This is the first article in a series of articles that addresses various exercise and nutrition questions. In this first article, agility is the topic of discussion.

Question 1:

"I recently purchased an agility ladder, and I was wondering if you could recommend a few ladder exercises?"

The agility ladder is a tool that I generally incorporate into the agility programs I design. The standard ladder is 10 yards long with 18-inch squares. The ladders can be purchased from numerous companies, or you can simply create one with chalk or tape. The first ladder I owned consisted of sticks placed on the ground. The ladder does not have to look fancy to be an effective training tool. But the answer to this question is yes, I have some exercises I can recommend.

One foot per square

Run through the ladder placing one foot in the middle of each square. Emphasize arm swing and powerful knee drive.


Two feet per square

Run through the ladder touching two feet in each square. Emphasize arm swing and knee drive.

In and outs

Begin by standing to the side of the ladder. Place your inside foot (foot closest to the ladder) into the first square. Next, place the trailing foot in the square. Now, with your lead foot, step outside of the ladder. Follow with your trailing foot. Your trailing foot now becomes the lead foot as you step into the next square. Repeat the sequence throughout the ladder.

Lateral in and outs

Begin by standing sideways to the ladder. Moving in a lateral fashion to your right, step into the first square with the right foot. Next, step in with the left. Now, back out with the right and back out with the left. Repeat the sequence throughout the ladder.


In many sports, athletes are required to change directions often. Proper use of the agility ladder may often lead to better agility. I generally recommend that athletes begin ladder training programs with two to four different movements. The frequency and intensity of exercises vary.

Question 2:

"Does sprint training enhance agility?"

Sprint training generally has little carryover to agility performance. For instance, a study was conducted by Young and colleagues to determine if straight sprint training transferred to agility performance tests that involved various change-of-direction complexities, and if agility training transferred to straight sprinting speed (Young et al., 2001). Thirty-six males were tested on a 30-meter straight sprint and six agility tests with two to five changes of direction at various angles. The participants engaged in two training sessions per week for six weeks using 20- to 40-meter straight sprints (speed group) or 20-to 40-meter change-of-direction sprints—three to five changes of 100 degrees (agility group). After the training period, the participants were retested. The participants in the speed training group showed significant increases in sprinting speed but limited gains in the agility tests. The results showed that the more complex the agility task, the less the transfer from the speed training to the agility task. The participants in the agility group showed significant improvements in the change-of-direction tests but no significant improvement in sprint performance. The results in this study indicated that speed and agility training methods are specific and produce limited transfer to the other.

Question 3:

"I recently started training to increase agility, but I am not really sure how to incorporate this into my strength training. Any suggestions?"

I generally recommend that agility training be performed before strength training. The volume will usually be low to moderate when performed pre-strength training. On days when agility training is either performed alone or with speed and quickness training, the volume will be higher. The number of days dedicated to agility training varies depending on the athlete and the training phase (Hale, 2004).

Practical implications in reference to agility training:

  • The main emphasis in agility training is to expose the athlete to a wide range of movement patterns under varying conditions.
  • In general, agility training is performed pre-strength training.
  • Agility is a key motor ability in many sports.
  • Do not over emphasize speed training at the cost of agility.
  • Train agility during the off-season as well as in-season.
  • Being strong and fast has little relevance if the athlete has no agility (in sports where agility is an important attribute).