Know “What Is a Ladder Workout” – One of the Best Methods to Boost Your Strength

Most people go to the gym and train using heavy weights or do high reps with less weights. However, it’s not mandatory, and you can build muscle with other tactics that keep you motivated and not bored. Yes, one such training methodology is the ladder workout. It’s one of the effective training methods, has a long history, and can be very beneficial for you in developing strength, hypertrophy, and power.

Let’s get into detail and find out what is a ladder workout.

What Is a Ladder Workout

What Is a Ladder Workout?

Put simply, a ladder workout is a type of workout method in which you manipulate the number of repetitions you perform in a given set, either by increasing or decreasing it. Unlike traditional straight sets where you go for, let’s say, 3 sets of 10 reps, in ladder training, you’ll do three sets with a different number of reps in every set. For instance, one of the common variations of the ladder method is 1-2-3-4-5, and it’s performed using the same weight.

  • One Rep
  • Rest
  • Two Reps
  • Rest
  • Three Reps
  • Rest
  • Four Reps
  • Rest Five Reps

The point behind the ladder workout is that you end up doing more work on your workout than you would generally be able to do. For instance, instead of going to max (100%) on every set and burning out quickly, you leave little strength and subsequently do more total reps. By following a ladder workout, you do more overload for your muscles, and ultimately, it’s beneficial for better gains.

Ladder workout methods are normally used with bodyweight exercises such as pullups or dips, as they allow you to manage exhaustion and do more total reps than you could with traditional straight sets. Similarly, you can also use them in other exercises, but most people use them for only one exercise in a workout session. Hence, you can easily implement them into your workout.

The Science Behind Ladder Workout Method

The ladder workout method is mostly beneficial because it uses the principle of progressive overload, which forces muscles to grow. For instance, you manipulate the variables of weight and repetitions. Hence, ladder training ensures that muscles are continuously challenged, which stimulates growth and adaptation.

Furthermore, the ladder workout method optimizes time under tension, which is of utmost importance for muscle hypertrophy. By doing a series of ascending or descending repetitions within a given set, you prolong the muscle contraction duration, which effectively maximizes the time under tension and promotes better muscle fiber recruitment.

How to Use the Ladder Workout Method for Fat Loss

One of the best ways to use a ladder workout for fat loss is in full-body workouts. A good full-body workout mainly consists of an upper-body pulling movement, an upper-body pushing movement, and a lower-body workout—for instance, pullups, dips, and kettlebell swings.

SetsPullupsDipsKettlebell Swings

Here Are 3 Different Types of Ladder Workout Methods

There are three different types of ladder training methods, namely, ascending, descending, and wave. Similarly, a ladder workout is a flexible training method that allows you to choose how much you’d like to increase or decrease the repetitions between sets.

For instance, you’re doing squats using an ascending ladder workout method. In that, start with 1 rep for the first set, increase to one more rep in the next set, 2 more in the third set, and so on. Similarly, in a descending ladder workout, you’ll do the opposite, where you’ll start with the maximum squats you want in the first set and then keep on decreasing one by one.

Further, you also have a wave ladder training method, where you can alternate between high & low repetitions in subsequent sets. For example, in wave ladder training, you may go from 10 reps to 2 reps to 6 reps in the first three sets and then repeat the pattern for three more sets.

1) Ladder Workout in Ascending Order

Ascending ladder workout means progressively increasing the repetitions or weight in each subsequent set. For example, the lifter may start with 1 repetition and then increase it one by one until the desired number of sets or until failure.

In this type of ladder workout, the lifter starts to accumulate heavier loads while accumulating volume over multiple sets. Similarly, the ascending ladder workout minimizes the risk of early fatigue while enabling the lifter to maintain proper form and technique throughout the workout.

2) Ladder Workout in Descending Order

In descending ladder training, you start with a higher number of repetitions or heavy weights and progressively decrease the load in each set. Similarly, the descending ladder workout method is effective for building muscular endurance and refining technique, as it allows lifters to prioritize high repetitions with light weights before going towards heavier loads.

Furthermore, the descending ladder method is mostly utilized as a finisher exercise or as part of a comprehensive workout program, where the goal is to exhaust muscle glycogen and induce metabolic stress. By properly reducing the resistance, lifters can extend their workout volume, which helps achieve deep muscle pumping and fosters nutrient uptake for good recovery.

3) Wave Ladder

The wave ladder training method is a hybrid of two methods. It uses 3-set waves, but rather than adding weight to each set within a wave, you add repetitions over here. Similarly, when you complete the first wave, you go with another wave set while adding a bit more weight.

You can also use waves of ascending or descending repetitions within a single set. Similarly, the method adds additional complexity and variability to the workout, stimulating muscle growth while enhancing strength through the manipulation of volume and intensity.

However, the rule is the same as the traditional wave training method, where you once complete a whole wave, and then you only start with another wave by adding a little more weight. Similarly, when you can’t complete a set, even if the ongoing wave isn’t completed, you stop.

#5 Benefits of Implementing Ladder Workout Into Your Training Program

The ladder workout has many benefits, which makes it quite popular among lifters and bodybuilders. Here, below are 5 essential benefits you’ll get by incorporating it into your workout:

1) Efficient

By effectively targeting multiple muscle groups within a single workout, ladder training helps lifters make the most of their time and effort in the gym.

2) Versatile

Whether you’re looking for strength, muscle hypertrophy, or want to improve your endurance power, a ladder workout can be tailored according to your fitness goals and exercise choice.

