My ladder abacus

If you do your exercises using a variety of interval methods, you probably have heard of or use “ladders.” I believe that the method has various names, but I’m describing the technique of doing one repetition of an exercise, then two reps, then three reps, etc., resting some amount of time between each set. When you reach the point where you probably won’t be able to do another increase set, you rest and then start going “down the ladder,” so… the sets look something like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

My coin abacus
Ladder Abacus

My trouble with these is that I lose count! I want to be honest with myself and not cheat, but I also don’t want to do sets that look like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1. I know, I know! The “gainz” are the same whether or not I keep accurate count, but I really do feel better knowing I’ve recorded my workout accurately. I can just picture myself ending up doing sets like 1, 2, 3, 6, 5, 4, 2, 1 out of wishful thinking.

At any rate, I came up with a simple system for tracking my ladder sets, and I think someone else might benefit from the idea (assuming that everyone who can’t keep track on their own hasn’t invented something better already).

My system is a simple coin counting plan. I take a few coins… a few more than I expect to use for my highest-rep set. I put them on the floor or a table next to me and within reach. During the rest periods between sets, I slide one coin from the resource pile to a counting area for each set. When I reach my highest-rep set, I slide a coin from the resource pile to a secondary counting area. The image shows the resource pile at the bottom edge of the image, the first counting area to the upper left, and the highest-rep counter in the upper right. What this tells me is that I have completed a set of six reps, but more importantly, I have five reps to do in my next set. After that set, I move one coin from the left counting area to the right, leaving four reps to do on my next set. When all coins are in the upper right, I’m done. I record a “6” on my sheet for later transfer to my fitocracy.com tracking page.

So, there it is, a simple solution for you to try if you, like me, have a hard time remembering where you are on your ladders!

Author: Jorah Lavin

I grew up in New England, moved to the Carolinas in '98 to start working at what was then a large regional bank and is now a really big nationwide bank. I work doing intranet content management and intranet site management for said bank. After work, I watch movies & eat. I've been studying Aikido since 2014, and I ride an old Honda Shadow. Someday I want to go skydiving.

  • Dao

    Hey Jorah,

    Just want to come over and say hi! Your idea is great. Honestly, I have brain farts when I exercise as well. While concentrating too much on the workout, I simply forget to count. I need some coins now!

  • JenniferGJ

    I had similar issues trying to remember how many laps on the track. Since there are 6 lanes, I just switch to the next lane in order to keep count. However, as I run more and more, I still have to keep track of how many times I have done a set of 6.