September 03, 2017 5 min read

Why You Should Ditch Your Treadmill for a Jacob's Ladder on Your Next Conditioning Workout

I hate the treadmill.

I hate how it affects my running form. I hate trying to figure out the right speed and incline settings. I hate how long I have to be on it to get a good workout.

Know what I don't hate? The Jacobs Ladder. You won't find this unique machine in every training facility, but if you do come across it, you should certainly give it a climb. Why? Because, in many respects, the Jacobs Ladder is the anti-treadmill. It avoids the things people hate most about treadmills while also providing a calorie-melting workout. Here are five reasons why the Jacobs Ladder is superior to the traditional treadmill.

1. It Burns More Calories

No one wants to work out on a machine that whittles away the calories at a snail's pace. We want a machine that crushes calories at an incredible rate and leaves us feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Enter the Jacobs Ladder. The design is simple—it's a ladder-like machine angled at 40 degrees that requires users to "climb" its never-ending rungs. The name is a Biblical reference to when Jacob dreamed of a ladder between heaven and earth. The climbing motion required by the Jacobs Ladder torches calories at a highly efficient rate since it requires constant movement of both arms and legs. It also recruits your core and stabilizer muscles much more effectively than a treadmill.

It's difficult to determine exactly how many calories per minute the Jacobs Ladder burns, since that number depends on factors such as your metabolism, heart rate, body composition and climbing speed; but it certainly seems more efficient than a standard treadmill. A recent study out of Louisiana State University found that users more easily reached higher levels of energy expenditure on the Jacobs Ladder than they did on a treadmill, meaning they burned more calories faster.

Anecdotally, there seems little doubt that it's easier to burn calories more quickly on a Jacobs Ladder than on a traditional treadmill. I climbed for a little over 6 consecutive minutes the other day, and the built-in display estimated I burned 120 calories. I was certainly working hard, but burning that many calories that fast on a treadmill would've taken a superhuman effort (for me, at least).

RELATED TIP: New Research Discovers the Best Type of Core Exercise

2. It Feels Like Less Work

Jacobs Ladder

Huffing and puffing your way through a session on the treadmill can feel like absolute torture. Research has shown that training on the Jacobs Ladder typically feels significantly less laborious.

In the aforementioned study from LSU, participants also had a lower VO2 peak on the Jacobs Ladder than on the treadmill. Their rate of perceived exertion (RPE), a measure of how much a workout feels like it sucks, was also lower in relation to the number of calories being burned when they were on the Jacobs Ladder. Basically, the Jacobs Ladder allowed users to burn more calories while feeling like they were doing less. Isn't that what we all want from our workouts?

If you push yourself hard enough, you can still make yourself pretty miserable on a Jacobs Ladder, but a typical workout burns more calories and feels more enjoyable than a typical treadmill workout. One reason for this phenomenon is that there's a component of muscle-building with the Jacobs Ladder that doesn't exist with a traditional treadmill. "The increased muscle mass involved in the ladder exercise accounts for higher energy expenditure than any other machine," Dr. Frank Cerny, an exercise physiologist, testified on the company's official website.

3. It's Easier on Your Body

Stipe Miocic

UFC Heavyweight Champ Stipe Miocic trains on a Jacobs Ladder

Though the Jacobs Ladder burns calories more easily than the treadmill, it doesn't do so by sacrificing safety. In fact, the Jacobs Ladder takes a significantly lower toll on your body than a treadmill.

Think about how different running is from climbing a ladder. Running certainly produces more of a pounding on your joints and knees. But climbing a ladder is very low-impact thanks to the nature of the motion and the fact that the rungs are so close together. You're also distributing the impact between your arms and legs, which isn't the case on a treadmill.

A low-impact workout means quicker recovery in the short term and a healthier, happier body over the long haul.

4. There's No Fussing With Settings

Stipe Miocic Jacobs Ladder

One reason working out on the Jacobs Ladder is so enjoyable is the simplicity of the experience.

The machine is self-propelled, meaning the faster you climb, the faster the rungs move. The speed of the rungs is controlled by a belt the user wears that attaches to the machine. You simply adjust the belt to the right height, snap it on and start climbing. The more tension you create on the cord attached to the belt, the faster the rungs move. Less tension equals slower rungs. It's an incredibly intuitive experience, and it's very easy to speed up, slow down or stop at will. On a traditional treadmill, you're stuck pushing up and down on the speed setting as you try to find your ideal work rate.

Same goes for the incline. The Jacobs Ladder is fixed at a non-adjustable 40-degree incline, removing a variable from the equation and allowing you to get your sweat on without thinking twice.

5. It Trains an Important Yet Undertrained Movement Pattern

Photo via the Jacobs Ladder website

Unless you're an accomplished climber, odds are the Jacobs Ladder will be a unique experience for you. There simply aren't many machines that mimic a climbing motion pattern. Running, rowing, cycling, climbing the stairs—these are repetitive movements we've become accustomed to inside the gym. But climbing a ladder? Not so much.

The motion used on the Jacobs Ladder is actually akin to a crawling motion. It requires your core to stabilize as your limbs perform a contralateral movement. Crawling is a highly functional movement that's often overlooked during athletic training. We were all able to crawl quite at one point since the human body is designed for it. A proper crawling motion pattern, where the upper and lower body work in unison with a neutral spine, helps restore and reinforce good coordination, posture and balance. The motion might take a minute or two to get used to, but most people find the Jacobs Ladder a welcome break from the monotonies of a treadmill or stationary bike.

The Jacobs Ladder is safer, more effective and more fun than working out on a treadmill. What more could you ask for from a cardio machine? "[The Jacobs Ladder] is a phenomenal training tool for anybody," says Joe Juraszek, a strength and conditioning coach with roughly 20 years of experience in the NFL. Perhaps that's why the Jacobs Ladder is used not only by pro teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Indians, but also by elite military units like the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers.

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