As Seen On

Running the Rack or Hitting Ladders


I first heard about this innovative muscle building strategy when Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about doing in during his reign as Mr. Olympia. It is called “Running the Rack”. It can be used for each exercise in your workout OR as a finisher to your normal workout.

This techniques refers to a high volume set where you pick a weight and perform as many reps as you can for a certain exercise. Then when you can’t do any more reps, you pick a lighter weight and continue performing reps of the same exercise. As you fatigue, you lower the weight and repeat.

The reason it is called “Running the Rack” is, if the exercise you’re doing involves dumbbells you will be moving down the rack picking lighter weights as you fatigue.

This form of density training improves work capacity, increases lactic acid which releases natural growth hormone. This in turn, builds muscle quickly.

Sample Exercise 1: Bicep Curls

Perform dumbbell bicep curls.

60 lb dbs – 3 rep, no rest, immediately go to
50 lb dbs – 4 reps, no rest, immediately go to
45 lb dbs – 5 reps, no rest, immediately go to
40 lb dbs – 6 reps, no rest, immediately go to
35 lb dbs – 7 reps, no rest, immediately go to
30 lb dbs – 8 reps, no rest

You could also reverse the order and start light, with higher reps and as you increase the weight, you decrease the reps. Again, little or no rest between weight changes.

Sample Exercise 2: Lat Pull Downs

Perform lat pull downs with a cable stack.

The stack – 1 rep
The stack minus 10 lbs – 2 reps
The stack minus 20 lbs – 3 reps
The stack minus 30 lbs – 4 reps
The stack minus 40 lbs – 5 reps
The stack minus 50 lbs – 6 reps
The stack minus 60 lbs – 7 reps
The stack minus 70 lbs – 8 reps

This technique can also be done with the following exercises:

KB Swings
DB Clean & Press
or whatever you favorite exercise is…

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6 Responses to “Running the Rack or Hitting Ladders”

  1. Justin Says:

    Would you do this type of finisher on a heavy day or rep day?

  2. Bill Says:

    Hey Smitty – I just started incorporating this method with DB clean and presses (high to low reps) and am unable to move the next couple days. Do you use this method exclusively as a finisher?

  3. Jim Smith Says:

    Not always, just for a change of pace. If we have a lot of energy at the end of the work, we do it. If you have a group training, it is a cool way to get everyone involved and setup a challenge.

  4. Bill Says:

    Thanks Smitty – meant to say do you use this specific methodology exclusively as a finisher or do you sometimes incorporate it as a primary work set.

  5. zach even - esh Says:

    love it, old school arnold methods!

    my dumb ass did this stuff for ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING back when I was ateen, bodybuilding in the gyms! ha ha

  6. John Marcus Says:

    Hard to do in a fully packed gym. But other then that ! probably the best plateau breaker ever.

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