How to Improve Your Coordination and Balance By Using a Training Ladder
Soccer players need to be nimble. The old idea of training for strength alone no longer holds if strength training isn’t complemented by other factors.
Soccer as a sport requires players to be competent in several components of fitness including speed, endurance and agility in addition to strength (Reilly et al, 2008.) Training therefore needs to be targeted towards meeting those demands.
In terms of individual circumstances, this applies right across the board whether you are fully fit, recovering from injury, or seeking to prevent potential injuries in the future.
With 87% of football injuries shown to affect the lower limbs (Ekstrand et al, 2011), it follows that the legs are the natural focus; but we shouldn’t forget the upper limbs either. Shoulder and back injuries are common in goalkeepers (Volpi, 2006) but these can also be sustained by outfield players as well. Training, therefore needs to address the body as a whole.
To get the most out of your training, exercises need to focus on tasks that are functional to the game; such as jumping, landing, sprinting, twisting and turning as indicated earlier.
Breaking down the game into it’s individual components and devising specific exercise or drills to address each component is a far more effective way of training.
To gain maximal benefit from training, exercises need to be able to be performed at various speeds just as they would be in game situations. If we are focusing on agility for example, ‘fast feet’ drills using a simple training ladder improves agility and the sense of knowing instinctively where to place your feet before you actually do so.
An easy drill is as follows: start at one end of the ladder and using a high knee action aim to put your feet right in the center of the squares formed by the ladder on the ground. Next, start about ten steps away from the ladder so you can work up enough speed to allow yourself to hit the first square on the run and maintain that speed throughout. Once you have reached the last square, slow down by breaking into a short jog before turning and repeating the exercise. Finally, hit the ladder running this time and increase your speed as you ‘run through’ the squares; slowing down again towards the end.
By using these three basic exercises as a foundation, you will soon be able to develop your own drills by varying them in terms of speed and where you want your feet to land.
You can adapt the exercise to hit every second square for example, or run with only the one foot inside the actual squares; keeping the other alongside but outside the ladder itself; then change sides and repeat with the opposite foot inside this time. Imagination knows no boundaries as long as you take care not to slip or trip.
Ladder drills are perfect for developing co-ordination and balance at speed; they are easy to use and don’t require a lot of effort to set up. Simply lay the ladder out on the field, make sure it’s nice and flat so you don’t trip over it and away you go!
Ekstrand J, Hagglund M, Walden M (2011). Injury incidence and injury patterns in professional football - the UEFA injury study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol 45 (7); 553 – 558.
Reilly T, Drust B, Clark N (2008). Muscle fatigue during football match-play.Sports Medicine.Vol. 38 (5); 357 – 367.
Volpi P (2006). Football Traumatology; Current Concepts from Prevention to Treatment. Milan, Springer.