Kettlebell Ladder Workouts For Your Best Body 

If you sometimes skip workouts because you feel that you don’t have enough time this article is for you. 

Why should you read it? Because I’m going to show you a type of workout that can be done in 20 minutes or less. They’re called Kettlebell ladder workouts. They’re so effective they take less time than it takes to drink your pre-workout coffee and drive across town to the gym. 

I know, the 20 minutes or less line sounds like an ad for an oil change business. But when you train smart it’s all the time you need to get leaner, fitter, and feeling great.

Kettlebell Ladders Explained

A ladder workout is a high intensity way to work out. They consist of doing several sets with as little rest as necessary between sets. This is accomplished by decreasing or increasing the number of reps you do at every set. Most workouts have you add or subtract 1 rep per set.  

You can do ladders with 1 or more exercises. I like to use 2 to make it a total body workout. 

Doing Kettlebell ladders for several rounds will give you a HIIT style Kettlebell workout in very little time. Less time than it takes to drink your pre-workout black coffee and drive across town to the gym. 

“You can build muscle and strength in as little as 20 minutes a day (or even less) if you know what you’re doing. Twenty minutes of well planned, focused training will lead to significant improvements in your physique and work capacity.” Christian Thibadeau 

3 Total Body Kettlebell Ladder Workouts

2 Exercise Kettlebell Workout

Here you’ll do one exercise after the other, with no rest between each. 

The exercises are Kettlebell swings and overhead presses. Do 1 less rep per set of each exercise. You’ll start at 10 reps and end at 1 repetition. 

After you’ve done your last rep of each exercise, rest for 2-3 minutes or however long you need to catch your breath and go again. Do as many ladders as possible in 20 minutes.  

You can do each exercise with 1 or 2 Kettlebells. Using 2 is the way to go for the greatest challenge.

How To Do Each Exercise

Below are links to videos that demonstrate how to do the exercises in this workout.

Here’s the workout. 

Set 1

  • Kettlbell Swings – 10 reps
  • Overhead Press – 10 reps

Set 2

  • Kettlebell Swings – 9 reps
  • Overhead Press – 9 reps

Set 3

  • Kettlebell Swings – 8 reps
  • Overhead Press – 8 reps

Set 4

  • Kettlebell Swings – 7 reps 
  • Overhead Press – 7 reps

Set 5

  • Kettlebell Swings – 6 reps
  • Overhead Press – 6 reps

Set 6

  • Kettlebell Swings – 5 reps 
  • Overhead Press – 5 reps

Set 7

  • Kettlebell Swings – 4 reps
  • Overhead Press – 4 reps

Set 8

  • Kettlebell Swings – 3 reps 
  • Overhead Press – 3 reps

Set 9

  • Kettlebell Swings – 2 reps 
  • Overhead Press – 2 reps

Set 10

  • Kettlebell Swings – 1 rep 
  • Overhead Press – 1 rep

Strength Focused Ladder Workout

Here’s a workout for you to try if your goal is to get super strong. The limited rest between sets also gives you a pretty good cardio workout. You’re going to do 3 exercises to make it a total body workout. Rest as little as necessary between each exercise.

Use a weight that you can do for 5 reps without having to grind too hard on the last 2-3 reps.

After a few weeks of doing this 1-2 times a week you’ll be stronger, especially on final sets of an exercise where fatigue normally kicks in and you are too weak to do another rep. 

Before you start, check out the links below for videos that show you how to do each exercise in case they’re new to you.

Here’s the ladder workout for you.

Set 1

  • Kettlebell Split Squats – 5 reps
  • Bent Over Rows – 5 reps
  • Push Ups – 5 reps

Set 2

  • Kettlebell Split Squats – 4 reps
  • Bent Over Rows – 4 reps
  • Push Ups – 4 reps

Set 3

  • Kettlebell Split Squats – 3 reps
  • Bent Over Rows – 3 reps
  • Push Ups – 3 reps

Set 4 

  • Kettlebell Split Squats – 2 reps
  • Bent Over Rows – 2 reps
  • Push Ups – 2 reps

Set 5

  • Kettlebell Split Squats – 1 rep
  • Bent Over Rows – 1 rep
  • Push Ups – 1 rep

Rest for 3 minutes, or longer if necessary after you’ve done the last rep of each exercise. Repeat as many times as you can in 10-20 minutes. 

Up And Down The Ladder Workout

Here you’re going to do 1 total body exercise, Kettlebell thrusters. If you haven’t done them before it’s actually 3 exercises in 1: first you do a clean, then a front squat, and finish with the overhead press. 

Here’s a link which shows how to do thrusters with 1 or 2 kettlebells. 

Believe me, that’s all this workout needs. What’s different about this workout is that once you’ve done your last rep you’ll rest for a minute or so and start again, this time climbing the ladder by starting at 1 rep and increasing by 1 repetition every set. 

This is a great workout for building strength, muscle, and getting your cardio in at the same time. 

Here’s how it’s done.

Set 1 – 8 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 2 – 7 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 3 – 6 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 4 – 5 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 5 – 4 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 6 – 3 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 7 – 2 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 8 – 1 Kettlebell thrusters

Rest as long as it takes for you to breathe normally and get your strength back then go back up the ladder, starting with 1 rep and increasing each set by 1 until you do 8 repetitions. Here’s how that looks.

Set 1 – 1 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 2 – 2 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 3 – 3 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 4 – 4 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 5 – 5 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 6 – 6 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 7 – 7 Kettlebell thrusters

Set 8 – 8 Kettlebell thrusters

Do 2 things after you’ve gone back up the ladder and done 8 reps. First, feel stoked and congratulate yourself for doing something that ain’t so easy. Second, rest for a few minutes, or longer if you have to and do another down/up the ladder sequence. 

See how many of these you can do in 20 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Equipment Do I Need?

Not a lot. Just 1 or 2 Kettlebells and enough space to do the exercises. I’ve done them in small hotel rooms and a 400 square foot apartment. 

How Often Can I Do Kettlebell Ladders?

Since this is a high intensity workout, you should only do them 2-3 times a week

Can I Combine Them With Other Workouts

Sure, you can do them before or after a more traditional Kettlebell workout if you like. I prefer to do them as a 20 minute AMRAP workout where I rest as little as possible to see how many rounds of ladders I can do. If you’re going to do them along with another workout, it may be best for you to start with 10 minutes of ladders and work up to 20 minutes over time. 

If I’m A Beginner Can I Still Do Ladders?

You sure can, they’ll be just as beneficial to you as they are an Olympic sprinter. Just scale the workout to match your fitness level. If you need to rest a little longer between sets and each ladder go for it. You may also want to use a lighter weight so you can focus on proper technique with every rep. 

Time For Your First Ladder Workout

I think you’ll find them to be super effective and a great way to train regularly. Once you’ve done these a few times, create your own. You can do them as a total body workout or focus on one body part if it helps you achieve your goals. 

Curt Pedersen
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