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Fitness Hack: Ladders

898c27a024cc06e728b68183a3d9b6ed“Counting reps is monotonous!”

“Doing the same workout each day gets old!”

“My workout seems to drag on forever!”

I have heard all of these complaints and many, many more. If you find yourself saying any of these (or even thinking them), then here’s a fitness hack to make your workout more enjoyable and engaging.

With Marilyn, and lots of my other clients, I use a tool called a “ladder” as a sort of game you play with yourself. Just like any hack, it’s a way to make something that’s hard seem easier.

Here’s how it works:
You start at the lowest “rung” of the ladder at a low intensity and gradually work your way up. You peak at the top of the ladder with your greatest effort, and then you come back down.

Here’s how to use it:
You can use ladders in any type of cardio workout, as a way to go from slower speed to faster, or from flat to incline. You can use them in strength training to build stamina by increasing the number of reps or the amount of weight in sets, or you can use them as a way to structure an entire workout.

Here are some examples:

images-307On a treadmill, start at an easy “recovery” pace and increase the speed by .1 every minute for ten minutes, then come down the ladder in reverse so that you end at the same recovery pace you started at. Once up and down the ladder = 20 minutes.

In a strength training workout, climb up the ladder by increasing the number of reps, then coming back down.

For example (let’s say you’re doing squats):

images-306Set 1: 10 Reps
Set 2: 20 Reps
Set 3: 30 Reps
Set 4: 20 Reps
Set 5: 10 Reps

Or even “converging” ladders as a way to structure an entire workout:

Marilyn and I do this with as many as six different exercises going simultaneously, some of which are increasing in intensity while others are decreasing in intensity, but for simplicity sake I’ll just show how it works with two exercises.

For example (let’s say you’re doing squats and push-ups):

Set 1: 10 squats: 2 push-ups
Set 2: 8 squats: 4 push-ups
Set 3: 6 squats: 6 push- ups
Set 4: 4 squats: 8 push-ups
Set 5: 2 Squats: 10 Push- Ups

Here’s why it works:
Ladders are a great tool from a physical standpoint because you can build endurance and stamina by utilizing small, incremental increases. But maybe more importantly, ladders are most useful for their mental engagement. More than just a distraction from the work you are doing, ladders add complexity to a routine. You have to concentrate on what you’re doing, forcing you to stay focused.

By gradually increasing the demands you place on yourself you may find, like Marilyn does, you are able to push yourself to a higher level of intensity that you thought you were capable of. To learn more about how to improve your fitness, check out my website at:

Go get your sweat on!


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