Three Drills That Will Shave Seconds Off Your Stage Times

These ladder drills will help remove that boat anchor from your feet and improve your foot speed in action-shooting competition.

posted on May 24, 2024
Shavetimeoffstages 1
Adding footwork or agility drills to your practical shooting training regimen can be a game changer in improving your foot speed.
Photos by Corey Howard

Shooting sports are evolving like all other sports. Remember how golfers used to look? What about the baseball players of the 1980s? Golfers were far from athletes, but now they lift weights, have broad shoulders, look fit and crush the ball. Baseball players used to wear tight pants and have a belly hanging over their belt. Now they all have big, strong legs and wide backs; they look like athletes. Shooting sports are evolving as well. I was talking with a client of mine in Idaho, and he said most of the top finishers there are guys who look like they’re in shape, spend time in the gym and take care of themselves.

I’ve written articles about the importance of strength training for USPSA competition, but what about foot speed? Competitive practical shooting requires us to get from one spot to another quickly and get settled in on the target to take the shot. Plus, we need to be agile enough to shoot while moving. We need to move our feet quickly and athletically as efficiently as possible without tripping and falling. It’s important to hit the gym, lift weights and get on the treadmill. We need to maintain our strength and improve our cardiovascular conditioning so we don’t have a heart attack running a stage. That’s base-level importance, just like the ability to run your gun. But why not add some footwork or agility drills to what you’re doing? Learn to generate some explosive movement? Toss out the ladder and practice moving your feet fast.

Here are three outstanding ladder drills that, if practiced, will help you develop more foot speed and shave time off your stages.


Baby Steps Run
The baby steps run ladder drill is amazing for improving overall foot speed. Try to incorporate dry firing at the end.


For this drill, you’ll simply run forward the length of the ladder with short, compact and choppy steps, putting each foot in each open section of the ladder. This is a solid drill for improving overall foot speed, as well as the short, choppy steps you’ll need to slow down and get on target when transitioning from shooting zone to shooting zone. I like to have my online clients run this drill and quickly get on target, and dry fire at the end.


Sideways baby steps run
The sideways baby steps run ladder drill is helpful to improve lateral speed in your footwork.


This is exactly like the one mentioned above, except you’re moving sideways. This drill is perfect for developing the lateral speed you need to move to the left or right quickly. Simply run sideways, putting each foot in each open section of the ladder as quickly as possible. Again, finishing with dry-fire target shooting will help you learn to settle in and shoot, as well as get you used to pulling the trigger with an elevated heart rate.


Ickey shuffle
Improve your forward and lateral foot speed at the same time with this ladder drill, which combines the first two mentioned oin this article.


Remember the Cincinnati Bengals’ Ickey Woods from the late 1980s and early 1990s? This one is named after him and combines each of the first two drills. This is an outstanding drill for getting your feet moving forward and laterally at the same time. Begin standing at the end of the ladder but positioned to the left of it. Step into the ladder with your right foot first, then follow with your left. Step outside of the ladder with your right foot level with the next rung, then lift your left foot up, but don’t plant it back down. Reverse the move into the next square by going left, then right, and stepping outside with your left foot.

I mentioned dry firing at the end of each agility drill. For those of you who train at home, you’ll have the benefit of including your competition pistol and adding a dry-fire element. At the end of each drill, you have a few options for dry-fire practice. You can either turn and sprint forward like you’re running to the next shooting box, you can simply square up and simulate shooting by dry firing at a couple of targets, or you can simulate moving forward and shooting by practicing low heel-toe rolling and brisk walking with your pistol on target. All three options provide some decent carry over to running a USPSA stage.

Practical shooting requires athletic speed and agility. We need to get off the X, get to the next spot under control, generate force from side to side and learn to burst forward quickly, then chop our steps quickly to slow down and get on target. You may not agree with me, but times are changing. Many top competitive shooters spend time in the gym getting stronger, improving their cardiovascular condition and trying to improve their foot speed. It’s important to hit the range and improve your shooting skills, but if you can make transitions faster, you’ll shave seconds off your time and, hopefully, place higher and improve your classification.

Article from the May/June 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine. All photos by Corey Howard.


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