Home / 3 Kettlebell Ladder Workouts for Strength, Fat Loss and Muscle Mass

3 Kettlebell Ladder Workouts for Strength, Fat Loss and Muscle Mass

By Greg Brookes

kettlebell ladder workouts

Kettlebell Ladder Workouts are an excellent choice for building strength, reducing fat or adding muscle mass.

Depending on your goals you can use ascending, descending or mixed ladder workouts in order to gain results quickly and efficiently.

If your current kettlebell workout results have started to plateau then I highly recommend that you add some ladder workouts to your routine.

Let’s take a look at how to put together your own kettlebell ladder workouts:

Kettlebell Ladders Explained

Kettlebell ladder workouts enable you to get more work done in less time by mixing short reps with short rest periods.

A simple strength ladder works like this:

  • Perform 1 rep of an exercise, 1 x left and 1 x right
  • Take a short rest
  • Perform 2 reps of the same exercise, 2 x left and 2 x right
  • Take a short rest
  • Perform 3 reps of the same exercise, 3 x left and 3 x right
  • etc.

Usually ladders are performed with single sided exercises but you can use two kettlebells to save time with some exercises.

Kettlebell ladder workouts are highly effective because you can soon build up a substantial amount of reps without realising it.

For example, 15 reps can easily be achieved by working through 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 reps.

The short rest periods in between each set of reps helps you get through the next set and also seems to up regulate your strength system enabling you to lift heavier.

You will also find that the first few sets of 1 and 2 reps of the workout ladder act as a warm up to the higher reps that follow them.

Kettlebell workout ladders are also psychologically more achievable, the thought of 15 reps of a tough exercise can be daunting but quick sets of 1-5 reps seems a lot more achievable.

Personally, I like the way kettlebell workout ladders force you to reset yourself after each set.

For example when performing an exercise for 10 reps you get into a rhythm and often use the stretch reflex in the muscles to help with each repetition.

When you have to stop and reset it means picking up the kettlebell up from the floor and reengaging the muscles in a more natural and functional way as if lifting for the first time.

Ascending, Descending and Mixing Workout Ladders

Kettlebell workout ladders can be performed in a number of different ways, ascending from 1 to 5, descending from 5 to 1, or mixing the two together 1 to 5 and then back down to 1.

Ascending ladders have the advantage of building the load up slowly and so integrating a steady warm up and gradually up regulating the body. I tend to use ascending ladders for difficult strength building exercises.

Descending ladders can be more motivational because you know that with each round the repetitions are reducing. Reducing the reps each round can also help with the natural fatigue that you experience with each set.

Mixing workout ladders can help get the best out of you by starting slowly and up regulating your strength and then reducing the reps as you start to fatigue. I tend to mix workout ladders with clients that are a little more experienced with longer sets.

Never Train to Failure During Your Ladders

As you are performing multiple sets during your kettlebell ladder workouts it is important that you do not push any set to failure.

A simple way to work out how many reps to perform is to consider how many reps you can perform in one set, your max reps.

If you can perform 10 reps of an exercise before you cannot lift anymore then you would want your workout ladder to not go higher than 6 to 7 reps.

One of the great benefits of kettlebell ladder workouts is that you can start off on a ladder workout and if you find you only manage to climb halfway then you can stop and improve another day.

1Kettlebell Ladder Workout for Strength

If your goals are building strength then using a kettlebell ladder workout is an excellent choice.

Strength repetitions should be kept to maximum of 5 reps or less. If you want to build more muscle and mass then you can increase your reps above 5 to add more volume. (see workout 3)

Be aware that the higher the amount of reps in your ladder the longer the rest periods required to recover.

You can choose any number of strength based exercises for use in your kettlebell ladder. More dynamic and higher rep based exercises like the kettlebell swing would not be a good choice for this type of ladder workout.

Kettlebell Ladder Workout for Strength

Choose just 1 exercise from below:

  • Clean and Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Turkish Get Ups
  • Windmills
  • Side Lunge
  • Pistol Squats
  • Single Leg Deadlifts

Select a kettlebell weight that you can only perform for a maximum of 8 – 10 reps.

Work through the reps like this:

  • 1 rep each side, rest
  • 2 reps each side, rest
  • 3 reps each side, rest
  • 4 reps each side, rest
  • 5 reps each side, rest

You can repeat this workout again starting back at 1 rep again and climbing back up the ladder.

I’d limit the amount of total sets to 3.

If during any of the ladder reps you start to struggle then stop immediately and take note of how many reps you completed.

Weekly Schedule

A good weekly schedule would be Mondays and Thursdays for the above workout.

