Shaf's Ladders

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The Venerable Bogatir X
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Shaf's Ladders

Post by The Venerable Bogatir X » Thu Mar 01, 2007 2:58 am

http://powerandbulk.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5756

I wrote this up for Lyle's forum, and thought I should post it here as well:

Using the “Ladderâ€

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Post by Mickey O'neil » Thu Mar 01, 2007 3:35 am

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by The Venerable Bogatir X » Mon Dec 08, 2008 5:18 pm

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Shafpocalypse Now » Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:57 pm

I just wanted to post the entirety instead of having people mess around registering for stuff.


I don't know how much you've dug around on the P&B, but using ladders for strength work is a quick and dirty way to autoreg your barbell volume as well.


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:

http://www.dragondoor.com/articler/mode3/69/

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.

And finally, here's a program I wrote a while back making extensive use of ladders. I think I went a bit overboard, but it's worth taking a look at. I did edit it from the original version. You can see that here:

http://powerandbulk.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=823
First off let's say some things about volume. Too much volume too fast is bad. You'll feel like a pussy, and regress like nothing else. But, greater volume isn't bad, it is good. And it has it's place in every routine much like some HIT-like to failure training does.

Volume is a good way to boost work capacity. Add a set a week for 3 weeks, then back it back down, then ramp it back up. Cycling is the way to success. Life is a cycle. Training should be cycled. Unlike some other unnamed idiots believe, periodization was not invented to coorespond with steroid cycles.

Volume is also a fine way to boost strength. A technique that is tailor-made for pussies is the power ladder, first popularized by Pavel the Latvian Sell-Out. For increased strength, a ladder could be constructed this way:

1. 275x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3
2. 285x1/2/3/1/2/3
3. 285x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3
4. 295x1/2/3/1/2/3
5. 295x1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3
etc.

Train frequently, maybe every other day, and don't even approach the point of failure. If you think you might fail on the next set, stop right there, and return to a single. If you have a bad day, the ladder might look like this:

295x1/2/1/2/1/2/1/1

Don't be a pussy and get all wound up over it. The body's capacities change from day to day. Just don't go near failure, and keep up the ladder 2-3 x weekly, and you'll be amazed when your pussed out 315 lb deadlift is now around 355! Amazing. You just have to be prepared for the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness that accompanies the initial sessions of higher volume work.

So, let's say you want to get stronger now. Stronger than you've ever been, but without getting crazy with the Westside Barbell stuff. Who the fuck can understand that shit anyway, eh?

This program will be a 4x weekly program. Just for shits and giggles, and to assist the average candyass who will do this routine, let's base it on ladders.

Session 1: Leg Strength

Squat Ladder: I don't care if you use the front squat or the back squat. Start out with an easy ladder of 1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3. Add weight when that ladder gets easy.
Step Ups: Strictly for assistance. Use heavy dumbbells. Do 3 sets of 10 the first week, 4 sets of 10 the second week, and 5 sets of 10 the third week. If you aren't doing them anywhere else, feel free to sub RDLs here, or good mornings, or even the split squat with the rear leg elevated.
Ab work: Pick two hard ab exercises, superset them, and do 3-5 supersets at the end of your workout.

Session 2: Overhead Strength

Press Ladder: Once again, I don't really care what press variation you use. I'd suggest standing overhead press. Start out with an easy ladder of 1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3. Add weight when that ladder gets easy. On your last set, do as many 4-6" lock outs as you can. I got that directly from Dan John.
Weighted Chin Ladder: Oh yeah, you can't get away from the back work you pussies! A pathetic bastard like myself might start with unweighted ladders. Once again, try for 1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3, and add weight when that's pretty easy.
Oblique Work: Choose 1 oblique exercise and do 3-5 sets. Do 'em heavy and quit whining.

Session 2: Lower Back Strength

This is where we separate the men from the boys

Good Morning Ladder: Keep the form strict, start off with something you can handle, and follow the guidelines for the squat. You might also consider 5 rep ladder here, depending on how you do with good mornings. You could also sub RDLs or regular deadlifts here as well.
Zercher Squats from bottom position: We'll keep it simple: Do 5s until it gets too heavy, then do 3s. Don't kill yourself, but make it hard.

Just a quick note: This is my least favorite movement, and probably one of the most painful things you can do. Feel free to eliminate this in favor of Glute/Ham Raises done in the methodology I described above for step ups. You should evaluate how you feet before doing this! You could even substitute front squats.
Ab Work: If you did the Zerchers, you don't need to do ab work. If you didn't, follow the above guidelines.

