During high school sports, one of our least favorite drills were ladders, or suicides. Performed on a basketball court, we sprinted to touch the foul line and back to the baseline, then to the 3-point line and back, then half court, etc. until we hit every line on the court. Strength training was fun. Ladders sucked. These drills were frequently used as punishment for tardiness or general lack of effort in practice, but really provided great training stimulus. We all knew they were good for us, but we dreaded them.
Now, many years past high school, and even college sports, one of my favorite drills for the combat athlete is a variation of this old-school basketball drill. The Odd Object Ladder is a great metabolic drill designed to simulate the physical demands on a tactical operator. It requires quick, agile, multidirectional movement, under load, while challenging strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capacity. It is very simple to set up with only a park or parking lot and various heavy and/or awkward objects. We typically perform the event as a timed competition between operators.
Begin by placing 4-5 markers (cones, cinderblocks, etc.) in a line 10 meters apart. At one end, place a heavy object for every marker. We have used dumbbells, sandbags, heavy bags, boulders, bystanders, even old televisions and computer monitors. The participant grabs an item and runs it to the first marker and sprints back for another. One by one, the participant brings an object to each marker, and then starts over to retrieve the objects. The drill is timed. If competing against others, make sure the objects are delivered to markers in the same order.
We really love this drill because it not only mimics a potential military or law enforcement scenario, but it also is extremely adaptable to the capabilities of the trainees. Markers can be added, subtracted, moved further apart, and objects changed, delivery order changed (for example, heaviest object to furthest marker instead of closest), performed while wearing or not wearing body armor. All of these variations serve to adjust for different athlete’s abilities and to program progressive overload. A particularly tough variation of this can also be done on 3-5 flights of stairs, delivering objects to each floor.
This drill will have you sucking wind quickly. It is certainly not for the weak in spirit – and therefore, is perfect for the operator. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!