Tag Archives: progression

The whole plate diet to break your limits.

An interesting notion for those willing to read just a little further.

This is not in reference to food though.

It’s all about training and progression.

Here is my recommendation.

You have two choices of plate, 20kg if you fancy a nice big meal or 10kg if a mere snack is all you can handle.

I know what you might be thinking in regards to progression on certain exercises and barbell movements.

A 10-20kg jump would be almost impossible on some movements.

I’m going to tell you that you’re correct.

So, keeping this in mind, what do you think you could do about it?

One answer, vary the movements and also the range you’re lifting in the movement to allow progress.

Here is an example:

Squat – Back squat starts to stall out, drop the load and switch to front squat, progress that for a spell, then when you go back to back squats you’ll find yourself able to handle loads you couldn’t before.

Think about it, if you can hit a 140kg FS for 1, you can almost certainly do that far more easily on a back squat.

Perhaps your press has petered out, no worries.

You simply drop the load and instead of standing you sit your bum on the floor, or better yet adopt a sots press position and level that up for a cycle.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

By limiting the size of weight you can add it will force you to adapt and more importantly, THINK.

A lack of progress doesn’t mean you’ve stopped progressing and hit your limit.

Like Son Goku, you need to overcome what is in front of you, and while he might have been able to scream louder and louder to break through his plateaus, you’ll simply have to replace screaming with different movement patterns.


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A little random post for a Sunday

Slow progress is always better than no progress.

Wouldn’t you agree?

I stumbled across my fractional plates this morning, 8×0.25kg.

These little beauties have been able to provide quite the decent overload over the years I’ve had them, even though there feels like little to no difference at the time, in the end it all adds up.

It also allows a longer loading phase, unlike the classic 3-1.

You’ve got various options for adding precious lbs to the bar, yet going up in fractional amounts is one of the best.

It is true that these days as I’ve gone back to chucking more kettlebells roundly weight jumps are between 4-8kg and the load has to be earned before even a couple of reps can be achieved on the larger bell.

A novel way of progressing as it plays on a direct increase in the volume of reps achieved, as opposed the the fractional way where the reps can be static as the load slowly creeps up.

Over they years we will end up falling back to the age old ‘two steps forwards, one step back’ once we stall, in technical terms this is called a delaod period.

There are many options for this, the one that has proven the test of time is the three week wave, then having either week 4 being the start of a new wave at a reduced load/volume or a straight deload of minimal work before starting the second wave.

It will come down to various factors which will work best.

Goal, training age, strength levels, life stressors, etc.

Since working with various people over the years it is apparent that not many give much thought to periodisation, even at a basic level and this is a great shame because it’s something that genuinely works.

Here is a numerical example of the above and the difference between them:

Classic (one of my old ones, 2 sessions per week per lift):

Week 1 – 6×6
Week 2 – 6×5
Week 3 – 6×4
Mini deload 2-3×6 old load of 6×6
Week 1 – 6×6 +2.5-5kg from previous start
Week 2 – 6×5 +2.5-5kg
Week 3 – 6×4 +2.5-5kg

This happens for three micro blocks typically before the classic deload comes around.

Fractional (one I did for press, 2-3 sessions per week):

Week 1 – 8x2x60kg
Week 2 – 8×2 +0.5kg
Week 3 +1kg
Week 4 +1.5kg
Week 5 +2kg

Many weeks later….

Week 21 +10kg (often a rather large and effortless PB)

Two very different approaches, I have to admit the classic ‘build for three, take it down, build for three more, take it down, repeat” can get you to a peak slightly quicker, however it’s harder to sustain and will need a good amount of intensity regulation.

The second is more along the lines of strength skill, and while it may seem boring, you actually find you keep a lot more from it, or at least that is what I’ve found.

Nothing magical happens, it’s just a case that you get more lifting practice in which is more optimal for rate code firing and other such neurological things.

How do you plan your progress?

Is it sticking with one weight and earning the right to add more, perhaps the classic 3-1 load/un-load or maybe you too have been using fractional plates.

Share your pearls of wisdom below.

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Badge of Honour

Do you collect fitness badges of honour?

Many people do, they come in the form of being the one to work the hardest in class, staying in the gym the longest, running further than the person next to you on the treadmill and many other arbitrary things that do nothing to help you progress.

Picture this, you may have done it.

You go in to the gym, walk to a treadmill, across the gym you see someone else stepping on one directly opposite at the same time and in that moment your mind is made up, challenge accepted.

Both of you proceed to start running.

You look at their cadence trying to gauge if they’re going faster than you, if they are you will set yours just above theirs and come hell or high water you will not be getting of the treadmill first, even if it kills you.