Session 4: Horizontal Pressing Strength

Bench press variation ladder: Perform as already described. Pick CGBP, BP, Floor press, Board presses, or whatever.
Chin Ladder: at this point in the week, you lower back will be trashed. Do another chin ladder to help yourself stretch out.
Oblique work: As above.

As always, feel free to toss in bicep, calf, and grip work AFTER you have done the rest of the workout. Even some interval style cardio or sled draggin' might be in the picture if you manage to grow a dick.

I would do the above workout for 3 weeks. On the fourth week, reduce the volume to a single trip up the ladder or 1-3 sets of assistance work, then on the fifth week, choose different variations of the main movements, and maybe even change up the assistance. Every fourth week should have a dramatic decrease in volume, to let yourself deload, rebound and supercompensate.
Here's an example of how a P&B guy used ladders in his training and some results. The guy is a very knowledgable lifter (and has had success training other lifters), and I think it's slick that he liked the concept well enough to give it a serious run. He's running around 175-185 or so at the start, if I remember right.

The Workout:
M
OHP (2/3/4/2/3/1/2/1) -- pyramid wt on 4th, 6th & 8th set
DEADLIFT (6/6/5/4/3) -- pyramid
WEIGHTED CHINUP (1/2/3/2/3/4)
CGBP (5/3/1/5/3/1) - pyramid

separate M wkout:
ROWS (5 sets of 4-6) - pyramid
KTE/TWISTING KTE (3 sets)

T
100 reps pushdowns or bw dips
POWER CLEAN or POWER SNATCH (4x4)
BB SURGS (8/8/6/6)
DB/BB ARM CURL (2/3/4/2/3/4)
BB "MOST REPS w/ 95 lbs" ARM CURL (1 set each, sometimes 2)
GHR (3x6-8)

W
BENCH PRESS (1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3)
WEIGHTED CHINUP (3/4/5/2/3/4/1/2/3) - pyramid wt on 4th & 7th set
DEADLIFT (10/7/4/6/8) - pyramid
BB ROW (4x6-8)
HEAVY CORE CROWBAR (3x6-10)

Th
250 medicine ball throws (4-5 sets each ~90 sec)
20-30 min. stepmill w/ weighted vest or truck pushing/dragging
150 swings w/ 16 lb sledgehammer (sets of 30-50).


F
CGBP (1/2/3/1/2/3/1/2/3)
WEIGHTED CHINUP (2/3/4/1/3/5/2/4/6)
SQUAT (3/4/5/2/3/1/2/1)
OHP (2/3/4/2/3/4)
GOOD MORNING (3x5)

separate F workout:
ALT DB ARM CURL (2/3/4/2/3/4/2/3/4)
DB surg (6x10)
FACE PULLS (3x8-12)

S
Truck Push (5x100 yards)
Truck Drag w/ towrope (2-3x80-100 yards)
150 swings w/ 16 lb sledgehammer
Farmer Walk; 2-100 lb orange home depot buckets! (4x100 yards)
100' monkey bars
100 pushups
His comments upon the results:
Me and two buddies have been doing heavy ladder workouts for about 7 or 8 weeks now. I drew up the workouts using Steve's primer on ladders (posted at Body Recomp) as a model.

Results have been fast and substantial. I'm not setting the world on fire with my weights, but understand that my body's been so shattered the last few years, it's been hard to train consistently or get results.

For the first 5 weeks, I wasn't eating nearly enough. Despite that I'm amazingly up 10 lbs in bodyweight. It's very hard for me to gain weight, and so the last few weeks I've been chowing at least 3000-4000 kcal/day.

The real amazing difference has been in my shoulder health. I've had pussycuff for years now, and haven't been able to bench over 225 w/o pain in a long, long time (best ever was 305 I think). In fact, I had to grit my teeth to rep anything heavier than 185.

Right now I'm back to benching 275, almost totally pain free, and amazingly I haven't been pushing the effort on bench days like other lifts in these cycles (although, I admittedly am pressing more frequently).

Both my training partners are benching 310-320, each having started the ladder cycles ~ 275.

On Monday I pulled 405x5 and 440x1, missed 455. Wednesday my lower back wasn't quite right, so I kept it light and repped out. Pulled 315 and 355 each for 12.

Standing overhead strict press is 185 (cleaned from floor to shoulder), almost bodyweight. Weighted chin is +70lbs x 3 reps. One of my buddies is right at +100lbs x 1. The other is strict pressing 200, although his clean so fugly we let him unrack it at shoulder height.

