Total-Body Workouts for Women

Hardcore HIIT Ladder Workout

Try this unique ladder-training workout to get leaner and stronger.

Feeling as if you’ve been indulging a bit much? Not feeling too lean? If the button on your jeans is stamping a permanent symbol into your belly, it’s time to start climbing the ladder.

Ladder training is a form of high-intensity interval training and typically involves nonstop ascending and/or descending rep schemes using one or more exercises. “Ladders are fun and effective,” says Los Angeles–based celebrity fitness and wellness coach Leslie Maltz, NASM. “When you put together two exercises that complement each other, you work hard without overtraining one particular muscle group.”

This routine designed by Maltz consists of three different couplets with one move going down the ladder (10 reps to one) and the other going up the ladder (one rep to 10). If you’re doing the math, this comes out to 10 sets of each couplet, and a total of 55 reps per move. So pace yourself while still keeping rest time to a minimum because ladders are intended to be cardiovascular. Also, Maltz suggests a time cap of 30 to 35 minutes, including warm-up and cool-down. “Anything longer is overkill and could result in overtraining,” she says.

The Protocol

New athletes: Do couplet No. 1.

Intermediate athletes: Do couplets No. 1 and No. 2. Rest one to two minutes between couplets.

Advanced athletes: Do all three couplets. Rest one to two minutes between couplets.

Couplet No. 1

  • 10 Push-ups
  • 1 Box jump (box should be 12 or 18 inches high)
  • 9 Push-ups
  • 2 Box jumps etc. … down to
  • 1 Push-up
  • 10 Box jumps
Push-up workout part of total body HIIT ladder workout


Setup: Get into a push-up position with your hands wider than your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line. Your head should be neutral and your abs tight.

Move: Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor as low as you can. Extend your arms to return to the start.

Tip: Do standard push-ups until you’re no longer able, then switch to push-ups on your knees to finish out.

Box jump workout part of total body HIIT ladder workout

Box Jump

Setup: Stand in front of a box with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides.

Move: Kick back your hips and bend your knees, reaching your arms back and loading up like a spring. Then quickly extend your knees and hips and reach forward with your arms, jumping onto the box and landing softly. Stand up fully on the box before stepping or jumping back off.

Tip: If you’re uncomfortable jumping on a box, do jump squats instead.

Couplet No. 2

  • 10 Burpees
  • 1 Atomic sit-up
  • 9 Burpees
  • 2 Atomic sit-ups etc. … down to
  • 1 Burpee
  • 10 Atomic sit-ups
Burpee workout part of total body HIIT ladder workout


Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides.

Move: Crouch and place your hands on the floor in front of you, then jump your legs behind you into plank. Do a push-up, jump your feet back underneath you and stand up, exploding off the ground into the air and reaching your arms overhead.

Tip: Make the exercise less demanding as you fatigue by skipping the push-up and/or the vertical jump.

Atomic sit up part of total body HIIT ladder workout

Atomic Sit-Up

Setup: Hold a kettlebell at your chest with both hands, elbows down, focus forward, feet hip-width apart.

Move: Kick your hips back and bend your knees to come into a deep squat, then sit and roll onto your back, lifting your hips and lower back off the floor and reaching your toes behind you and the kettlebell just over your head. Pull the kettlebell forward and use that momentum and the weight of your legs to roll back up and onto your feet in a low squat, then stand up and press the kettlebell overhead.

Couplet No. 3

  • 10 Barbell deadlifts
  • 1 Pull-up
  • 9 Barbell deadlifts
  • 2 Pull-ups etc. … down to
  • 1 Barbell deadlift
  • 10 Pull-ups
Barbell deadlift part of total body HIIT ladder workout

Barbell Deadlift

Setup: Load a barbell on the floor and stand with your toes underneath it, feet hip-width apart and turned out slightly. Squat down and take an overhand grip on the barbell just outside your legs. Your back should be flat with your hips lifted, your head neutral and your shoulders over the barbell with your weight in your heels.

Move: Extend your legs and hips and pull the barbell up in a straight line from the ground, pressing your knees back as you come to a full standing position. Reverse these steps to return to the start.

Tip: Err on the lighter side with deadlifts because you’ll be getting fatigued at this point, or sub out the barbell for dumbbells, if needed.

Pull-up workout part of total body HIIT ladder workout


Setup: Take a wide overhand grip on the pull-up bar and hang, crossing your feet behind you. Look up toward the bar.

Move: Retract your shoulder blades, then drive your elbows down and back to pull your chest up toward the bar. When you’ve come as high as you can, pause a moment before lowering slowly to the start.

Tip: Use a pull-up band if you are not yet proficient at pull-ups to offset some of your bodyweight and make the move more manageable. You also can perform bodyweight-inverted rows using a TRX, Smith machine or rings.