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All about the Jacobs Ladder

all-about-the-jacobs-ladderOverwhelmed by all the gym options? You’re not alone. Our new series will help you understand what all those random things are — and how to use them.

A few years ago, my husband Stephen and I were all signed up to run the Philadelphia Marathon. I planned to hit a 3:45, smashing my previous PR by over 20 minutes, but my IT-band had another agenda entirely. After a failed season of training, I resigned myself to my DNS (did not start) status. Still, one cold November morning, we headed down to the city of brotherly love for the expo. I picked up my packet, gave away the race shirt I wouldn’t earn, and wore my biggest and brightest spectator smile.

Since I was still able to exercise, just not run, I decided to get out some of my skipped-race jitters with a big-city workout at a gym near our hotel. This small town girl hadn’t even seen some of these exercise machines before — and the strangest of them all was the Jacobs Ladder!

The Jacobs Ladder was developed rather recently by Steve Nichols, a former Western New York fitness champion. It’s a total body experience, requiring exercisers to essentially climb a ladder that’s never-ending. It’s sort of like a treadmill, just at a 40 degree angle. It’s tough, but also low-impact, so it’s suitable for walkers, joggers, and runners alike.

According to the product’s website, it’s a tool used by “pro football teams, the FBI, the Army, the Navy, West Point and numerous Division I universities to improve their strength and conditioning programs.

Though it may look immensely intimidating, you can take comfort knowing you control the speed of the machine. Simply walk up and wrap the belt around your waist (for safety, though falling off isn’t an issue due to the angle). Start climbing slowly to warm up. Then, for more difficulty, the higher you climb, the faster the belt moves and, therefore, increases difficulty. To rest or stop, just stop moving and the belt returns you to the ground. (Source)

Since this machine uses muscles in your whole body, it is also a calorie-torcher. So, workouts need not be lengthy to reap benefits. Think 10 minutes to start. If that sounds crazy short to you, just understand I was in marathon shape — lots of 20-milers under my belt — and 10 minutes was plenty!

This tool is gaining popularity and was even featured on The Biggest Loser. Still, I have yet to see one in any of the gyms in my home area. That being said, clubs in larger areas do seem to be getting on board with this intense machine. And on a physical note, for those lacking in flexibility, it’s important to understand that while the Jacobs Ladder is low-impact, it also requires a high range of motion. So, beware any new moves that stretch you beyond your usual comfort zone.


 Written by  Ashley Marcin / Photo via Jacobs Ladder