drills. This makes them just perfect, as speed is the name of the game in competitive sports.

From footwork to agility, we’ll cover the top nine agility ladder drills that you can make a part of your athletes’ training program to prepare them for the big game.

Always Start With a Warm-Up Before a Ladder Workout

The thing you need to keep in mind before starting any ladder workout is that these are high-intensity and demanding exercises that require intense work from the muscles, heart, and lungs. Before a player can start any of the speed ladder drills in this article, it is a must that they complete a comprehensive dynamic warm-up.

Most of these drills follow a pattern where the muscles have to exert to their fullest, followed by a short, low-intensity rest period and then another round of the intense workout. It is important that the muscles are primed, and the nervous system is prepared to tackle the extreme conditions the body faces during such workouts.

3 Drills That Put the “Speed” in Speed Ladder Drills

Speed, in terms of physical fitness, is the ability to move all or a part of the body as quickly as possible. With the speed of a soccer ball often reaching 80mph, it is only natural that the players need to move with considerable speed on the field.

The speed ladder drills below focus on building the speed of players so that they can exhibit it during a game. These drills are good for any game where speed is important, like basketball, football, tennis, and baseball. That’s the reason these ladders are often called basketball ladders and softball ladders too.

Lateral High Knees

This is a lateral running side-to-side agility ladder drill that is good for improving speed, agility, and footwork. This drill can be done by beginners as well as advanced players. This drill aims to train the players to maintain high-speed footwork while working on their body’s balance and coordination.

How to Perform on a Speed Ladder

  1. The player starts by standing sideways at one end of the ladder.
  2. To begin the drill, the player lifts the right foot, driving the knee to waist height, and then places that foot into the first box of the ladder.
  3. Next, they lift the left knee to waist height to place that left foot into the first box too.
  4. By the time the second foot touches the ground, the player repeats the process with the previous foot and moves through all the rungs.
  5. At the other end of the ladder, the player should repeat the activity starting with the opposite foot to balance both sides.
  6. Two reps make one set. Let the players take a 30-sec rest before starting another set.
  7. You can set a time limit for the players to complete the drill to make it more challenging.

Things to keep in mind about this drill:

  • The number of reps to be completed by a player should be decided by the coach depending on the player’s physical fitness level.
  • Instruct the player to generate bouncing power by moving the elbows back and forth.
  • Increasing the speed and keeping the rhythm is the key to avoiding being exhausted during the drill.
  • Have the athletes do this drill in proper running shoes.

High Knee Runs

This drill is closely related to the one described above. It also focuses on improving speed, but with an added touch of intense cardio training, which is a key component of any speed training. This workout requires the players to engage their calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, outer thighs, and core muscles, all of which are not only great for good speed and agility but also for strength training.

Done right, this is a great drill for boosting momentum, flexibility, and coordination.

How to Perform on a Speed Ladder

  1. The player stands at one end of the ladder facing forward to start the drill.
  2. At the coach’s signal, the player raises one foot, lifting the knee to waist height, and then puts that foot into the first box of the ladder.
  3. Next, he lifts the second foot in the same fashion but places it in the second box.
  4. The player repeats these steps to run through all the boxes.
  5. If using one ladder, the second player can begin as soon as the first player finishes.

Note: This agility ladder drill might look a lot like the one-ins exercise, but it is distinctly different. Here, the player has to move their knee much higher up.

Here are some things to keep in mind during this drill:

  • When doing this ladder drill, the players must keep their arms bent at 90 degrees.
  • Instruct the players to move their arms back and forth with maximum energy to generate momentum and speed for the feet.
  • The players should always land on the balls of their feet as they pace through the ladder.
  • If you do not have a skills ladder at hand, you can devise a DIY agility ladder.

Speed Scissors

This drill focuses on improving the player’s speed, agility, balance, and coordination. This drill aims to move the legs as fast as possible while constantly changing the direction of their movement. The overall direction of movement of the body, however, remains the same.

How to Perform on a Speed Ladder

  1. Stand on one side of the ladder facing it to start the drill.
  2. Jump off both feet and land with your legs straddled so that the leading foot is in the first box and the trailing one behind it.
  3. Next, jump again and switch the legs (scissor) mid-air so that when you land, the trailing leg is now the leading one and vice versa.
  4. Keep moving down the ladder in this fashion till the end and then change your direction and move to the starting end. This makes one rep of this speed training ladder drill.

