How to use ladder workouts to climb toward your fitness goals

How to use ladder workouts to climb toward your fitness goals

We’re all on a metaphorical ladder when it comes to reaching our fitness goals (whether that means running 26.2, achieving better mental health, or just having fun). Every day at the gym or studio offers an opportunity to move up a rung or two. If you’re struggling to program your strength training movements into a full-fledged workout plan, allow me to introduce ladder workouts.

“Ladder workouts are basically a rep scheme where you can either be descending, ascending,” says  Maillard Howell, owner of Crossfit Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. Meaning, you start with, say, 10 reps of a certain move and work your way down to one, or vice versa. (You know—just like climbing a ladder!)

This particular exercise paradigm originated with Russian athletes, according to the trainer, and it’s designed for maximum efficiency (read: more reps, less time). “The whole point of the ladder system was for the athletes at the time to achieve more work with shorter rests,” explains Howell. “Because when you do the math, you do more reps over less time.”

When it comes to getting a workout done lickety-split, a ladder really can’t be beat. Structuring your strength training circuit this way is also super conducive to inviting a friend to the gym and challenging them to a push-up duel (or partner workout).

4 ways to use latter workouts at the gym
Ascending Ladder
To make this a partner workout, have Partner A do the push-ups first and rest while Partner B does the squats. Once you’ve both finished, switch movements and repeat.

1 push-up, 1 squat
2 push-ups, 2 squats
3 push-ups, 3 squats
4 push-ups, 4 squats
5 push-ups, 5 squats
Descending Ladder
To make this a partner workout, have Partner A do the burpees first and rest while Partner B does the sit-ups. Once you’ve both finished, switch movements and repeat.

5 burpees, 5 sit-ups
4 burpees, 4 sit-ups
3 burpees, 3 sit-ups
2 burpees, 2 sit-ups
1 burpee, 1 sit-up
Solo Waving Ladder
5 bicep curls
1 deadlift
4 bicep curls
2 deadlifts
3 bicep curls
3 deadlifts
2 bicep curls
4 deadlifts
1 bicep curl
5 deadlifts
Partner Waving Ladder
Partner A completes the movement in bold and rests while Partner Partner B completes the non-bolded movement. Repeat, with Partner B completing the movement in bold.

5 bicep curls
1 bicep curls
4 bicep curls
2 bicep curls
3 bicep curls
3 bicep curls
2 bicep curls
4 bicep curls
1 bicep curl
5 bicep curls
You can also mixup your workouts with the 5-4-3-2-1 structure or progressive overload.

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