3) Progressive Overload

By properly implementing intensity and volume, a ladder workout eases continuous progression while ensuring consistent gains in muscle size and strength over time.

4) Enhances Focus

The structured ladder workout encourages focus and concentration, which helps promote connection and an optimal level of performance during your workouts.

5) Helps in Breaking Plateau

Implementing the ladder workout method into your training program can help you break through performance plateaus. It’ll help create stimulation while working out, challenging your body in new ways.

Here’s How to Implement Ladder Workout Method Into Your Training Program

Integrating the ladder workout method into your workout program is straightforward, and you can also customize it based on your fitness level and goals. Nonetheless, here below are some considerations you should consider to make it more effective:

1) Selection of Exercise

Go with compound exercise that engages multiple muscles simultaneously for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

2) Progression Protocol

Choose the ladder workout method that best meets your goals. Select whether to use an ascending, descending, or wave ladder. Similarly, adjust the weight and repetitions accordingly.

3) Proper Resting Period

Keep sufficient rest periods in between ladder sets to maximize performance and recovery.

4) Form & Technique

Throughout each set, emphasize using appropriate form and technique to reduce the chance of injury and guarantee maximum muscle activation.

5) Periodization

Over time, change the intensity and volume of the ladder workout to prevent your body from adapting to it and promote continuous progress.

Specific Rules of Ladder Workout Method to Follow to Make Optimal Use of It

Ladder workouts are pretty simple. However, there are specific rules you should follow to make the best use of it.

1) Focus on Big Exercise Moves

The best exercises to choose from are compound and multi-joint ones. However, you can also go with ladders with curls. Similarly, a ladder workout is also a good tool for quick lifts since they minimize tiredness, such as the Olympic lifts.

2) Go With the Right Rep. Range

The best starting point is to go with an approximate 5-rep max and do a ladder workout with 1-2-3 reps. It’s recommended that you start on a lighter note and let your body adjust to it.

3) Decide the Number of Times to Use the Ladder

Decide how many times you want to run through the ladders. Also, it’s advisable to go with a ladder set, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Next time, you can add weight if you manage to complete all three ladders.

4) Go With Volume

It’s mostly underrated. But getting strong, ripped, and becoming massive takes time, effort, and energy. Similarly, with strength, you’ll need a lot of clean reps that also have proper form techniques to teach your nervous system to get used to big loads eventually. Hence, go with a significant volume.

5) Maintain Speed of the Load & Overall Effort

Ladders are not for you if you like grinding the reps. In other words, you shouldn’t perform reps when you’re fighting to complete it. You should also know when to stop your workout. For instance, once you start struggling to complete another rep or your form starts compromising your ability to complete the rep, then it’s an indication to stop that workout.

Sample Ladder Workout

We hope you’ve understood what is a ladder workout. Now, let’s go through a sample workout that incorporates ladder training.

1) Squats Using an Ascending Ladder

  • Set 1: 5 reps with 50% of 1-rep max (1RM)
  • Set 2: 4 reps with 60% of 1RM
  • Set 3: 3 reps with 70% of 1RM
  • Set 4: 2 reps with 80% of 1RM
  • Set 5: 1 rep with 90% of 1RM

Note: The ascending ladder technique is used in weights.

2) Pull Ups Using Descending Ladder

  • Set 1: 8 reps
  • Set 2: 6 reps
  • Set 3: 4 reps
  • Set 4: 2 reps

Note: The descending ladder technique is used in repetitions.

3) Bench Press Using an Ascending Ladder

  • Set 1: 5 reps with 50% of 1RM
  • Set 2: 4 reps with 60% of 1RM
  • Set 3: 3 reps with 70% of 1RM
  • Set 4: 2 reps with 80% of 1RM
  • Set 5: 1 rep with 90% of 1RM

Note: The ascending ladder technique is used in weights.

4) Deadlifts Using Descending Ladder

  • Set 1: 8 reps
  • Set 2: 6 reps
  • Set 3: 4 reps
  • Set 4: 2 reps

Note: The descending ladder technique is used in repetitions.

5) Overhead Press Using Ascending Ladder

  • Set 1: 5 reps with 50% of 1RM
  • Set 2: 4 reps with 60% of 1RM
  • Set 3: 3 reps with 70% of 1RM
  • Set 4: 2 reps with 80% of 1RM
  • Set 5: 1 rep with 90% of 1RM

Note: The ascending ladder technique is used in weights.

6) Romanian Deadlifts Using Descending Ladder

  • Set 1: 8 reps
  • Set 2: 6 reps
  • Set 3: 4 reps
  • Set 4: 2 reps

Note: The descending ladder technique is used in repetitions.

7) Overhead Press Using Wave Ladder

Wave 1

  • Set 1: 100 pounds x 1 rep
  • Set 2: 100 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set 3: 100 pounds x 3 reps

Wave 2

  • Set 1: 110 pounds x 1 rep
  • Set 2: 110 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set 3: 110 pounds x 3 reps

Wave 3

  • Set 1: 120 pounds x 1 rep
  • Set 2: 120 pounds x 2 reps
  • Set 3: 120 pounds x 3 reps

Our Closing Thoughts on What Is a Ladder Workout

Ladder training techniques are one of the foundations for building heavy lifting. Similarly, the ladder training method provides a valuable addition to the lifter’s workout, giving a systematic approach to achieving muscle growth, strength gains, and overall fitness enhancement.

Similarly, the ladder training technique helps increase strength and maximize size. It’s recommended to use the ladder technique in combination with some density workouts.

Satinder Chowdhry Avatar

Satinder Chowdhry