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February 14, 2011

WOW: Grok Ladder

By Mark Sisson
17 Comments

Complete max ladders of:

Pullups
Dips
Jump Squats

How-to:

Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, 30 second Grok Hang.

Reader Joe wrote in last week with a fine idea for today’s Workout of the Week. He’d been reading up on Pavel Tsatsouline, famed former trainer for the Soviet Spetznas special forces and originator of a novel type of ladder workout, after hearing about him from Robb Wolf. Joe started playing around with his own ladder workout, liked it, described it to me, and I gave it a run through this weekend. I’ve been using ladders in various forms for years. It’s a great way to easily add volume to a workout. Let’s take a closer look.

Ladders are pretty simple. You pick an exercise – or in this case, three – and do one rep. Rest a few seconds, then do two. Rest some more, then do three – and so on, until you hit your max reps. (Joe peaked out at 7 pullups, 7 dips and 7 jump squats, which means he did a total of 28 pullups, 28 dips and 28 jump squats (1+2+3+4+5+6+7=28).) After a short break it’s time to start over: 1 pullup, 1 dip, 1 jump squat, then 2 pullups, 2 dips and 2 jumps squats, and so on until you reach your max again. Break then start over again. Repeat in this manner until you can only do one rep.

With frequent breaks and by bringing you back down to the bottom of the ladder once you reach your max reps, ladders delay burn out and fatigue allowing you to add volume to your workout. In each of Joe’s subsequent ladders after reaching his 7 rep max he was able to reach just 1 less rep than the previous ladder. Meaning he did 1-7 then 1-6, 1-5, 1-4, 1-3, 1-2, and then just one final rep of each for a high total of 84 reps of each movement. If instead of 7 cycles of ladders Joe had attempted 7 sets of 12 reps (the same 84 total reps) he’d have a much more difficult time finishing every rep.

While most ladders comprise single movements, Joe’s using three: the pullup, the dip, and the jumping squat. Pullups and dips you know well enough, but I’ll mention one thing for the jump squat. Folks have the tendency to make the jump squat a weak, poor attempt at a jump with knees barely bent. You need to hit full squat depth – that means parallel or below – and you need to jump as high as you can on every single rep. Land on your toes (lightly) and absorb the impact by breaking at the hips first. Make them count.

A couple things to remember:

  • Take sufficient breaks between reps and ladders, but not so much that you’re checking your watch. Part of establishing and strengthening neural pathways is quick repetition without too much down time. Think quick, zippy, clean.
  • Pack your shoulders on those pullups and dips! Retract those shoulder blades.

Variations

To make this WOW easier you could split up your ladders so that you so that instead of doing mixed ladders (reps of all 3 movements) you focus on each individual movement before moving on the next. That is, 1 pullup, 2 pullups, 3 pullups and so on, until you’ve completed every pullup ladder. Then doing the same for dips. And then once you’ve done your dip ladders you finish with squat jump ladders.

Additionally, if you really struggle with any of these three movements substitute them for an easier variation as described in Primal Blueprint Fitness. For example, you could do Chair-Assisted Pullups (1 leg), Incline Pushups and Bench Squats to make each movement easier.

What are WOWs?

  • Workouts of the Week (WOWs) are an optional component of Primal Blueprint Fitness that add a fractal and often fun and playful quality to the basic PBF protocol.
  • In most cases WOWs should only be completed by those that have mastered Level 4 of each Lift Heavy Things Essential Movement. Also, it’s recommended that WOWs replace one or both Lift Heavy Things workouts or the Sprint workout (depending on the WOW) each week instead of being done in addition to the Lift Heavy Things and Sprint workouts.
  • Learn more about WOWs and Primal Blueprint Fitness by getting the free eBook. And access all Workouts of the Week in the WOW Archive.

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17 Comments on "WOW: Grok Ladder"

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Gorm
Gorm
5 years 7 months ago

I like the concept and have read about ladders before. I’ll give this a go. Very similar to pyramids with three exercises. One rep of each then two then three until ten. Then back down ten reps of each then nine down to one. Both are great ways to build strength and endurance. Plus it adds variety to the mindset of three sets of eight, ten or twelve monotony.

frank
frank
5 years 7 months ago

Thats pretty sikk

trackback

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FitnessDoc and Dieting is Hard, Real Bodybuilders. Real Bodybuilders said: Bodybuilding – WOW: Grok Ladder http://bit.ly/icw0rW by FitConnect.com […]

Dave Fish
5 years 7 months ago

As Gorm mentioned, I often do ladders counting up and counting down.

So for pull ups I would do 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 +1 to give me an nice round number of 50 (Did I mention that I have OCD? :-))

Barefoot Paul
Barefoot Paul
5 years 7 months ago

🙂

jlocicero
jlocicero
5 years 7 months ago

The Robb Wolf link is broken?

AlyieCat
AlyieCat
5 years 7 months ago

I don’t understand the 1-7 , 1-6, 1-5 … notation

Dave Fish
5 years 7 months ago

The first ladder you start with 1 rep and work up to 7 reps. The second round you start with 1 rep and work up to 6 reps. Eventually you’ll reach the last (7th) round where you only do one rep of each exercise.

primal_expat
primal_expat
5 years 7 months ago

The Russian knows. . .

Box Fitness
5 years 7 months ago

oooo… man! That’s tough.

Primal Toad
5 years 7 months ago

I have never heard of a ladder workout but will be giving this one a try. I have thoroughly been enjoying the primal poker WOW but will have to give this ladder a go on Thursday.

I am not a fan of dips… what is a grreat substitute?

I think I may just do push-ups, pull-ups, squats and maybe planks somehow or sit-ups?

66jzmstr
66jzmstr
5 years 7 months ago

Trying clapping push-ups. (If this is vague, thinking pushing yourself up off the floor like a ballistic/dynamic push-up with enough time to quickly clap your hands to brace your landing back into a push up position. Lower your body to the start position to complete one rep.) If that is too easy still, consider doing the clapping push-ups one-legged, or one-legged with that anchoring leg elevated on a stair or two stairs high.

Animanarchy
5 years 1 month ago
There’s also spider push-ups, which are similar to clapping pushups. You push so your hands leave the ground and then while you’re up twist your body to one side so you land in sort of a 7 position, and then push off again and land the same way on the other side. Since you have to twist your body quickly these work the core a bit, especially around the lower back. They get tiring quite fast, in my opinion. A set to failure, which for me is around 20, pretty much annihilates my arms. After those if I want to… Read more »
Alex
Alex
5 years 7 months ago
I love ladders, I use them a lot of ways. I’ve done roundhouse kicks to a heavy bag, 1 left / 1 right, 2 left / 2 right, until my technique deteriorates then go back to 1 left / 1 right and so on. I’ve done it with kettle bells too. I stumbled across this variation when my energy level was low. Instead of doing ladders with all three, using the example above, I’ll pick one to do ladders with, (pull ups) and do easy sets with the other two (push ups, jump squats). My next work out I’ll pick… Read more »
theprimalbrett
theprimalbrett
5 years 7 months ago

I did this WOW yesterday with my mom. It was a great quick workout, only took about 20 – 25 minutes.

Ros
Ros
5 years 7 months ago
First of all, I would like to apologize for my english. Pull ups and dips are a great upper body pair – especially for outdoor training. It is very good that the pull ups are before the dips, as to do dips is easier. (When somebody is able to do 10 pull ups, he should be able to do at least 12+ dips.)But in sport and life the body normally work in the pattern of: leg dominat movement(preferably unilateral) followed by upper body movement. That is why I would prefer a leg movement before the upper body movement. In this… Read more »
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