A Simple Training Method Nobody Uses That Guarantees Results

Patterning, it's a key focal point when training young athletes & adolescents. We want to introduce them to movement patterns and ensure technique and safety remain paramount - drilling in technique so that it becomes autonomous. This takes time, however, and oftentimes to do this, we need to keep the load (intensity) relatively low which, in turn, may not stress the body enough to accumulate the progress we desire to accumulate in this demographic. Yet luckily, there's an easy answer staring us right in the face that allows us to hit both birds with one stone...
 

Ladder - The Youth Academy

Introducing Ladders

And no, not the ladder you'd use to climb a house, or the ones speed coaches use to "develop speed and agility". I'm talking about manipulating rep schemes so that we accumulate volume on a given lift at a set intensity

For example, the simplest ladder is 1-2-3-4-5 with the same load. Perform 1 rep, rest briefly, perform 2 reps, rest briefly, perform 3 reps, rest briefly, etc... Completing this ladder 2 times through allows us to get in 30 quality reps of a movement

Let's take a simple squat session for example. We might load the bar to 60kg, which is a load that can be handled quite easily for this young athlete. The first rep is super light, so is the double & triple, but the set of four is a push, and the set of five is where the magic happens. And the next time through, the 1 rep will feel lighter, as will the double and triple

But the best news is, with these lower rep sets, we're ingraining phenomenal technique, as the load is easily handled - yet due to the volume of the ladder, we're eliciting the physiological response required to adapt for increased growth and strength

Whereby a normal 5 x 5 session might require two to three minutes between sets and begin to really drain the body - we can utilise a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 to accumulate a little more volume AND keep our intention on technique and movement patterns

And as even better news, we hit the rep range of 20-30 reps that's been found to best serve for size and strength by Thomas Delorme
 

Deadlift - The Youth Academy

Use Your Imagination

Depending on your intention, ladders can look any way you'd like them to. And when it comes to the load (weight on the bar) you can either keep this constant, or increase/decrease as the reps increase/decrease

One of my personal favourites is a 3-2-1-3-2-1 ladder whereby the weights increase each set. For example, I may be squatting, so I'll warm up and then hit, in order, 140kg x 3, 150kg x 2, 160kg x 1, 145kg x 3, 155kg x 2, 165kg x 1

What I love about the above, is that after the first round, the second triple at a heavier weight feels lighter than the first, as the CNS is primed and ready to work - and Travis Mash, Charles Poliquin, and Tony Gentilcore all refer to this as the "over-warmup"... exposing the body to a heavier load in order to make the working sets feel lighter

Also, I find that if we are to do a typical 5 x 5 it might take be 25 minutes or more to push through depending on the weight. Whereby if we switch it up to a 2-3-5-2-3-5-2-3 we can be easily done in 15 minutes or less with the same weight - which is phenomenal as we're doing the same amount of work in less time. This is progress! And it also allows us to drill in technique on the sets of 2 and 3 as they're less fatiguing than the sets of 5

The best thing to do is set your intention, and then choose a ladder/rep scheme that will aid in this. And when it comes to rest periods, don't stress too much, as after finishing a set of five, a quick break into a double won't seem too bad. And also, if you train with a partner, the best principle to use is the "you go, I go", whereby your rest is as your training partner does their working sets

Nick Maier