I would like to share a great conditioning workout that I came up with a few months ago to get stronger and better conditioned in a short amount of time. It incorporates the concept of “Stairs” found in Pavel Tstatsouline’s book “Power to the People”. In this book, Pavel shares the training secrets of the Soviet commandos and athletes he used to train with and who allowed the Russians to dominate other countries at the Olympics. . This is very popular in the Marines and SEALS, and we use this type of training to get really high levels of sheer strength and strength endurance as we continue to run our long distance runs.
What are stairs?
Basically, you will choose an exercise and start at the “bottom” of the ladder doing 1 to 5 reps. You will rest the same number of seconds as the reps per set. So if I start doing 2 push-ups, I would rest 2 seconds, do 4 push-ups, rest 4 seconds, etc. until I hit a specific number. You want to try to do as many reps as possible without failing. This is different from a pyramid set where you stop at the top of the ladder in this workout, but in a pyramid set you will go up AND down. This is great for building muscle, but not for strengthening or defining muscles. Stairs are an excellent tool that can be applied to almost any training plan. I absolutely love them.
My “Special Forces” training finisher
You will need access to a chin-up bar. You will do 3 “super ladder sets” of push-ups and chin-ups. This means that you will complete a push-up ladder and then immediately transition to push-ups without a break. After this “super set” (doing 2 exercises in a row), you will take a 30-60 second break and then repeat at least 2 more times. Focus on getting perfect reps at a medium pace and stop before you feel like you can’t do more. If I’m prepping the guys for the Marines or the SEALS, we’ll do the push-up stairs from 2 reps to 14 reps going up 2 reps at a time, and we will do pull-ups from 1 reps to 7 reps going up 1 reps at a time and repeat. this cycle 4 times. We do this as a bad finisher for a long ruck march or we run fairly regularly and a lot of guys can max out at least 100 push-ups and 20 push-ups for our PT tests.
Why this type of training builds a hard, “compact” physique
I love this workout because it combines some key training principles in one session. The ladder principle increases strength, endurance, and conditioning, as a large volume of repetitions is accumulated in a short period of time, but the muscles do not “pump” due to periods of rest. By doing push and pull exercises in the super fit, I took advantage of it to get the opposing muscle groups to help each other. Basically, alternating pushing with pulling gives each muscle group a break and at the same time tells the central nervous system to start connecting neurons that activate individual muscle fibers. Basically doing pull-ups will start to help pull-ups and vice versa. Very cool! The more you compress the time frame of the workout, the more fat burning hormones you’ll release to make it a conditioning workout as well.
How I used this training method to double my regular pull-ups and master one-arm pull-ups
After doing this workout for the past 6 months, I have increased my chin-up max from 20 to 40 reps and push-ups from 100 to 135 in 2 minutes. I also think it helped me achieve one-arm push-ups, which I just mastered a week ago (and will post soon!). Doing this type of high-volume, low-rep training in perfect form has similar effects to a weightlifting cycle. In fact, a stair workout is basically a complete cycle of compressed weightlifting in a few minutes. The really cool thing is that I never feel more sore from doing exhaustion sets, but my strength and conditioning level just keeps improving.