Some say that he has two left hands, and his nose can tell when it will rain. All we know is that he's called DFM.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ladders For Rapid Strength Increase

Another post influenced by a request I received from a reader. This reader wanted information about strength training. Here's is a strength training method I have found to be quite effective. The workout is referred to as a "ladder workout" and involves doing sets with the same weight, for progressively more repetitions, until you reach or approach your limit. Then you take a short rest, start over at the beginning and work up to a similarly high number of reps. You can repeat this process as long as you like. In practice, your workout might look something like this: 2 reps, 4 reps, 6 reps, 8 reps, 10 reps. Extended rest. 2-4-6-8-9. Rest. 2-4-6-8. Rest. 1-3-5-7. Done.

Note: you also rest in between each set, but the Rest between "series" (a sequence of sets of progressively higher reps) is the longest. Also, there are no set number of sets or series to be done, you can do as many or as few as you'd like. Furthermore, you may make the jump in reps/set within a series as great or small as you'd like.

This program operates on the theory that the greater the volume (total amount) of work you do in a given exercise, the more you will improve the efficiency of the nervous system to provide electric impulse to the muscles (more electricity = more muscle fibres able to contract). The point of the easier sets is to continue to increase the volume while remaining fresh and not tiring out, thereby allowing you to complete more total reps than you would if you went all-out on each set.

To prove the effectiveness of this method for increasing the total volume of work you can complete in a workout, I propose you perform a self experiment. Take any exercise you would like with any weight you would like. For the point of demonstration I will choose push-ups. Choose a time-limit (say 15 minutes) and start doing push-ups until you can no longer complete a rep (your maximum effort). Rest until you feel fresh enough to do a high number of push-ups again and repeat the effort until you once again reach your fail point. Continue in this manner until the fifteen minutes is up. Record the sum of all the reps completed in each set within the fifteen minutes time limit. Now, rest a number of hours until you are fresh again. Choose the same exercise, with the same weight, for the same time limit. Run a series of "ladders" from a low number to a high number. The higher the number of reps in your "max" set, the greater you can make the jumps in reps/set values within a series (i.e., 3-6-9-12 vs. 5-10-15-20-25). This way you won't spend your entire fifteen minutes increasing the reps/set by one each time if your max is 40 push-ups. Continue running ladders until the fifteen minutes is up. Compute the sum and compare this value to the total number of push-ups you completed using the traditional all-out method. I am confident that you will be pleasantly surprised.

I am currently using this method with a 53 lb kettlebell to great effect. Roughly three weeks ago I struggled to shoulder press the bell three times with my dominant arm. By performing two series of ladders three times a week I have since increased my maximum effort to 8 repetitions. In the first week I performed the ladders as follows: 1-2, rest, 1-2. The second week was completed using a 1-2-3, rest, 1-2-3 pattern. The third week involved two series of ladders with a top set of 4 (1-2-3-4, rest, 1-2-3-4). That's a 267% increase in less than a month. Try it out for yourself.

(You might want to think twice before you say "bite me" to this guy)

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