- Each progressive set in a ladder can be jumped any number of repetitions
- Ladders allow you to focus on good quality repetitions because the rest periods are auto-regulated
- Ladders can be used with any tool or any exercise
Ladders are a great way to get a lot of good quality volume done in a short amount of time. I’ve written about ladders in detail before, but here is a quick overview.
Ladders are a simple way to progressively increase or decrease the reps for a particular exercise or set of exercises. As you move from Set 1 to Set 2, you increase the repetitions and continue to do so until you reach your target number of sets. You can either stop there or go back down the ladder, decreasing the reps in the same way you increased them.
Most times, you just increase the number of reps by one, but that is not set in stone. We’ve jumped by 2′s, 3′s, 4′s, 5′s, and all the way up to 10 rep jumps for each set.
Also, ladders aren’t only reserved for bodyweight training. You can incorporate ladders with barbells, kettlebell, dumbbells, or any other implement or tool you want to use. Kettlebell swings are a common exercise used for ladders.
Ladders are great to use with group training for one big reason; quality repetitions.
Because of the increasing number of repetitions with each set, the rest periods take care of themselves. The more reps each person in the group does, the more rest YOU have. And because you are resting more between sets, when it is your turn to go, you can focus on good, full-range repetitions.
Here is what I mean.
If I am performing a ladder with a group of 5 where each set jumps 5 repetitions, as the sets progress the more repetitions each person in the ladder hits, the longer it takes to get back around to me, i.e., I get more rest as the reps increase.
That is the beauty of the ladder rep scheme.
Push-up Ladder Finisher
Here is a push-up ladder finisher we did for a recent workout.
Set 1: 5 reps
Set 2: 10 reps
Set 3: 15 reps
Set 4: 20 reps
Set 5: 25 reps
Set 6: 30 reps
Set 7: 35 reps
Set 8: 40 reps
Set 9: 45 reps
Set 10: 50 reps
Final Set: 25 reps
Total: 300 push-ups
Coaching Point #1: I told each guy to make sure every rep is locked out and their back stays straight. Does that happen? No. You’ll see me coaching the guys back to better form and taking reps away from anyone I see who doesn’t fully lock the rep out. The goal is an intense finisher and if the volume is high, form does start to break down. The goal is to try and maintain good form and position, every as fatigue sets in.
Coaching Point #2: Even though the rest periods are increasing with each set, at some point, you won’t be able to hit the target reps in one shot. For me, this happened around 20 reps. Focusing on fully locking out each rep and performing the finisher AFTER a massive upper body workout crushed me. I had to start breaking up the sets in sub-sets of 10 reps and 5 reps. Rest as little as needed and keep pushing until you hit the target reps for that set because in no time at all, it will be your set again.