What’s a good way to get in a fairly decent volume without killing your form (and thus failing to benefit from your workout)?
Ladders are multi-set workouts where one variable (reps, weight or rest periods) progressively get harder. It starts off fairly easy (if it doesn’t, you need to make adjustments), increases in difficulty with each set till you’re really working (and hating life) then backs off again…only to build once more. Sounds fun huh?
I had used ladders before but up until the RKC hadn’t really understood their value. Besides the conditioning aspect, they’re great for teaching/grooving technique in a particular lift as the “easier” rungs allow you to really focus on the nuances of the lift while the harder rungs offer practice the groove while under stress. When you’re tired, you’ll always default to what you know, so you’d better know the technique correctly.
Dr. Gray Cook said it well, “The body will always compromise quality for quantity.” When you’re so focused on the number of reps or the time form goes down the toilet. Want an example? Watch some of these Crossfit workouts and you’ll see what I mean. (I know there are some good Crossfit coaches out there… but this is just an illustration)
My spine is crying. Not every workout requires you to train to failure or to make yourself so-tired-I-can’t-lift-my-arms. (This took me an embarassingly long time to truly learn and embrace.) You can still train with intensity: focus on what your doing making each movement confident, purposeful and powerful. You’ll be surprised how good that feels when you’re as engaged mentally as you are physically.
Ladders are a good way to satisfy both requirements. Soooo, what does a ladder look like?
Kidding. To keep things simple, I’m just going to list a couple rep ladders and weight ladders but there are loads of variations-on-a-theme.
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (or in the reverse order)
5-10-15-20 (do this for something like swings, NOT deadlifts)
These can be used in a timed thing (perform cycles of the ladder for “x” amount of time) or can performed for a “x” number of cycles. Be smart. Technique ALWAYS comes before the weight/reps. Here’s a sample of what I did with my ButtKamp Ladies
Up-Downs (hands elevated) 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
Pushups 3 reps (remained constant throughout the workout
It flowed like this: 10 updowns, 3 pushups, 1 squat. 9 updowns, 3 pushups 2 squats… and so forth until they finished at their own pace. The pushups were elevated so their form was excellent. Well done, ladies!
I did a ladder myself today:
Swings: 10 reps (constant)
Pistol squats: 3-4-5-4-3
I did my pullups band-assisted because I really wanted to focus on pulling with my lats, pulling my chest through and not muscling myself up. I kept my swing reps constant and low so, again, I could really hone my swing technique. (if you don’t know how to swing, seriously, ask someone to teach you. (I didn’t do RKC for nothing!) It will change your entire workout career!) I set the timer for 20 minutes and worked at a constant (not FRENZIED) pace. Was I tired? Yes. Was I exhausted? No. Could I have done a few more cycles? Yes. Did I? No. Are my swings, pullups and pistols better now? I think so.
Sample weight ladders:
10 swings -12K (25 lbs) OR 10 goblet squats – 12K
10 swings -16K (35 lbs) 10 goblet squats – 16K
10 swings -20K (44 lbs) 10 goblet squats – 20K
Again, you can have a time limit or a cycle limit to work towards. Choose appropriate weights, of course. You can do this with most any exercise, pushups, pullups, overhead press, deadlift (though be careful with the rep count, err on the lower end) etc…
There you have it! Another tool for your training tool box!