The focus has taken over, you’re in the zone.

Perhaps you beat them easily and thus feel quite accomplished with yourself, maybe they crank up the speed and leave you in the dust, or by some miracle you both stop at the same time, who knows what will happen, so long as you can claim your badge, it doesn’t matter.

We touched on the mentality of ‘more is not better, it’s just more’ yesterday, it is something I truly wish for you to let go of because for the majority (which is where you fall if you’re reading this), it’s not worth it.

Each one of us wants to make god progress, more so we want to feel accomplished in something, to collect a trophy, even if only in our own mind.

Being the complex creatures we are it is common for us to seek a reward as recompense for all that we suffer.

We may even share the treadmill story with some friends or family members in the hope of awe and adulation from them, which we may get at the start, however it’s of a false variety because they don’t really care, after all, would you if the roles were reversed?

There is too much put on other people to fulfil our emotional needs, yes that is what badges of honour are when you delve in to them.

Why do I say this?

Simple, you will have someone you want to tell about your achievement, you want their praise, their approval, their emotional scraps and gentle nod that you’re worthy.

I get it, we all want that, however before obtaining that from other people can mean anything of substance we must first be able to self praise, to recognise that more often than not the only person who really cares is us.

Well, maybe your mum too, she’d always be proud, as such I suggest you go buy her flowers right this instant.

So back to the badges of honour, why do you collect them?

Is it for yourself or for someone else, sit and think about your answer because reflection is a key element in growth.

Now relate the badges (old, current and yet to collect) and how they will help you work towards your goal, do you have faith in achieving your goal and enough drive and self efficacy to get it or are you waiting for permission?

I know you will achieve your goal when you really want it, you’ve got everything it takes to do so, multiple badges or not, you will do it eventually.

Give the above some thought, go, reflect and have a productive day.


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Boring but Brilliant

Want to gain some strength & size?
Need a protocol to follow?
This simple little suggestion will help you.
– Hit a movement every 3-5 days
– Work up to a heavy-ish 3, 5 or 7TRM (no poor form)
– 3 movements per session (Main, Accessory, Isolation)
– After you’ve hit a top set back off to 70% of that.
– With the 70% do 50 reps in as few sets as possible
– Track your numbers in a training diary
– Repeat for at least 6 months and enjoy the gains.
Here is how you might set up the days like.
Day 1 – Hinging/Pulling Patterns
Day 2 – Pressings Patterns
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Squatting Patterns
Day 5 – Off
Repeat the above 5 days cycle.
Now for the TRM’s based on the above days.
Day 1 – Hinging/Pulling Patterns 5TRM
Day 2 – Pressings Patterns 3TRM
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Squatting Patterns 7TRM
Day 5 – Off
Day 1 – Hinging/Pulling Patterns 3TRM
Day 2 – Pressings Patterns 7TRM
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Squatting Patterns 5TRM
Day 5 – Off
Day 1 – Hinging/Pulling Patterns 7TRM
Day 2 – Pressings Patterns 5TRM
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Squatting Patterns 3TRM
Day 5 – Off
Repeat the above 15 day intensity waving cycle and aim for either a slightly higher TRM or hit the same TRM weight you did before and try to hit the 70% back off of 50reps in less sets.
You may have a session that looks like similar to this one.
A1 – Deadlift (main)
B1 – Pull Up (accessory)
C1 – Barbell Curl (isolation)
Personally I’d recommend keeping the main movements until you find progress stalling, the accessory.isolation lift would do well to stay for 3-6 sessions then change them up a tad.
None of the above is rocket science, however it is effective if you give it enough time and have faith in the process.
One key element is to record what you’re doing as that will allow you to see progression.

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Progression Tips for Beginners

Do you have any idea how to progress your training across the variables?

– Volume
– Intensity
– Density
– Frequency

It’s quite easy really, as such here is an example for each that can be used for several weeks or months if you have the courage to stay the course.

Volume –

Ladders, one of my favourites.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 or 2,3,5,10, or 1,2,3,4,5

There are a lot of choices, for adding extra volume in the form of reps, the most effective being 1-10, and you will only add weight once you can go 1-10 unbroken.

Example (works best as a super set):

A1 – Pull Up
A2 – Close Grip Bench Press

Intensity –

Let us say that you’re a creature of habit who likes doing the same sets and reps, this is cool however progressing can be a tad tricky, therefor this is the solution:

Fractional Plates.

Small 0.25kg (or lighter) plates, all you need do is hit your desired reps then add another 0.25kg and aim to do the same next time.

