Climbing ladders is not the first thing that springs to mind when you’re considering what you should add to your workout. Most people outside of specific trades like construction don’t have much use for ladders at all. But the truth is, climbing a ladder is a powerful full-body workout. So how can you simulate this movement  without finding yourself hundreds of feet up in the air? Enter: Jacobs Ladder.   

Jacobs Ladder recreates the movement of climbing a ladder, but instead of going straight up, you’re climbing at a 40-degree angle. It’s like a treadmill, but you’re climbing, not running or walking.  You can climb for as long as you want without ever running out of height!  

Jacobs Ladder is designed to provide a high-intensity, low-impact workout. That means you burn calories without the wear and tear on your body that you get from other high-intensity training programs. Experts from the School of Kinesiology at Louisiana State University even conducted a study that found that Jacobs Ladder burns calories at a much higher rate than treadmills. 

Climbing a vertical ladder is a high-impact activity. The 40-degree angle of Jacobs Ladder is calculated to relieve pressure on the lower body. The ladder can be used by people who are looking for a low-impact, workout that won’t put stress on their joints. Climbing workouts are also a great way to relieve lower back pain in your spine, since the muscles they work support the vertebrae and discs in the lower back, which reduces strain on your back bones. 

Although Jacobs Ladder was created to be a rehab machine, you should talk with your doctor or physical therapist before using it if you’re injured. People who are pregnant should never use Jacobs Ladder. 

Getting Started 

A big benefit of Jacobs Ladder is that it’s intuitive; just like climbing a ladder! There aren’t any adjustments that you have to make to the machine to start out. All you have to do is put on the belt that connects the user to the machine.  

The belt serves several different functions. It acts as a safety to keep the ladder rungs locked in place when the machine is not in use, or when you’re getting on and off the machine. The belt is also how you control the machine’s speed and resistance level – the more tension on the belt, the higher the speed. Finally, there is a sensor on the belt that gives you useful information, like your heart rate, and it can calculate how many calories you’ve burned.  

Adjust the belt so that the logo is on your hip – this will make sure that the heartrate monitor is in the right place. Make sure the belt is secured with no part of the strap hanging down to get tangled in the rungs. Tie off any part of the belt strap that’s dangling down too far.  

Using the Machine 

Once you have the belt on, you’re ready to go. Grab the vertical handles, step onto the first rung of the machine with one leg, and start climbing. Support part of your weight with your arms so that you don’t take a tumble when the rungs start to move. Once you’re high enough (about two rungs up), the belt will pull taut and automatically disengage the safety brake. At this point, the rungs will begin to move downward as you climb. 

The rungs will start moving slowly, with a relatively high level of resistance. The lower down you position yourself on the machine, the slower it will go. To get going faster, simply climb higher up the ladder. As you move higher, the resistance will decrease, and you’ll get more of a cardio workout. Higher speed at lower resistance works your heart.  


If you’re interested in only a lower-body workout, the vertical handles on either side of the machine allow you to brace yourself with your hands while you work your legs. But, you can climb with your hands on the rungs if you want to engage your arms, legs, and core to give you a full-body workout. 


To get off the machine, simply stop climbing! Stand still and let the machine’s momentum coast you down to the bottom. Once you’re close enough to the ground, the belt will automatically engage the safety brake and you can step off. Never try to get off the ladder while it’s moving. Wait until the safety brake engages. 

A Good Workout 

The Jacobs Ladder can be used on its own as a high intensity interval workout or incorporated into any kind of strength or conditioning training as a warmup. 


You’ll be amazed at how quickly you break a sweat. Just two minutes on Jacobs Ladder will get you a good warm-up. Set a timer and start climbing. This is just a warm-up, so you don’t need to push yourself to the max, but you should definitely feel ready to work out when you’re done.  

Interval Training: 

If you’re interested in using Jacobs Ladder on its own to get in an interval workout, try this! Remember, you should always warm up before doing interval training. You can use Jacobs Ladder, or warm up on the SkiErg to add some variety! 

Climb rapidly for two minutes. The speed should be the most you can maintain for the full two minutes. 

Rest for one minute. You can rest at a full stop, or at a slower speed. 

Complete five sets for a real challenge, or three if you’re just starting out. 

Reduce speed and cool down for three  minutes (or head over to the rower and cool down there). 

You can find Jacobs Ladder on the fifth floor of the duplex fitness center at our Upper East Side campus and next to the spin bikes in the fitness center at our Battery Park City location.