Climbing the Strength Ladder

Guest Post by Aj Lee

If you’re anything like me, always trying to find new ways to simulate growth and avoid the boredom of traditional rep schemes, I may have something for you to add to your strength toolbox.  Several years ago when training for the RKC the topic of “Ladders” was presented as a means of training hard without burning out.  Here’s how it works:

Ladders are multiple sets of an exercise performed with minimal rest with progressively more reps (e.g., 1-2-3-4-5 for compound movements, 10-15-20 for heavy double swings).  The ladder starts off very easy but gets progressively harder, builds up to an all out performance, backs off, and starts all over.  There is no hard fast rule as to the number of reps or rungs, as I like to call them, it depends on the exercise and if your goal is strength or conditioning.  Generally if I am training for strength I use one or two big movement lifts, with lower repetitions and longer rest.  If I want to train my conditioning I may choose to go add more exercise, rungs and shorten the rest time between them.

Military Press is Great for Ladders

Here is one strength ladder I use:

Deadlifts – 1-2-3-4 reps (usually done with a weight that is 75 to 85% of my 1-rep max) I will try to get 2 or 3 ladders in totaling 20 to 30 reps.

Military Press – 2-4-6-8-10 reps (usually done with a weight between 60 to 70% of my 1-rep max)

The next one is a great full body workout and can be done with short rest to enhance your conditioning:

Pull-ups – 1-2-3-4 reps

Military Press – 1-2-3-4 reps

Double Kettlebell Snatches – 1-2-3-4 reps

Double Kettlebell Front Squats – 1-2-3-4 reps

In this program do one ladder of each exercise and move to the next. Repeat the circuit one to three times, dropping the reps if needed.

Do Some Deadlift Ladders and Watch Yourself Grow

As you can see with ladders the only limits are set by your creativity.  One important point to remember is the recovery aspect, do not wait until full recovery before you climb the next rung, a great tip is to use a timer and see how long it takes to finish a ladder and use that as a guide for the next sets, your goal will be to either meet or beat your time. Ladders are an effective and fun tool to add to your next training session. Have Fun!