I've been having hip issues last few months, so my squat hasn't quite breached 405 again (I'm having to lean forward to get low enough; can't stay upright). However, my training partners have each ressurected their pussylegs. They're doubling 335 and 365 (staretd at 205 and 280, respectively).

All in all the training's been very positive. I do have hip injury, and a strange torsional strain in my left forearm (bone), but otherwise I feel pretty good.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Shafpocalypse Now » Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:00 pm

A good question:
Shaf, I read through all this and maybe I missed it. What's the guidelines on how many trips throught the ladders or more simply, when do you stop? When a single will be tough?

It depends on your frequency.

1x weekly frequency: 4-5 ladders is your target
2x+ weekly frequency: 2-3 ladders is your target.

When in doubt do 3 then evaluate.

If there is one thing about this type of workout it's this: You should feel tired but not fucked up or wrecked. If you do this multiple times a week, you can go lighter or easy on one of the sessions if it makes you feel better.

This works due to Pavel's often suggested "as heavy as you can, as often as you can, as fresh as you can" advice.

There are lots of ways to trigger progression: Here are some quick ones off the top of my head, that I don't think I described.

1. Hardcoded (Ladders): If you get "X" number of ladders completed at the weight you are using, you move up in the next session. The default number is 3. Remember, all 3 ladders have to be crisp, not grindy.

Example: If you use 315 in a 1/2/3 ladder, when you can complete 3 1/2/3 ladders in a workout with it, you move up.

2. Autoreg 1: If you start with your regular weight and the ladder is easy, then immediately go up in weight for a second ladder. If that is easy, then go up again. This happens very infrequently, but it does happen if you use this set/rep pattern. I found this happened more often when I did it 3+ times a week for a specific exercise.

Example: If you hit 315x1/2/3 and it feels light, bump it up. If you then hit 325x1/2/3 and it's light, bump it up again.

3. Autoreg 2: If you hit your last rung on the ladder, i.e. the "3" in a 1/2/3 ladder, and you can do 4, then do 4. If you can keep going and do 5, then do 5. Finish out your workout in this fashion. Next session bump up the weight.

Example: You are scheduled to go 315x1/2/3 (x3) today. You hit 1/2/3 and the 3 is easy. You then take a set at 4. If that's easy, you take a set at 5. So, it'll look like x1/2/3/4/5. If you notice, the 4/5 sets are 1.5x the volume of the 1/2/3. Keep that in mind.

The Autoreg versions are easier and probably more productive in the long run, since you are doing the amount of work that is dictated by your work capacity of that day.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by tough old man » Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:33 pm

Best thing ever!
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Holland Oates » Wed Mar 03, 2010 6:30 am

Hey Shaftastic what do you think of the Bar-barians W training? I saw it as a type of ladder but PubeLickus said it was more of a pyramid format.
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by TomFurman » Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:49 am

Time to resurrect this thread. Good stuff.
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Bobby » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:53 am

Missed it the first time.
You`ll toughen up.Unless you have a serious medical condition commonly refered to as
"being a pussy".

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by jakeischillin » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:17 am

During these ladders what's the recommended rest times? I have ADD and find myself wanting to rest no more than 60sec for anything less that triples.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Shafpocalypse Now » Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:46 am

Sorry Jake, you rest as long as you need to keep fresh.

The 'freshness' is one of the big things here, if you're ADD doesn't let you rest, then it's going to hamper strength gains across the board in any given workout. Best lose the notion now.

I just had an interested woman go from a max grinding set of 3 to easily hitting 18 reps with that weight in her workout, in the front squat, in about 3-4 weeks.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by tough old man » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:14 pm

Jake, I was resting 3-4 minutes sometimes. Especially if I rushed the warm ups. Getting 15-18 solid reps with the working weight takes time but it is worth it.
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by TomFurman » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:58 pm

Shaf, when is the 3-2-1 Ebook coming? You need to flesh this out for all exercises, assistance, sports, etc.
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Shafpocalypse Now » Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:19 pm

A few things:

1. I am not going to write exercise descriptions. If you don't know what the fuck a deadlift, snatch, board press, or good morning is, then it's not going to be the product for you.

2. I've decided to focus it on raw powerlifting right now. I dabbled with making it a general template, and might still do that, but I wanted to keep things focused.

3. Because the focus will be on raw powerlifting, assistance exercise choice becomes less complex.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by The Crawdaddy » Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:33 pm

Shaf:

This seems like the route for me, and I'm implementing it across the board for pure strength and accessory work (I also do Oly stuff, but will be sticking with singles, doubles, and triples etc there).

