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Military Muscle: Improve your balance with these agility ladder drills

Jun. 19, 2013 - 04:26PM   |  
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Marine Capt. AJ Cillo, 27, is a Ground Supply Officer and an ultrarunner. In May, he placed 20th in the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-miler.
Marine Capt. AJ Cillo, 27, is a Ground Supply Officer and an ultrarunner. In May, he placed 20th in the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-miler. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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Basic: Great for beginners and those with balance issues.Basic walking. Stretch the ladder out on the floor and start with one foot in the first space and the other in the second space. Continue 'walking' down the ladder — one foot in each space — to the end. Turn around and return to the start.Lead leg walking. Start as in the first drill but, this time, put both feet in the same space. Step into the next space with your lead foot, then bring your other foot up to meet it. Continue to alternate lead foot until the end, then turn and return to the start.Lateral walking (shown). Stand with your left shoulder pointed toward the end of the ladder. Step your left foot into the first space, then bring your right foot up to meet it. Continue leading with your left foot — stepping sideways — to the end, then turn and return to the start by leading with your right foot. (John Harman / Staff)
Progression: Try these once you've mastered the basic drills.Crossover or karaoke. Stand as in the lateral walking drill. Leading with your left shoulder, step with your right foot, cross it in front of you, and place it in the first space. Hop your left foot to the second space and repeat. Continue to the end, then turn and lead with your right shoulder and step with your left foot, repeating the sequence back to the start. (John Harman / Staff)
Progression: Slalom jumps. Face the ladder with your right foot inside the first space and left foot parallel, but outside the ladder. Jump forward and to the right so your left foot lands inside the second space and your right foot lands outside the ladder. Continue this alternating sequence to the end, turn and repeat back to the start. (John Harman / Staff)
Progression: Forward shuffle. Face the ladder, but stand on the left side. Step your right foot sideways into the first space, then step your left foot into the same space, then step your right foot outside the ladder. Step your left foot forward into the second space, then bring your right foot sideways to meet it, then step your left foot outside the ladder. Repeat the sequence to the end. Turn and shuffle back to the start. (John Harman / Staff)
Advanced: Do the slalom jumps and forward shuffle drills backward. The key to these drills is to angle your hips in the direction you are moving.Slalom jumps. Face away from the ladder with your right foot outside the first space and your left foot inside the first space but farther behind you. This will angle your trunk left 45 degrees. Jump back to your left so your right foot is in the second space. Your left foot will now be outside the ladder and slightly behind your right. Continue this sequence to the end, turn and continue back to the start. (John Harman / Staff)
Advanced: Backward shuffle. Face away from the ladder, standing outside the left side. Move your right foot into the first space, but a little deeper than the left to give your body a slight right angle. Step your left foot back to the first space to meet your right, then step your right foot outside the first space. Step back with your left foot into space two, then bring your right foot to space two to meet it. Then step your left foot outside space two. Repeat until you reach the end of the ladder. (John Harman / Staff)

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Few pieces of fitness equipment can be used immediately by anyone who walks through the door.

But one thing can be used by the young or old, for sport-specific or general purposes, whether they’re fully functional or regaining functionality. It can be used to improve balance or to go to the next competitive level — even to sharpen your dance rhythm.

It’s called the agility ladder.

You can buy one for less than $50 from any general fitness company or make your own with two diameters of rope or cord.

If portability isn’t an issue, you can use tape to simply mark off a ladder on the floor.

For the extra-dedicated, some fitness floor manufacturers will inscribe agility ladders into your flooring.

With this workout, don’t be afraid to fail — start slowly and aim to do one or two drills each session. The following exercises can be done with either a 15- or 30-foot ladder.

Bob Thomas is director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla.

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