The coach should decide the number of reps and resting period between them depending on the state of fitness of the athlete.

3 Drills That Put the “Agility” in Agility Ladder Drills

Agility is described as the ability to rapidly change the direction of the entire body in space with accuracy and speed. It is one of the core skills that athletes of all fields need. Whether it is to steal the basketball from a player dribbling it fast or to stop a football shot, agility plays a cardinal role in many sports.

The following speed ladder training drills focus on improving the agility component of players.

The Ickey Shuffle

Named after former American NFL Star Elbert L. “Ickey” Woods, this drill might seem to be too advanced for beginners, but once they master the three basic steps, it is simple. The key is to get the movement pattern right.

When done right, this drill can show noticeable improvements in the lower body quickness and overall agility of the players.

This drill is based on the 2-in 1-out footwork pattern. This means that 2 feet will be in before one moves out.

How to Perform on a Training Ladder

  1. The player begins by standing at one end of the ladder and to its side.
  2. Start by stepping into the first box of the ladder immediately, followed by the second foot. To make it clear, let’s assume that you start with the right foot, followed by the left foot.
  3. Immediately push the right foot outside the second box and then place the left foot inside the second box. Next, move the right foot into the second box too.
  4. Immediately push the left foot outside and then move the right foot up into the third box. Next, bring the left foot into the third box before pushing the right foot outside.
  5. Continue this pattern to complete all the boxes in the ladder.
  6. After completing all the boxes, jog back to the starting point.
  7. The coach should determine how long these exercises will last depending on the players’ ability.

In case the players are beginners, ask them to start at a slow pace and then build up the speed once they get the sequence right.

It is important that the players get their foot movement right without looking at them. Soccer doesn’t allow players to be looking at their feet when moving through the field.

You can make this agility drill more challenging for the pros by asking them to backtrack their way through the ladder in the opposite direction once they reach an end.

Hopscotch on a Workout Ladder

This is a very simple drill if the players have played the popular hopscotch game as children. However, that’s not to say that it is difficult for first-timers at all.

This is one of the agility ladder exercises that helps with improving the players’ explosiveness, deceleration, acceleration, and ability to switch directions snappily.

This step ladder exercise involves jumping in and out of boxes at speed- an activity that demands excellent foot-eye coordination and superb lower body reaction timing. In short, the players have to be quick and have to make precise movements, an important skill for juking around opponents.

How to Perform on a Training Ladder

  1. To do agility ladder hopscotch, the player starts by standing at one end of the speed ladder facing forward.
  2. At the trainer’s cue, the player jumps with both feet into the first box.
  3. He pushes both feet outside the ladder without resting, so the ladder is between the feet.
  4. Next, he jumps inside the second box with both feet and springs outside almost immediately.
  5. The players repeat these patterns to complete all the boxes.

You can add variations to this agility ladder workout plan by:

  • Having the players jump into odd number boxes only (1,3,5, etc.) by skipping the spaces between.
  • Jumping with only one foot inside the boxes during the first round and then jumping with the other foot for the second round.

Agility Ladder and Cones

This ladder drill uses two of the most common pieces of agility training equipment, agility ladder and cones. This drill might appear simple on paper, but its execution makes it one of the best soccer cone drills for boosting vertical jumps, balance, coordination, and agility.

The main theme of this hybrid ladder sprints activity is hopping on one leg throughout the length of the ladder and sprinting around the cones. This involves rapid changes in direction and pattern of movement.

Performing this drill will jack up your heart’s pulse rate. This makes it a great exercise for improving your player’s fitness.

How to Perform on a Training Ladder

  1. Place a cone on each side of the ladder, leaving a distance of 10 yards (meters) between the end of the ladder and the cones.
  2. The player stands at one end of the ladder and hops on one foot through all the boxes. At the other end of the ladder, the player sprints towards the cone and goes around it and back to the end of the ladder closest to that cone.
  3. From this end, the player hops on the opposite foot through the spaces before sprinting to the cone on the other end of the ladder.
  4. The coach may decide to have the players hop on either foot for 2-3 repetitions each before taking a rest.

When hopping through the boxes, motivate the players to hold their heads straight.

The players should also hop and sprint at top speed to benefit from this exercise.

Depending on their experience level and fitness, they may start slow and build on speed as they advance.

Drills That Put the “Footwork” in Footwork Drills

Footwork can be defined as how a player or athlete moves their feet while playing a sport. This skill is important for many sports, including boxing, football, tennis, and dancing.

