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Dumbbell Ladder Workout: How High Can You Climb?

Rack of dumbbells
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Ladders. Easy to get the hang of and incredibly useful. And training ladders are no different: you simply do a pair of exercises and increase the reps with each set.

For a top-shelf example of a ladder workout, we went to Rachel Langford (opens in new tab), PT and CrossFit athlete, who knows a thing or two about hard work and getting results.

“Using a ladder for training will push you through some serious muscular endurance and always leave you with a notch to reach the next time, allowing you to measure your progress,” Langford says. “What’s more, if you go until failure [meaning you can’t maintain correct form, rather than you collapse from overexertion] – which you should on a ladder – you will feel a mean burn, making them ideal workout finishers.”

The Dumbbell Ladder Workout

“This ladder uses two dumbbells and consists of two dumbbell exercises – dumbbell thrusters and dumbbell overhead lunges – to be completed one after another. Both will work your shoulders, arms, core and legs. Once you complete the set reps for both exercises, you immediately go again, adding one to your rep count each time. So there’s no rest, just keep climbing until failure.

“Use a weight that’s lighter than you would usually find it comfortable to lift. Before long you will fatigue, and that weight will feel heavier and heavier as your shoulders start to tire, so it’s important you’re able to carry on with good form.”

Start at five reps of each exercise, complete one immediately after the other, then go again, increasing by one rep each time. Go to failure.

Dumbbell thruster

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and rest both dumbbells on your shoulders, elbows pointing forwards. Squat down slowly, then explode up, driving through your heels. As you reach standing, press the dumbbells overhead. Lower the dumbbells to your shoulders.

2 Dumbbell overhead lunge

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart again, holding the dumbbells above your head with your arms extended. Take a big step forwards and lower until both knees are at a 90° angle, making sure the front knee doesn’t go past your toes. Alternate which leg you lead with.


Jake Stones
Jake Stones

Jake was formely an intern for Coach and now contributes workouts from some of London’s top trainers. As well as training in the gym and running, he’s competed in the eight-hours-long overnight event Europe's Toughest Mudder twice and the 24-hours-long World's Toughest Mudder once.