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Old 12-02-2008, 04:36 PM   #6
Dave Van Skike
Senior Member
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: PNW
Posts: 1,708

Originally Posted by Emily Mattes View Post
So should 10x3 only be done once a week, or is it OK to do twice a week? And at what percentage--should I be trying to max them?

Dave, do you mean after the deload week you did 5x5 once a week, then twice a week, then three times a week?

I've done 10x3 twice a week, plenty of others here who may have done it otherwise. Ladders are just a way to structure a workout around getting maximum useful volume. this shit flat out's booooring but it is not super taxing and you can work other things in with it...also works great for pullups, presses, etc.

Here's a crosspost from PB by Steve Shafley...

Using the “Ladder” Set/Rep Variation

Let's jump start this shit, it's going to be kind of garbled anyway:

About 4 years ago, Bob (Brock) and I trained together about 6-8 times a week. We'd train at lunch, and then after work. We followed a pretty typical WSB template, but did have ample opportunities for extra workouts.

Once we decided to do a variation of a low fatigue/high volume routine based on the "ladder" technique. We called it "Power Ladders". We chose 3s as our top set kind of arbitrarily. The term “ladder” refers to a progressive repetition scheme. See below. It's illustrated amply.

Testing initially indicated I had a 335 close grip bench. This is how I set it up: Rep range 1-3 or occasionally 1-5. Completion of 3 “ladders” at a set weight would trigger progression. Note: These numbers are approximations, as I couldn't find my training log from back then to get the actual numbers.

Week 1:
Day 1: 275x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3
Day 2: 285x1/2/3/1/2
Day 3: 285x1/2/3/1/2/3

Week 2:
Day 1: 285x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3
Day 2: 290x1/2/3/1/2/3
Day 3: 290x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3

Week 3:
Day 1: 295x1/2/1/2/1/2
Day 2: 295x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3
Day 3: 305x1/2/3/1/2/3

Week 4:
Day 1: 305x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3
Day 2: 315x1/2/2/1/2/1
Day 3: 315x1/2/3/1/2

Week 5: Tested my CGBP max.
New max was 365.
Bob's results were similar.

30# increase
4 weeks of training.
3 times per week on the movement, often two days in a row
Not one rep went to failure.

Not too shabby.

What do you notice? Higher volume, low "relative" intensity, self-regulating "ladder" pattern, ~4-9 sets per "ladder"

I first read about the “ladder” set/rep scheme in one of those old bodybuilding books by Robert Kennedy. Circa 1988-89. That particular book (and I'll eventually look up which one) gave an example of using ladders to work on chins. Sounded easy enough. Do one rep, take a little break, do 2 reps, take a little break, and so on and so forth until you can no longer improve on your rep count.

Fast-forward a few years. Hell, maybe even a decade.

“Chain Yourself to the Power Rack and Call Me in a Year” appeared in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength, published by Ironmind Enterprises. It was written by a relatively unknown trainer named Pavel Tsatsouline. In it he described how to “grease the groove” of a movement. This article is now on line, at the Dragondoor website and can be found here:

The concept of frequent, heavy practice of a lift while staying fresh is the heart of the concept, when applied to strength training.

Why use ladders?

First, they are easy to set up. Pick a rep range. Could be 1-3, could be 1-3-5, could be 5-10-20. Pick the number of times you'd go “up” the ladder, given that you don't reach the point of momentary muscular failure. Pick the condition that will trigger progression. Now do it.

Probably the most important thing is the fatigue management. It's better to start a ladder over than to attempt to force an extra rep out. With ladders you let the volume do the work.

Let me reiterate:

1.Pick your repetition range. Taking your approximate 5 RM and doing a ladder with 1-3 reps is a good place to start.
2.Pick the number of times to run through the ladder. I'd suggest starting with 3 runs through. If you get all three ladders, then you need to add weight next time.
3.It's about staying fresh and crisp. It's not about grinding them out and gritting your teeth.
4.Let the volume do the work.

Other ways to use the ladder:

Bodyweight calisthenics are ideal for the use of a strength-endurance ladder. The most frequently recommended way of using a ladder is with a training partner in a “I go, you go” format. This becomes very competitive. Another variation is the breathing ladder. Do a rep, take a breath, do two reps, take 2 breathes, do three reps, take three breathes....keep adding reps and breathes until you can't add any more. This gets surprisingly hard with stuff like kettlebell swings and even bodyweight squats.

Reverse ladders or countdowns are another useful way. When I do an “EDT” type of workout, I often use reverse ladders to manage my fatigue so I can make or exceed my repetition target. This would look like a 3-2-1 or a 5-3-1 type of rep scheme.

The “ratchet” is a version of the ladder I read about over on Scott Sonnon's Circular Strength Training forum. A ratchet would look like: 1-2-3-2-3-4-3-4-5-4-5-6-5-6-7...and so on. The ratchet is a good way to mix things up and keep you on your toes.
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