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Method Behind the Madness Part 4 – Shock Your Body with Ladder Intervals During Phase 3

The typical interval workout features a single interval protocol with a static work and rest period.

For example, a 30-30 interval workout consists of alternating between 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest with a 1:1 work to rest ratio.

Is there anything wrong with this format?

Absolutely not!

It’s a very straight forward and basic approach to interval training and it will deliver great results.

However, sometimes it’s fun to mix things up a bit and actually change-up the intervals within the same workout.

In other words, you can also incorporate multiple and dynamic interval protocols within one main interval workout.

In fact, this method provides an excellent shock to the body to help you break through any frustrating training plateaus.

One way to accomplish this is through ladder interval protocols.



Want to learn more? Then keep reading 😉
 

  1. What are Ladder Intervals

There are 2 main types of ladder intervals:

Timed Ladders and Movement Ladders

Timed Ladders involve moving up, down, or both up and down a proverbial ladder of work periods of various lengths and/or work to rest ratios.

 

There are several different timed ladder interval options:

1.) Ascending Timed Ladders: Moving from shorter work periods to longer work periods

For example, a 10-20-30 ascending ladder interval could look like this:

10 s of work, 10 s of rest

20 s of work, 20 s of rest

30 s of work, 30 s of rest

 

2.) Descending Timed Ladders: Moving from longer work periods to shorter work periods

For example, a 30-20-10 descending ladder interval could look like this:

30 s of work, 30 s of rest

20 s of work, 20 s of rest

10 s of work, 10 s of rest

 

3.) Ascending and Descending Timed Ladders- Pyramid Intervals: Moving from shorter work periods to longer work periods and then back down to shorter work periods

For example, 10-20-30-30-20-10 Pyramid Interval could look like this:

10 s of work, 10 s of rest

20 s of work, 20 s of rest

30 s of work, 30 s of rest

30 s of work, 30 s of rest

20 s of work, 20 s of rest

10 s of work, 10 s of rest

 

Please note that even though all of the above examples have a 1:1 work to rest ratio throughout, that’s not necessary to make it a ladder interval protocol. Rather it’s simply one way to do it and is a bit easier to comprehend versus changing both the length of the work periods and the work to rest ratios.

For example, a 15-30-45-60-60-45-30-15 pyramid interval with various work to rest ratios could look like this:

15 s of work, 15 s of rest

30 s of work, 15 s of rest

45 s of work, 15 s of rest

60 s of work, 15 s of rest

60 s of work, 15 s of rest

45 s of work, 15 s of rest

30 s of work, 15 s of rest

15 s of work, 15 s of rest

 

In addition, you can either perform a ladder interval protocol for a single exercise at a time for straight sets or combine multiple exercises in an alternating set format of supersets, trisets or circuits- the options are endless.

For example, if you wanted to perform the aforementioned 15-30-45-60-60-45-30-15 pyramid interval protocol in a triset format it could look like this:

15 s of work, 15 s of rest for exercise#1

15 s of work, 15 s of rest for exercise#2

15 s of work, 15 s of rest for exercise#3

30 s of work, 15 s of rest for exercise#1

30 s of work, 15 s of rest for exercise#2

30 s of work, 15 s of rest for exercise#3… and so forth

 

Another cool twist on the ladder interval format is called a Movement Ladders where you basically add or subtract a certain number of movements in each subsequent round.

For example, when a Continuous 30-Second Movement Ladder for 5 total movements could look like this:

1- 30 seconds of work for exercise#1, 30 seconds of rest

2- 30 seconds of work for exercise#1, 30 seconds of work for exercise#2, 30 seconds of rest

3- 30 seconds of work for exercise#1, 30 seconds of work for exercise#2, 30 seconds of work for exercise#3, 30 seconds of rest

4- 30 seconds of work for exercise#1, 30 seconds of work for exercise#2, 30 seconds of work for exercise#3, 30 seconds of work for exercise#4, 30 seconds of rest

5- 30 seconds of work for exercise#1, 30 seconds of work for exercise#2, 30 seconds of work for exercise#3, 30 seconds of work for exercise#4, 30 seconds of work for exercise#5, 30 seconds of rest

You could also start with 5 consecutive exercises and subtract a single exercise each subsequent round as well or even add or subtract multiple exercises each subsequent round if desired.

 

2. Why Ladder Intervals?

Ladder intervals are dynamic in nature and have the following benefits over the traditional static single interval protocols:

– Shock the body with multiple interval protocols within the same workout to bust through any frustrating training plateau

– The constant change in work periods makes for a more fun, fresh, and exciting workout

– Allow you to gradually build up from easier work periods to more intense work periods and visa versa

– Provides for more complete energy system development and a total metabolic workout. It also allows you to train different muscle qualities within the same workout by performing work periods of various lengths and intensities as outlined below:

Maximum Intensity Work Periods of 0-10 seconds primarily involve your anaerobic alactate energy system (without the presence of oxygen or lactic acid) and burns mostly your phosphagen fuel stores including Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and Creatine-Phosphate (CP). These work periods are also best suited for maximum strength, speed, and power training and primarily work your fast-twitch muscle fibers.

High-Intensity Work Periods of specifically 30-60 seconds and up to 2 minutes primarily involve your anaerobic lactate/glycolytic energy system (without the presence of oxygen but with the presence of lactic acid) and burns proportionately more sugar/carbohydrate for fuel. These work periods also primarily stimulate lean muscle gain and strength and power endurance and are best characterized by very high levels of muscular fatigue when lactic acid levels peak. They also use a mix of both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers.

Low to Moderate Intensity Work Periods of 2-3+ Minutes primarily involve your aerobic energy system (with the presence of oxygen) which burns proportionately more fat for fuel. These prolonged work periods build work capacity and muscular endurance and promote recovery between higher intensity work periods of shorter duration. They also primarily work your slow twitch muscle fibers.

It is important to note that ALL 3 of your energy systems are active at all times. However, depending on the length of the work period and the intensity utilized, one system is always more active than the others.

– A movement ladder allows you to place higher-priority movements earlier in the ladder to get more work on them and strengthen your weaknesses. For example, if your right leg is stronger than your left leg, place left leg movements earlier in the ladder to achieve greater training volume and to help eliminate the strength imbalance.

Remember, the key to continual results is switching it up every 4-6 weeks and clearly ladder intervals are a great way to do just that!

 

Committed to your health,

Heath Herrera, M.Ed., CSCS

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