Burn Fat and Gain Strength With a Ladder Workout

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When you want to get in shape but are unsure of what to do, look no further than the ladder workout. It represents what you want out of a workout: simple yet effective.

The K.I.S.S principle would have served me well when I first started training clients. You know the acronym: Keep It Simple Stup….er, Smarty Pants. I guess that would be the KISSP principle.

You get what I’m saying: when I first opened UEFP some of the training protocols were a little too involved. Keeping a client on the road of adherence first requires clarity: make things simple and people are likely to stick with it.

All in all, you’re not going to get fit if you don’t work hard. So, I needed something simple to follow but tough to execute. Enter the ladder workout.

No, I’m not talking about those dinky plastic ladders you lay on the ground and hop around with. The ladder system is a where you alternate your reps each set and couple them with short rest periods. The concept is that when the exercise gets to be unmanageable, the next set will require less effort. In a nutshell, you’re doing a lot of work in a short period of time.

I wish I could say that I was the genius that came up with it, but I believe Pavel Tsatsouline should get credit here. Dan John is another strength coach that’s popularized the concept. The magic of ladders is that you perform work while feeling some fatigue, but never from a place of complete exhaustion. This means a fresh nervous system, less chance of injury, and better recovery.  

Should you want to get stronger, build muscle, or lose some weight, ladders are applicable to each goal.

A basic workout would look like this:

1 rep

Rest 30 seconds

2 reps

Rest 30 seconds

3 reps

Rest 30 seconds

4 reps

Rest 30 seconds

5 reps

Rest 30 seconds

Before you look at this and blow it off like it’s a walk in the park, realize that the whole workout works when you do between 3 to 5 rounds total. So on the low end, you’re doing 45 reps total but you may take that number up to 75 reps (for those that like to delve into things that are a tad crazy).  

You can manipulate the reps how you see fit: strength works well with sets of 1-3 reps while building muscle could mean sets of 8, 6 and 4 reps. Just know that you’re always on the clock – there’s no real need to rest more than 30 seconds.

Yes – ladders are simple. But that doesn’t mean getting through the workout will be easy. Be ready to work hard but the system is a great way to get you in shape.  

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