Here's a sample ladder set:
- Using your 10 to 12 rep max in an exercise, perform 2 reps.
- Rest for 10 to 15 seconds, and then immediately perform 3 more reps.
- Rest for 10 to 15 seconds, and then perform 5 reps.
- Rest once more for 10 to 15 seconds, then perform 10 reps.
The fact that you're using the same weight through the entire set eliminates any doubt as to whether you're still using an intensity that will promote hypertrophy benefits. The fast twitch fibers get a chance to do a bit more work because their energy source (ATP) gets a partial recovery, thanks to the short mid-set "breaks." By the end of the ladder set, you've essentially performed 20 reps with your 10 to 12 rep max. Not too shabby.
Dig Deep and Grind!
This is also an awesome psychological test. Like breathing squats, you have a finite target number to reach that marks a complete set, not just "muscular failure." With each break period, you know that you have to perform more reps than you just did, though you're under more fatigue than you were when you started. It's a way to learn to dig deep and get out a few grinders. You'll leave the gym feeling accomplished.
Best Exercises for Ladder Sets
This rep scheme works best with the big movements like the bench press, standing press, pull-ups, weighted dips, and squats, but you can incorporate them into smaller isolation movements like leg extensions, curls, and seated dumbbell presses.