The key to green arrow abs

Anyone who has watched a few episodes of the CW's hit show Arrow walks away less impressed with star Stephen Amell's archery skills (it is a TV show, after all) as with his ability to navigate that salmon ladder during the character's “training” sessions. No amount of camera angle trickery could help them there: the actor really is in that good shape!

It was a smart choice for the show's producers to make. The salmon ladder targets, with precision and efficiency, the exact muscles an archer like Oliver Queen would want to keep most fit. That is, every single one in his core and arms, those most needed to keep proper posture while drawing and releasing a compound bow. It is also an excellent plyometric exercise. Plyometrics is sometimes referred to as “jump training,” the short-interval bursts of muscle activity favored in the exercise regimen of broad jumpers, high jumpers, sprinters, and fictional vigilante parkour practitioners.

For those unfamiliar with the Green Arrow's weekly attempts to bring rough justice to Star City, and so perhaps unacquainted with his signature piece of exercise equipment, a salmon ladder is basically a detachable chin-up bar. The bar drops freely into a succession of hooks or ledges, each spaced 8 to 12 inches apart up along parallel vertical tracks set about a doorway's width apart, like the sides of a broad ladder. After performing a pull-up at one height, the athlete must then use her momentum to disengage the bar from that rung and drop it into the next higher slot. The routine is continued until the top rung is reached.

Salmon ladder training is the kind of training for which you need training. Before even considering the exercise, you should be able to do at least 10 to 15 conventional pull-ups. Some trainers and gyms will also want to see how well you perform “clap pull-ups,” where you will clap your hands in between each chin-up, mimicking those periods on the salmon ladder between rungs. It's probably the best way to prepare for the plyometric component of the exercise.

Why go through the trouble? The salmon ladder exercise is among the most time efficient exercises you can train with for working all the muscles of your core and upper body.

Now, here's the secret to salmon ladder climbing success that the Green Arrow doesn't want you to know: build up momentum while you climb by bending and hinging at your waist, like a gymnast on a set of uneven bars. By wriggling your body like a salmon (get it?) to reach each successive rung, the exercise becomes less dependent upon upper-arm strength while still building strength.