2Kettlebell Ladder Complex Workout for Fat Loss

Kettlebell ladder workouts are also an excellent choice if your goals are fat loss.

Fat loss is best encouraged by maximising the amount of muscles used during a workout to increase your metabolic rate.

The repetitions are higher for fat loss workouts and the weight reduced.

I like to use big full body exercises for fat loss workouts that include a push, pull and either a squat or deadlift movement pattern.

Kettlebell Ladder Complex Workout for Fat Loss

  • One Handed Swing x 10 – 1
  • Overhead Press x 1 – 10
  • Regular Row x 1 – 10
  • Repeat on the other side for a total of 10 sets.

This kettlebell ladder complex workout mixes both ascending and descending ladders.

On the left side perform 10 swings, then 1 overhead press, and 1 regular row, then switch hands and repeat on the other side.

Next rest for 30 – 60 seconds and repeat reducing the swings by 1 rep and increasing the press and row by 1 rep.

The kettlebell swings are a descending ladder and the rows and presses are an ascending ladder.

At the end of this kettlebell ladder workout you will have completed 10 sets on each side.

Weekly Schedule

You can use a 3 x weekly schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday or 2 x weekly schedule of Monday and Thursday depending on how well you recover from the workout.

You could easily replace the one handed swing with a racked squat or racked lunge in order to add variety throughout the week.

3Kettlebell Ladder Workout for Muscle Mass

If your gaol is to add muscle to your body then you can use kettlebell ladder workouts to add the volume you need.

Unlike kettlebell ladder workouts for strength you need to increase the amount of reps in order to increase the total volume and time under tension.

You can use many of the same exercises that you used for the strength ladders but reduce the kettlebell weight so you could safely perform 12 – 15 reps before failure in one set.

Big dynamic movements like the kettlebell snatch, kettlebell high pull or kettlebell swing would not be the ideal choice for adding muscle but exercises like the kettlebell squat, kettlebell lunge and kettlebell overhead press would be.

Kettlebell Ladder Workout for Muscle Mass

Choose just 1 exercise from below:

  • Double Squat
  • Double Lunge
  • Push Press
  • Thruster
  • Double Rows

You would choose just one of the above exercises and then perform the ladder workout like this:

  • 2 reps each side, rest
  • 4 reps each side, rest
  • 6 reps each side, rest
  • 8 reps each side, rest
  • 10 reps each side, rest

Depending on the kettlebell exercise that you choose you will either perform the exercise on each side before resting or if using 2 kettlebells just perform the exercise once before taking a rest.

One complete ladder will equate to 30 repetitions. You can then rest and repeat the ladder again. 3 complete sets is enough for one day.

Many of these exercises are big full body movements so you will not need to perform more that one exercise per day.

Weekly Schedule

A weekly schedule may look like this:

  • Monday – Double Kettlebell Squats
  • Tuesday – Kettlebell Push Press
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – Double Kettlebell Lunge
  • Friday – Kettlebell Regular Row
  • Saturday & Sunday – Rest

Conclusion of Kettlebell Ladder Workouts

Kettlebell ladder workouts are an excellent way to gain strength, reduce fat or add muscle.

Depending on your particular goals you can use kettlebell ladder workouts to motivate you or simply as a method to gauge how many repetitions to perform that day.

Above I have listed 3 possible kettlebell ladder workouts for you to use depending on your goals.

I’ve also included an idea of how ladder workouts would fit into a weekly schedule.

No matter what your goals I’m sure you can use kettlebell ladder workouts to your advantage for building successful habits and achieving your goals.

Take care and enjoy the workouts.

Have you tried any of these Kettlebell Ladder Workouts? Let me know more below:

10 best kettlebell workouts

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    1. Scott reburn Avatar
      Scott reburn

      How long is the rest period between the ladder reps for mass and the rest periods between the sets cheers Scott

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Usually around 1-1.5 for mass and 2-3 minutes for strength Scott.

      2. Scott reburn Avatar
        Scott reburn

        Hi greg while doing the ladder reps for mass could you recommend any kettlebell excersisis for adding mass to the chest

        1. Greg Brookes Avatar

          Hello Scott, kettlebells are not the correct tool for adding mass to the chest, I’d work on push ups or single arm push ups instead. You will get chest activation from many of the pushing kettlebell exercises but they are not optimal for mass.

    2. Mike Avatar

      Greg: if I were to add a squat to the fat loss routine and still keep the swing in the routine, what would you suggest for a sequence?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Mike, you could replace the overhead press with the thruster (squat and press) that way you still only have to perform 3 exercises 🙂