I've decided that for BB work I like the 1-2-3 format. As an older guy (41) and just really getting more serious about intermediate work after a pretty long lower back injury rehab (recurring sacroilliac ligament sprains), I like the inherent caution and freshness built in here.

My question: I've been a sets of 5 type (except Press) for pretty much the duration for DL (currently @ 330). Would you recommend just the single ladder here and 5# bumps, or would two ladders be more appropriate?

And thanks for posting this here.
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Mountebank » Sat Jul 09, 2011 11:11 pm

tough old man wrote:Jake, I was resting 3-4 minutes sometimes. Especially if I rushed the warm ups. Getting 15-18 solid reps with the working weight takes time but it is worth it.
Yah, me too. I do my sets on the 3 min. interval.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Shafpocalypse Now » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:28 am

Crawdaddy:

You have to set some standards for yourself by using some sort of RPE chart. I use Mike Tuchsherer's now, as opposed to my own.
10- Maximal. No reps left in the tank.
9- Last rep is tough, but still 1 rep left in the tank.
8- Weight is too heavy to maintain fast bar speed, but is not a struggle. 2-4 reps left.
7- Weight moves quickly when maximal force is applied to the weight. “Speed weight”
6- Light speed work. Moves quickly with moderate force.
5- Most warm-up weights
4- Recovery. Usually 20+ rep sets. Not hard, but intended to flush the muscle.
Take your 5 RPM

Do a ladder of 1/2/3, evaluate that last set according to the RPE chart or subjectively. The 3 rep set should still feel 'crisp', not a 'grind'. Do another 1/2/3, evaluate that ladder, if it's still crisp and easy, do another one. 3 complete ladders will be your trigger to add 10# for your next workout.

There's a shitload written on this in one of the recent training forum threads started by ubersmet.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Beer Jew » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:11 am

Shafman wrote: There's a shitload written on this in one of the recent training forum threads started by ubersmet.
http://irongarmx.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=217548

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by The Crawdaddy » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:10 am

Thanks guys.

I'm a little protective of my back, so wanted an objective input if more ladders on DL was appropriate for me. Appreciate the feedback and link.
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by chi » Tue Sep 06, 2011 9:24 am

Using a 1, 2, 3 ladder for 2 - 4 cycles per training session i frequently, if not always, find the 2nd rep of the 2 rung of the ladder the hardest. Anyone else experience this or care to guess why i do?
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Drew0786 » Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:49 pm

Shaf's ladders the simplest and most effective strength program to steal and market on the internet as your own.....
Take care and please.....................stay safe.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Sangoma » Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:25 am

Since ladders are in the public domain I am posting this question here instead of sending Shaf a PM. Opinions of others who use ladders are welcome.

Shaf, what do you think about progressing from singles to ladders as the way to bring some variety? Say, I can do a solid single, but not a double. The plan I have in mind is: first to get to 10 singles in one session. Next step - ladders 1/2 until losing crispness, next - ladders 1/2/3 with good form etc.
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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by Shafpocalypse Now » Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:16 pm

I see nothing wrong with that approach. It's very similar to some of Doug Hepburn's programs.

The autoregulation inherent in the ladder approach is where I feel the most benefit lies.

It's just as appropriate to areg a single on it's performance and crispness as it is any other rep scheme.

Hepburn used to do something like this:

Workout 1: 6x1, 3x5
Workout 2: 1x2, 5x1, 3x5
Workout 3: 2x2, 4x1, 3x5

Last workout for that cycle would look like this:

6x3, 3x5

The numbers probably aren't right, but the idea is, slowly adding reps on a regular basis as a progression.

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Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by jakeischillin » Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:52 pm

Question about changing things up with ladders. I've been enjoying ladders for a couple of months and although progress hasn't stagnated, I feel its probably a good idea switch out some movements. At the same time I don't want to loose the progress that I've made on the big three from lack of practice. My current template is something like this: squat 2x/week, bench 2-3x/week, dead 1x/week, press 1x/week. I'm thinking of switching to the following: front squat 2x/week, back squat 1x/week, incline benches 2x/week, bench 1x/week and throw in some surgs for assistance. Whatcha think?

every1swrong
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:14 pm

Re: Shaf's Ladders

Post by every1swrong » Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:07 pm

Shaf- these worked really well for my bench...so thanks.
The beauty of this is that im done training in 30-40 minutes.
Does anyone have any experiece in programming this for the bench/squat/dead?
Would a simple progression like this work
Mon - Squat
Tues - Bench
Wed- Deadlift
Repeat

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