It’s a common story.
Someone gets their first push up, or strict pull up, or pistol squat and it’s a big win, a milestone achievement. They have gotten measurably stronger, more durable and damn, it feels good.
Then they get another, and then another, and yet another still. Ass is being kicked and life rules.
But then at a certain point, it just kind of stops and no matter how hard they try, no matter how much they grunt and sweat, they can’t seem to add another rep.
Well, read on and I think you will find the solution right here.
Ladders are a great tool to use when you are trying to increase the number of reps you can get of a given exercise. Say, for example, that you are currently stalled at a maximum of 5 pull ups and you would like to be able to crank out a more solid 15 – 20 reps.
Ladders can get you there.
A Ladder made up of 3 “rungs” would look like this:
Perform a single rep.
Perform 2 reps.
Perform 3 reps.
Back to the beginning and a single rep.
A couple of quick rules for the road:
Number 1 – quality matters. So rep 3 should look just as crispy as rep 1. No grinds here… save those for another day.
And 2 – rest as long as needed to keep up that high standard of movement. It might only be a few seconds after the 1st rung of the 1st ladder and it might be a few minutes in the later part of the workout. Listen to your body and when you’re ready to go, go. No need for a stopwatch here.
Using an example of someone who is currently maxing at 5 reps on the pull up, an ideal number of rungs would be 3.
If your current max is more in the 8 – 10 range, shoot for 5 rungs.
A good goal for a single workout is to perform between 3 and 5 total Ladders.
A real world example might look something like this:
Ladder 1: 1 rep, 2 rep, 3,rep, 4 rep, 5 rep
Ladder 2: 1 rep, 2 rep, 3 rep, 4 rep, 5 rep
Ladder 3: 1 rep, 2 rep, 3 rep, 4, rep, 5 rep
Ladder 4: 1 rep, 2 rep. 3 rep, 4 reps (let’s assume that fatigue is starting to be factor and quality is starting to suffer)
Ladder 5: 1 rep, 2 rep, 3 rep
By the time we get to the end of this particular workout, you would have performed 61 high quality reps without ever going near your repetition max.
This allows you to accumulate a lot of volume and get a lot of “practice” with the exercise.
Ladders work by improving neurological efficiency ,not necessarily by building more muscle. Your nervous system will develop more skill at performing the specific movement and that will lead to greater efficiency.
You can apply this concept to anything from push ups to Deadlifts (80 – 85% 1RM seems to be the sweet spot here).
Give ’em a shot and let me know how it goes. 🙂