Personally I’ve found that doing 3-5×3-5 works well as it gives you some room to adapt to the gradual increases. Once you hit 5×5 with good form, adding another fraction plate is easy, it might may you only be able to do 3×3, that’s okay keep grinding until it’s 5×5 and progress from there.

Density –

Perhaps you’re already one strong hombre and adding weight or reps is becoming tricky, fear not, you have two options to progress.

1 – Set a time limit to hit your rep goal.

Example; 50 reps in 15min with 140kg in the squat.

Once you hit it you add weight.

2 – Reduce your rest periods.

Say you’ve started with 5min rest, knock off 15 seconds at the next session, if you hit all your reps then knock off another 15 next time, repeat this until you are perhaps at 3min rest, or lower, that is up to you.

Once you hit your desired point of ‘low rest’ add weight and take the rest back up to 5min per set and so on.

Frequency –

The easiest to manipulate, al you do is add an extra bout of reps or an extra session.

Say you train your squat once per week, bump it up to twice, if you already do two squat sessions do three, you can spread the reps out and build them up from there, example:

1 squat session a week = 5×10
2 squat session = 3×10 per session (10 more total reps)

Make sense?

Adding weight or reps can be applied from the other example above.

The little tips of today are very basic, there is a lot more that can go in to this, however these will be enough to tweak your current training and perhaps get you over the plateau.


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Why Goldilocks had it right.

I’m sure you’ve all heard or read the story of Goldilocks & the three bears.
She essentially goes after what is ‘just right’ in ever situation which is actually very inspired and quite clever.
Now it may seem like common sense to want to have what is just right, yet getting there is the issue.
Goldilocks didn’t know exactly how, yet she did in the end.
So, how did she do it?
It wasn’t by stumbling across it by accident.
That’s how a lot of people this they will find their own ‘just right’.
Oh no, first of all she went too far to one extreme, then way over to the other side in to another extreme, then when she found the middle point it became apparent that this was optimal.
Yep, the hidden moral of the story is that you sometimes need to explore the extremes to find the place in-between that is called optimal.
This is true for pretty much most things, so much so I will say it again.
Explore YOUR extremes then you will be able to know where to find optimal.
Take training volume for example; too much will cause you to you burn out or get injured, too little means no progress of even regression. Knowing both can help you find the point where it all comes together nicely and allows you to know how to program for your physiology.
Remarkably simple, yet often ignored.

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The 3 Plate Sandwich

Do you ever do plate sandwich walks?
If not you should, they’re great for strengthening your upper body.
Morning all,
I also call these ‘plate compression walks’ however the one above sounds more fun.
They’re quite simple, yet very effective.
Take three plates, say 2x10kg & 1x5kg.
The 10’s are on the outside and the 5 is in the middle.
Keeping your hands flat (think palm pressure🙏), press the plates together hard, if you see your elbows slightly tucked you will feel this a lot in your pecs/lats.
From here go for a walk and only stop when you can’t hold the isometric contraction and longer.
Repeat for 10min, or longer if you choose.
You can of course to this with only 1 or 2 plates, I’ve just found three makes like rather interesting.
This also works great with kettlebells 🤗
Add this to your workouts and you’ll find upper body strength & progress you didn’t know you had in you.

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A question for you

Have you made progress?
Like any at all?
Have you
– Gotten stronger
– Improved VO2 Max
– Gotten leaner
– Added LBM
– Ranked higher in your sport
I would trust that you have rather than simply spinning your wheels.
What was it Warren Buffett said –
“It’s nice having a lot $$$ but don’t keep it around forever. Otherwise it’s like saving sex for old age.
I feel a lot of people do this in their lives.
They aim to accumulate points over time and then expect something marvellous to happen.
Many put off the gym and pledge to do more later on, it never happens. They never make the change they need.
They remain the same.
Are you one of these people?
Give it some thought.
If you haven’t made progress in a while it might be time to make a change.

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Why 5×5 has stood the test of time

