If I had a dollar for every time I have to do speed ladders, I would be a very rich woman. For those that don’t know my background, I am a pro volleyball player in Europe, and I play on the Australian National Team. Although that sounds rather glamorous and amazing…it means I come in contact with some very badly educated and experienced strength and conditioning coaches, and I am forced to do whatever they tell me to do. These guys and gals are often causing injuries, creating ridiculous muscle imbalances and working on crazy things, or just simply getting my slow twitch fibres in great form… my favourite. Not all conditioning trainers in volleyball are bad, at all, I just seem to encounter all the uneducated ones.
Speed ladders are now one of the most common things you will see a volleyball trainer pull out of their bag of tricks. Let’s work on agility right? Wrong. Speed ladders certainly have their place, but honestly the amount of times I have to run through those things, sometimes I feel like tying my trainer up with it and locking him or her in the cupboard. Speed ladders can help with footwork, coordination and concentration. These are really quite important things in regards to any sport, including volleyball, but they are not the be all end all…which is how they seem to be treated.
Often you will here, “OK today we will do agility training”, and out come the speed ladders. The fact is that speed ladders have very little to do with agility. Agility is the ability to change direction, putting a lot of force into that change of direction, decelerate into the change, and accelerate out of it. The most agile athletes are ones with a superb ability to change direction, fast and powerful. You need lower body strength, power and speed to have good agility… you don’t need little footwork movements, and you certainly don’t train whilst looking at your feet trying not to trip over a ladder.
Speed ladders do have their place, footwork does need to be worked on occasionally and they are a great warm up with a lot of different variations. Overuse them and you are wasting your athletes time…they do not help the athlete create huge power, and basically, in most sports…this is the end goal.