Climbing the Jacobs Ladder to Sweat Success

Has anyone used a Jacobs Ladder Cardio Machine? In a more straightforward way than any description I can offer, the manufacturer’s website summarizes what this thing is: “Jacobs Ladder provides the most efficient exercise for those serious about conditioning. Unlike most cardio machines, this patented treadmill climber utilizes low impact, high range of motion exercise to provide a superior cardio workout to both the upper and lower body. Jacobs Ladder is an innovative cardio machine with ladder-type rungs on a non-motorized continuous treadmill. It’s self-paced, so the faster you go, the faster it goes” (jacobsladderexercise.com).

So, basically, you attach a belt around your waist–you should calibrate your height accurately, which you can do with a strap that attaches the belt to the Jacobs Ladder–and then…you just start climbing. You can see the strap and attachment in the bottom right of this low quality photo.

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As the website indicates, you’re essentially climbing up an endless, angled ladder (I’ve read that it’s angled at about 40 degrees). The faster you move, the faster the wooden rungs re-appear out of the top of the machine. And you just keep going until you are ready to stop. At that point, simply stop climbing and you’ll coast to the bottom.

In the variety of gyms I’ve visited, I’ve seen 2 of these machines. The first time was in a Planet Fitness in North Carolina, and the second time, I’m happy to report, is in the local gym that I just joined. Recently, I saw a post where someone mentioned doing like 21 minutes on the Jacobs Ladder. “So,” I thought, “I’ll do 22 minutes because…why not.” I was dripping with sweat by about 10 minutes in. Yet what I realized only after I had finished was how gassed I was. After cruising to the bottom and unhooking myself, I was not only sweating like a historian doing a math problem but also huffing and puffing. It reminded me, actually, of the pickup basketball scene in Along Came Polly (“Timeout, I’m burning, my lungs are burning,” whines the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s ridiculous character Sandy Lyle).

Overall, it was a really tough, tiring workout. But I really enjoyed it. It was easier on my joints, gave me respite from running, and offered a way to shake things up when I’m in the gym. Also, I didn’t need its calorie counter (seriously, how accurate are those things?) to know that I had gotten a great cardiovascular workout in. One thing that was bothersome was that I didn’t have a way to effectively mop the sweat as it poured from my face. Trying to do it with a towel didn’t seem safe, since you could risk losing the positioning of your feet and hands (I’ve used the Jacobs Ladder a few more times since my first jaunt, and wearing a sweatband on my wrist has helped me sop up at least some of the perspiration). In a related point, I had to stay very focused so I could keep my hands and feet coordinated and climbing along. Otherwise, I could have easily misstepped and, given my Seltzer Luck (see relevant post about this if you’re interested), injured something.

My conclusion is this: if I had the space, the house, and the money–clearly, I’m lacking the essentials–I’d seriously think about buying one of these as a piece of home gym equipment. A Jacobs Ladder isn’t cheap, by the way. Looking around, it seems like you could expect to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 for one. For now, and probably forever, I’ll just keep using the one at my local gym. I’d recommend giving the Jacobs Ladder a climb if you get the chance!

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