Chances are you’ve heard of the classic 5×5 workout protocol.
Many of the greats have done it starting off with Reg Park, ranging all the way to Arnold in his early days and is still used by many lifters of today.
Now something to consider is that there is no one way to perform 5×5.
Having the freedom to change the overall loading protocol not only helps with progression it also allows people to stave off the inevitable boredom that they may end up encountering.
Here’s some examples:
5×5 – 4 warm ups, 1 working set
5×5 – 3 warm ups, 2 working sets
5×5 – 2 warm ups, 3 working sets
5×5 – all working sets as warm up work done separately
5×5 – Heavy – Light – Medium
5×5 – Wave loading
5×5 – CAT
5×5 – Max Effort – 3-5% fatigue drop each set
5×5 – RPE loading set to set – EG 8-9rpe
5×5 – EMOM
Essentially you can make any adjustments you feel necessary to allow you to progress.
A personal favourite of mine if the H-M-L loading, as you may have guessed from my previous writings.
Using this protocol I’d suggest picking one lift that is lagging behind and proceed to train it 3xpw using the protocol like this:
H: 4 warm up sets to 1 all out set of 5
M: 5 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
L: 2-3 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
M: 5 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
H: 4 warm up sets to 1 all out set of 5
Repeat the above
You’ll notice that this give you plenty of sessions between heavy days, 3 to be exact.
This will allow your body to recovery and adapt to the 80% of your old 5, when the time comes around for the next all out heavy day your aim it to perhaps add a little bit of weight or maybe even complete the same heavy 5 you did before but with better form/speed etc.
If you hit a weight repeat then you’d take 85% of that weight for the upcoming sessions before attempting the heavy 5 again.
Let’s say you again stick on that same 5 rep weight and the form is again more solid. The loading would be 90% for the upcoming sessions.
When this happens to be the case, after the next M day when you you 5x5x90% of your current 5RM, you’d hope to now see a new total weight on the bar.
Once you do you go back to the 80% of that top weight and repeat as necessary. If you hit a new weight each time you do the H day then stick at 80% of that for loading, only increase that % if you find you can’t add a tad more weight to the all out set of 5 on your H day.
5×5 is safe, it’s effective and it leave little to the imagination.
You’ll make stay progress on it for quite some time, especially if you play with the variations of it.
Take some time and plan out you training.
Remember this protocol is mostly for strength with hypertrophy as a happy side effect.
When it comes to the other lifts/body parts you’re not doing 5×5 on, 2-4×8-12 will be good as accessory work, well any rep range will do, just go for a total of around 5 reps on 1-3 extra movements.
Give it some thought.

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5-3-2 or 3-2-1 or maybe 1-1-1

What do they mean would be the best question to ask first of all.

These numbers are in reference to the frequency of training a muscle group, or if you are less about the aesthetic and more about performance it will be in reference to movement patterns.

So 3-2-1 is ideal for beginners and people who are short on time yet still want to make a decent amount of progress in terms of strength, hypertrophy, performance and fat loss.

For example:

Squat 3 days per week
Press 2 days per week
Deadlift 1 day per week

I’d also add in pulling (elbow flexion) and hip extension movements (rows, pull ups, face pulls, reverse fly, swings, rope pull throughs etc) to the three day group as these patterns are often left out.

Press vertically and horizontally both days, this would also encompass all elbow extension exercises – skull crushers etc.

The reason many will do well deadlifting once per week as they can often lift more weight in this lift and as such will cause more metabolic disturbance.

Taking in to consideration what is above you can guess where 5-3-2 is going.

Yep, more frequency for people with more experience who fall in the intermediate level and need more exposure to the movements.

Depending on goal you may find you squat 3 or 5 times per week, the sam gif true for pressing/pulling it might be 3 or 5 days, you can adjust this as you need to.


Press/Pull 5 days per week
Squat 3 days per week
Deadlift 2 days per week

Over the years it has been shown that more often than not the more frequently you train something (the more exposure it has to training stimuli) the stronger it is and the more developed the muscle/area/movement looks.

Now these guidelines aren’t gospel, they’re just a guide to give people some direction.

What is 1-1-1 then?

Yep, you’ve probably worked it out.

You may even find that you’re one of the luck ones who can train things once per week and make progress, if that is the case then stick with what works because there is no sense in fixing what isn’t broken. If this is you, just make sure each session you give it your all for maximal progress, due to the low frequency you will need to hammer the muscle to hit your required volume/intensity/work capacity needs.

In terms of my own training I will tell you that higher frequency has very much helped me gain high levels of strength relative to my size (what is needed for the combative sports is partake in), however when I dropped my frequency – it was still a minimum of twice per week per muscle group – I made more hypertrophic progress, this was due to not only a different style of training but also eating in a caloric surplus*.

*You need to be in a calorie surplus to gain weight, you’ll struggle if you’re not in one, regardless of set or rep range. If you want to shift fat you can train int he same way you will just need a caloric deficit, fact.

Take a look at your training and compete the frequency of your lifts to what body parts you have developed the most, you’ll probably find the ones you train the most are the best, or as some might say “Those are you naturally strong areas” – well duh, you train them more, they’re going to be stronger than the ones you avoid.

Training is all about learning, applying and adapting until you find what work best for YOU.

Let’s get started.


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