Progression Takes More Than Adding Weight to the Bar - Page 2

Eric Weinbrenner

Coach

Strength and Conditioning

 

A 4-Week Plan for Progressive Overload

The program laid out below is based on the principles you learned above. There’s more than one way to apply progressive overload and create the stimulus for hypertrophy, and applying various methods of overload in your workouts creates the best opportunity for muscle growth.

 

 

Within each of the workouts below, you will find three distinct training blocks, distinguished by the focused type of progression. Focusing on each aspect of progressive overload will facilitate improved markers of fitness, including strength, hypertrophy, and conditioning. 

 

  • Training Block 1: Increased load (lift heavier weight or lift the same weight for more reps)
  • Training Block 2: Better work (create more tension in target muscles/master the movement)
  • Training Block 3: Improve density (Perform the same workload in less time, or perform more work in the same amount of time)

 

You may not improve in every area, each week. But you should be able to progress in some way each time you set foot in the gym (i.e. improvement in one of the three forms of progression). The result is a workout program that will not only help you get jacked, but will also improve overall strength and conditioning. 

 

standing press

Who doesn't want a program that can help you progress every time you set foot in the gym?

 

The Nuts and Bolts

The sample training program below can be followed for four weeks, as long as you keep progressing in some way during each workout. After 4-6 weeks, you could keep following this same workout structure, but introduce new exercises and/or mix up the reps performed. 

 

During this training plan, you will be training three times per week. Which days you choose to train is up to you, although it would be beneficial to separate each workout with at least one day of rest. 

 

The set notation is sets x reps @ rest, in seconds. So when you see this:

  • Incline Bench Press 3 x 6-8 @ 120

 

It means this:

  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps with 120 seconds of rest in between sets.

 

When you see an a., b., etc., do these as supersets. Unlike many supersets you may have done in the past, you still take the programmed rest period between opposing movements.

 

 

Workout A

1. Incline Bench Press 3 x 6-8 @ 120

 

Progression: More weight/reps. From week-to-week, aim to lift heavier weight for 6-8 reps or perform more reps than the previous week with the same weight. So if you lift 185lb for 6 reps this week, next week you will aim to lift that same weight for 7-8 reps OR lift 190lb for 6 reps. 

 

2. Pull Ups 4 x 8-12 @ 120

3a. Flat Dumbbell (DB) Press 4 x 8-12 @ 60

3b. DB Shrug w/ 2 second ISO hold at top 4 x 8-12 @ 60

4a. DB Curl 4 x 15 @ 60

4b. Triceps Push Down 4 x 15 @ 60

 

Progression: Better work. From week to week, aim to improve the tension in the target muscle and maintain muscular tension throughout the entire range of motion. Increases in weight aren’t forced but done naturally as you are able to complete more reps than the given rep range. 

 

5. Barbell Complex (bent rows, hang cleans, push press, front squat): Perform 8 reps of each exercise, resting as needed. Complete as many rounds as possible in 6 minutes.

 

Progression: Improved density. From week to week, aim to complete more rounds within the 5-minute time frame. 

 

Workout B

1. Deadlift (trap bar or straight bar) 2 x 6-8 @ 120

 

Progression: More weight/reps. From week-to-week, aim to lift heavier weight for 6-8 reps or perform more reps than the previous week with the same weight. So if you lift 185lb for 6 reps this week, next week you will aim to lift that same weight for 7-8 reps OR lift 190lb for 6 reps. 

 

2. Reverse Lunge 4 x 10-12 @ 60

3. Dumbbell/Kettlebell Goblet Squat 4 x 10-12 @ 60

3a. Hip Thrust 4 x 15 @ 60

3b. Plank 4 x 30-60 seconds @ 60

 

Progression: Better work. From week to week, aim to improve the tension in the target muscle and maintain muscular tension throughout the entire range of motion. Increases in weight aren’t forced but done naturally as you are able to complete more reps than the given rep range. 

 

4. Timed one-mile run. You can do this on a treadmill, outside, etc. Complete the distance in the least amount of time possible. 

 

Progression: Improved density. From week to week, improve your time. 

 

Workout C

1. DB 1-arm Clean & Press 3 x 6-8 @ 120

 

Progression: More weight/reps. From week to week, aim to lift heavier weight for 6-8 reps or perform more reps than the previous week with the same weight. So if you lift 185lb for 6 reps this week, next week you will aim to lift that same weight for 7-8 reps OR lift 190lb for 6 reps. 

 

2. Seated Cable Row 4 x 8-12 @ 120

3. DB Lateral Raise 4 x 8-12 @ 90

4a. DB Hammer Curl 4 x 10 @ 60

4b. Lying DB Triceps Extensions 4 x 10 @ 60

 

Progression: Better work. From week to week, aim to improve the tension in the target muscle and maintain muscular tension throughout the entire range of motion. Increases in weight aren’t forced but done naturally as you are able to complete more reps than the given rep range. 

 

5. 100 push ups as fast as possible. Record the time it took you to complete the 100 push ups. 

 

Progression: Improved density. From week to week, aim to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the 100 push ups. 

 

running happy

Running? In a hypertrophy program? You betcha.

 

Work Better and Improve Density to Beat Plateaus

Adding weight to the bar is great, as long as you’re doing so in the context of proper technique and prioritizing muscular tension. Run that for as long as you can. But when it stops happening on a regular basis, find another way to progress and increase the training stimulus by doing better work or trying to improve training density. 

 

The best part of all this? If you’ve been grinding away and trying to add weight to your lifts for a while, switching things up and focusing on muscular tension and improving density often leads to a more interesting training experience and a surge in results. Who doesn’t want to try something that provides that?

 

More Ways to Shatter Your Strength Plateaus

 

Photos courtesy of CrossFit Empirical.

 

References

1. Schoenfeld, Brad J. “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24 (2010): 2857-872.

2. Baechle, Thomas R. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 3rd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2008.

 

Topic: 
See more about: , ,

Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Get updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.