This might seem like a strange item to include in my top 10 list, because it is probably not considered an essential tool by many. So why is it on my list? Because it is fun. And because anyone can do it. And most people should do it. But most people don’t do it.
I had an epiphany recently. My programs might be a little too serious. I’m a big geek. Some of you may not realize that before I became a trainer, I was an engineer. So being a geek is kind of part of the package. And when I put together fitness programs for clients, I look at it as though I’m designing a system. That means attention to every detail. Literally every element of every program has a raison d’etre. That probably doesn’t sound like a bad thing. But what is one of the common threads I hear from reluctant trainees? “It should be fun”. I think all of my programs are fun, of course. I mean come on – half-kneeling chops and lifts! Squats and deadlifts! Fun, fun, fun and fun. Intervals?
I almost always use ladders with competitive athletes for agility training, to improve foot speed, to work on coordinated movements, as well as to get the heart rate up a bit. But it turns out, they are really fun. Like in a whole different league from the chops, lifts, squats and deadlifts kind of fun. I don’t know what it is about the ladder, but people love it. They seem to love it even when they are doing a movement that they are not very good at yet. That is the part of ladder drills that is fun for me.
So why was I saving the ladders for the competitive athletes?
Doesn’t everyone want more fun?
And getting the heart rate up a bit is good for everyone too? Do my other clients have so much foot speed and coordination that the ladder drills won’t help? I doubt it. Could they benefit from it? Almost definitely.
Recently I’ve come to appreciate the agility ladder as a necessity for senior clients. When else does a 70 year old move their feet fast? If they live in a winter climate like we have in Ottawa, and they lose their footing on an icy day, the ability to move their feet fast may be the difference between falling and not falling. That right there is reason enough for me. Add the fun and the heart rate benefit, and I’m sold. Now the older the client, the longer I wait to include it in their program as I want to be sure they have a strength and movement base first.
And so I now use it for most of my clients, and for those that aren’t using it, they will. We don’t spend a lot of time on it – less than 5 minutes per workout, but the results are great. It’s not that my clients are all moving like Fred Astaire now. But they all seem to like the program just a bit more. And that means they want to come workout a bit more.
Never used an agility ladder? Come try it out!
Used one and wonder if you’re fast? We had a fastest icky shuffle competition at Custom Strength a few years ago, and here are the flying feet of our winner:
Wondering what my 9 other favourite training tools are? Here’s the list (Click on any of the links to go to the article to find out why):
- Free weights
- Functional trainer (sometimes called a cable column)
- Functional Movement Screen
- Suspension trainer
- Chin up bar
- Agility ladder
- Foam roll
Elsbeth Vaino is an FMS certified personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada.
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