Recently I have been asked what progression methods are suitable for differing levels of fitness. While there are lots of varied ways to progress the foundations come from either a Single, Double or Triple Progression Method.
If you’re unsure of what each of those is fear not, I will cover them all today and give you some useful examples that can be applied to your current workout routines.
Single Progression –
The most common form of progression used by beginners and even some intermediates/advanced lifters, typically revolves around you picking a set reps scheme such as 3×8, 5×5, 4×12 etc and adding weight every session. As you get stronger the weight may decrease from 5kg each to 2.5kg or less but you will be simply adding weight each session.
This style of progression might last for 3 to 7 (or longer) weeks followed by 1 de-load week. Once the de-load week is upon you all you need do is simply drop the weight back to its original starting point, this is because the overall volume will be less than what you’ve built up to. After the week of lowered volume (this allows for some nice recovery) you will start back again at a higher weight than the one you did last time, thus allowing more progression.
It might look like this:
Week 1: 3x8x100kg
Week 2: 3x8x105kg
Week 3: 3x8x110kg
Week 4: Deload 3x8x100kg
Week 5: 3x8x102.5kg
Week 6: 3x8x107.5kg
And so on.
Out of all the progression methods this is the simplest, however you can only add weight to the bar for so long before you eventually stall. You can run this for perhaps 6-12 months, maybe 18 if you’re lucky and then, once you’ve squeezed every ounce of weight out of the various different rep ranges and stalled on all of them then you will be ready to ascend to double progression.
Double Progression –
As you might guess there is an added element to this style of progression. In the first instance you kept the reps the same and focused on adding weight, now you will keep the weight the same and focus on adding reps before adding weight.
If we took our 3×8 once again and found we had stalled at 140kg, the next logical step in progression is to focus on building the reps to a higher number (lets say to 12) before even thinking about adding any extra weight. Essentially you will plan a program that will have you doing 3×8-12 meaning that you must hit 3×12 before adding weight.
It may look like this:
Week 1: 3×8-12x140kg – 10,9,8
Week 2: 3×8-12x140kg – 11,10,10
Week 3: 3×8-12x140kg – 12,12,10
Week 4: 3×8-12x140kg – 12,12,12
Week 5: 3×8-12x145kg – 8,8,8
And so on.
You can use a de-load method in this as you did with the single progression but you will find it will take longer to reach the point where you need one because you will be constantly changing the reps you’re doing and the volume will take a natural de-load/decease.
Using our example lets do some simple maths. We calculate volume with the equation Weight x Sets x Reps.
Week 4 – 140x12x3 or 140×36 = 5040kg
Week 5 – 145x8x8 or 145×24 = 3480kg
Hopefully that clears things up. This is a more intermediate style of progression and for some is all they will ever really need, however for those who truly break through their barriers and hit plateaus beyond us mere mortals, an even more advanced protocol will be needed that throws in one more element to make it a triple threat.
Triple Progression –
So single progression keeps the sets & reps the same while adding weight. Double progression keeps the sets the same and builds the reps before adding weight.
Can you guess where triple progression is going now?
Yep, you now add more sets in to the mix as well. If we take the 3×8 that had evolved in to the 3×8-12, it now takes on another evolution to become a top tier training method and it looks like this – 3-5×8-12.
How does it work?
It’s quite simple really. You will initially start by trying to build 3×12 and once you hit this you add a set and start back at 4×8-12 and when those become 4×12 you can work your way up to the golden fleece that is 5×12 and the finally add some weigh tot the bar.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds, take a gander at the example below:
Week 1: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,10,9
Week 2: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,11,10
Week 3: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12
Week 4: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,11,8
Week 5: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12,10
Week 6: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12,11
Week 7: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12,12
Week 8: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12,10,8
Week 9: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12,12,10
Week 10: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12,12,11
Week 11: 3-5×8-12x160kg – 12,12,12,12,12 – Hazar!!! Success!
Week 12: 3-5×8-12x165kg – 12,10,9
And so on.
As with the double progression there will be a natural de-load of volume, however a week off might not be a bad idea because of the amount of fatigue you will have amassed during this cycle. If you feel strong the please keep going, but be sure to listen to your body on this one.
Written above are the foundations of how many a great program are created. There are obviously other elements you can play with such as Rest, Tempo along with a great many other fancy protocols for Potentiation and Activation to allow you to lift more by stimulating the nervous system but those are some seriously advanced protocols and will honestly serve no other purpose than to confuse you.
Stick with the basics as long as you can milk them for all they’re worth.
Now go, progress and my the gains be with you.