Weight training is a fundamental part of exercise. Progressing it seems straightforward enough, just add more weight over time right? However, for some, it can be challenging. Thankfully, below you’ll find four different ways you can progress weight training.
Before talking about how to progress weight training it’s worth covering the four parts to writing an exercise. These include exercise selection, repetitions, sets, and tempo.
Exercise selection – This is the exercise that will be done.
Repetitions – This is the number of times the exercise will be done in a row.
Sets – This is the number of times the repetitions will be repeated.
Tempo – This is the speed at which the exercise is completed. Tempo is written in numbers and consists of four phases–eccentric, isometric, concentric, isometric. An “X” means as fast as possible. Learn more about tempo in this blog.
Sample Exercise for Reference:
Bench Press 5 reps x 5 sets @ 40X0 [225 pounds]
Bench Press 5 reps x 6 sets @ 40X0 [225 pounds]
The first way you can progress weight training is by changing the sets. By either adding or removing a set you can decrease or increase the volume of the exercise. For instance, if we add a 6th set to our sample bench press we are increasing the volume of repetitions from 25 to 30.
Bench Press 4 reps x 5 sets @ 40X0 [255 pounds]
Progression number two involves changing the number of repetitions done. This is different than changing sets because the amount of rest between reps stays the same but the intensity is either decreasing or increasing. Going back to our sample exercise we will change the repetitions by reducing them to 4 per set. Since this is lowering the intensity we can increase the weight to 255 pounds. Learn other ways to manipulate volume and intensity here.
Bench Press 5 reps x 5 sets @ 40X0 [230 pounds]
In this progression, we are keeping the reps, sets, and tempo, the same, but we are increasing the load to 230 pounds. This is a great way to progress a newer client, but it will not work for every client and may only work for a few weeks or months before the client reaches a plateau. More advanced clients will not be able to progress as linearly and will be better off with one of the other progressions.
Bench Press 5 reps x 5 sets @ 30X0 [235 pounds]
The fourth progression is changing tempo. This is how we control how long the client is lifting the weight. When you reduce the time under tension (the time the client is lifting the weight) you can add more weight and vice versa. For example, when we reduce the tempo from a 4 second eccentric to 3 seconds we are reducing the time under tension and this allows us to add weight.
How long you should stick with one progression depends on the client. If the client stops progressing and their performance plateaus it is probably time to change the progression.
This article covered four different ways to progress your client. But the best progression for your client depends on what they respond best to, their limitations, and their capabilities. To truly create the most effective exercise program you must first assess your client’s abilities. Learn how to conduct client assessments, spot limitations, and notice capabilities in our free course, The Coach’s Toolkit. Sign up today and get the knowledge you need to get your clients sustainable results.