The smith machine ladder basically means using the smith machine for bodyweight exercises like press ups or lateral pull ups. It is a great way to do bodyweight exercises with changing levels of resistance. I use it on the end of a workout to fill the muscles with blood and to really get a strong burn.
The exercise basically entails using the smith machine on its varying heights to hit the muscle from different angles. This change in angle can affect the total weight you are lifting due to the vertical degree of motion.
To perform this exercise all you will need is a smith machine and a bench. You don’t even need any weights.
I will first explain how to perform this exercise using press ups.
First you will need to set the smith machine bar at its lowest point. Then place the bench at the correct distance so that you can get into press up position with your hands on the bar but with your feet on the bench and your legs straight. In this position your head should be lower than your waist. This is the point at which the load will be greatest and most of the force on your upper chest. From here you will perform a set number of reps (this will vary depending on your strength and how many sets you will be performing). I usually do sets of 10 reps. Once you have completed your reps, very quickly move the smith machine bar up to the next hooking point, put your feet back on the bench and repeat. Keep raising the bar until you get to the highest point or you hit total muscular failure. I guarantee if your smith machine has a lot of hooking points you will struggle to get to the top. As you get higher the load gets smaller so it is a sort of drop set each time. This allows you to perform more reps than you think you will be able to. If you do make it all the way to the top then start going back down again.
To do this for a different body part you could try working your back. The set up is the same but you will be the other way around. Set the bar near the bottom but leave enough room for you to hang under the bar with straight arms and not touch the floor. Put your feet on the bench with your toes pointing up and pull your body up until your chest touches the bar. Once you have done your reps you can move the bar up in the same fashion as with the press ups.
There are other exercises you can perform with this technique like close grip press ups, tricep extensions and under hand pull ups.
So give it a go, either as a warm up or a finishing exercise to get some blood into your muscles. Either way if you reach the top with 10 reps at each point, I give my respect to you.