We’ve established that speed and agility are of core importance in football, but footwork is not to be ignored. It is a high-level skill that athletes need to acquire once they are on an advanced level of their physical training with respect to speed and agility.

Here are three ladder drills that can help with this essential skill.

IN-IN OUT-OUT LATERAL LADDER FOOTWORK DRILL

This footwork workout is a modification of the lateral high knees drill we explained above. However, the difference here is that, unlike typical lateral running side-to-side drills, it has a component requiring the athlete to move their feet forward and backward. This foot speed drill emulates the footwork required by a player during a demanding soccer match.

How to Perform on a Footwork Ladder

  1. The player starts by standing sideways along the width of the first box of the ladder.
  2. To begin the in-in-out-out drill, the player moves the lead foot into the first box, followed by the right foot. That’s the in-in part.
  3. Next, he moves the lead foot outside and upwards to stand next to the second box. This should be followed by moving the other foot out. That’s the out-out part.
  4. With both feet out, repeat the process by taking the lead foot inside the second box followed by the second foot.
  5. At the end of the ladder, the player should repeat the sequence but alternate the lead foot. This will make one set.
  6. You can decide to have the players repeat the process for a given time or several sets.

Things to keep in mind about this drill include:

  • This drill is generally easy to understand once the players perfect the in-in out-out rhythm.
  • As the players get a grip of the drill, motivate them to try moving the legs at top gear to reap its full benefits.
  • Make sure that the players are landing on the balls of their feet.

LATERAL TOE-TAP SOCCER LADDER DRILLS WITH BALL

The ultimate goal of any soccer footwork drill is to incorporate ball control into your team’s workout program, which is what this drill is all about. The boxes offer a visual guide to help the players maintain tight ball control. If the players can move the ball at the right places inside the ladder, they will have an easier time slipping through defenders when stuck in tight spaces. The lateral toe tap is one of the best soccer speed and agility drills.

How to Perform on a Footwork Ladder

  1. The player stands sideways with the ball in the first box of the ladder.
  2. At the trainer’s signal, the player taps the top of the ball using the right foot, followed by the left foot, and another tap using the right foot again.
  3. Next, he uses the left leg to roll the ball into the next box.
  4. Repeat the tap-tap-tap-roll sequence to move the ball down the ladder.
  5. At the end of the ladder, the player repeats the pattern but alternates the lead foot. This helps in balancing the art of ball control in both feet.

Things to keep in mind for this drill:

  • In the beginning, make sure that the players carry out this activity at a pace they are comfortable with. They can speed it up as they get used to it.
  • Encourage the players to use natural back and forth arm movements to create balance and strength.
  • Ask them to slow down if they lose control of the ball but ensure that their body is over the ball.

Tip-Toe Balancing

This is one of the footwork drills that focus not only on developing proper footwork but also on the overall balance of the body while you are at it. The goal is to quickly change direction and keep your balance while carefully treading on the tips of your toes, both forward and backward.

How to Perform on a Footwork Ladder

  1. Start at one end of the ladder, facing it.
  2. You need to move on the tips of your toes, zig-zagging on the rungs of the ladder without touching the ground.
  3. Halfway across the ladder, change your direction and complete the rest of the ladder, moving backward.

Things to keep in mind about this drill:

  • The focus in the start should be to maintain proper footwork, and speed can be acquired later.
  • Ask the players to complete the drill without looking at their feet.

Conclusion

Floor ladders are the simplest piece of agility training equipment used for several drills for almost any sport. Athletes from all levels of professionalism and physical fitness can train on speed, agility, footwork, coordination and balance. These were just some examples of the drills that can be done with these ladders.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good workout routine?

A good workout routine consists of three days of strength training, two days of cardio, and two days of active rest.

What muscles control lateral movement?

Lateral movement is controlled by the lateral hip muscles, including the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fascia latae.

How much is a personal training session?

A personal training session at an academy or sports facility costs $40-$70 per hour. If you need a personal trainer at home, it will cost $100 more per hour.

How to get quick feet for soccer?

Workout and footwork drills are some of the best ways to get quick feet in soccer. The focus should always be to try and move your feet fast without looking at them, as soccer requires fast feet and does not allow you to look at them.

What do cone drills improve?

Cone drills are great for improving change of direction, acceleration, agility, and lateral movement. The beauty of cone drills is that you can devise exercises of your own to train for any physical skill.

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