Monday, May 28, 2018

The Single and Double Progression Method


The Author, Triumphant! 


Note: Most readers of this blog will have already spent some time and energy looking at, thinking about, and applying the points to follow. However, I find that looking back every so often from what was once the future with a later, more experienced view can bring up things I hadn't noticed before, or was unable to interpret and decipher in quite this same "new" way. Much like an exercise can, in effect, change in its uses as we grow more experienced (hell, sometimes an exercise can become a whole other animal in the short space of a decade!), so too can an article on training. If you don't find this to be true it's a good indicator of not changing, not learning, and not progressing. I mean, remember the way you used to look at shitting yourself before you were potty trained? Probably not, and thank Christ we can't remember what we thought back then or how we perceived the world at that point in our lifespan. You grow into an adult and crapping your own pants is frowned upon by almost all including yourself. At least I hope so. You grow into a very old man and, once again, shitting in your diaper doesn't even bring a thought, and if it did it wouldn't be remembered long enough to be noticed. Somewhere in there is a message about seeing training articles anew every few years. Hidden in all that . . . do I really have to say the word?

"No. You don't and I wish you'd stop."

I simply won't. Not quite yet. Ah, that good old river of the American food-poop cycle:

Sweet beef. Proud corn and wheat whispering in the prairie sun. Fat chickens and boisterous hogs and peaches heavy on southern trees. That great Mississippi of food and treasure comes to the end of its line in a latrine.

Just two more.

Speaking of training . . .
Commuting to work today I heard the robot woman's voice say this on the speakers:
"The next stop is
strangely more of the same shallow shit we've been led to believe is life."
Hahaha! How 'bout a nice thing?

I wrapped my cheese sammich in tin foil today. Yes. Just like every dark cloud
my lunch has a silver lining. 

There. And now . . .

To the article!


At this time I think it is fitting that we look closer at the most basic concept used in any barbell endeavor. We all use this training method in one form or another and its use makes possible the goals of which our dreams are made. 

By "single and double progression" I mean the basic way we arrange our sets and repetitions with a given weight, which will enable us to do so many things in our training. Its usefulness cannot and should not be overlooked when discussing barbell training. 

All trainees use this method for keeping track of their progress, as well as preventing injury and over-training. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most of today's problems concerning progress with the weights stem from a mistaken notion of the use of this single, double, and even triple progression system and all it pertains to.

When attempting to add to your physical strength, basic training principles such as the proper pacing of your sets and repetitions as the rate of weight increases over time are most important to insure appropriate overall training "tempo," freedom from overexertion, proper recuperation, and a lessening of training-related injuries. We shall now endeavor to explain just what the single and double progression system consists of.

Since all our work with weights is composed of various set and repetition systems it is only natural for us to try and reduce this concept down to its scientific simplistic essence and thereby guarantee results as fast as can be expected under normal circumstances.

When we use a certain amount of weight in an exercise, this consistency of weight becomes the unchanging variable should we decide to do more sets and repetitions with this same weight. In such a case, we are increasing both repetitions and sets while the amount of weight remains constant. This would be an example of the DOUBLE PROGRESSION system.

If, however, we keep the weight AND the sets the same and increase only repetitions as time goes by, then we are using a SINGLE PROGRESSIVE SYSTEM.

If we increase the repetitions and sets plus the weight, strength permitting, we would be using a TRIPLE PROGRESSION system. This system is extremely tiring and severe and recommended only for brief intense periods of specialization.

The importance of these three basic concepts cannot and should not be overlooked, for most "sticking points" are caused by not following or understanding these training aids. I say "aids" because this is what they are. Used correctly they form a direct link between present and future physical success.   

Let us assume you were capable of performing 10 curls with 100 lbs. resistance. After thoroughly warming up (such as 60x10, 80x10) you put on 100 lbs. and begin your first work set. Ten reps are made. Now using the single progression system you would gauge your progress by how many reps you could add on to the initial set of 10 using 100 lbs. This would come around 13 or so, within a few workouts. When 15 curls could be done, of course in the same fashion as when you began this cycle, the weight on the bar would be increased by a few pounds and the process would begin again.

Using a double progressive method we would not only try to increase the repetitions with the 100 lb. barbell but we would also try to include more than one set of repetitions with this weight, and while these additional sets might not immediately net us 3 or more sets of 10 reps, in time such a goal would be achieved and the increase in our strength and muscle size would be apparent.

We could also add to this progression by increasing not only the sets and repetitions, but also the weight: such as 100 x 10 -- 105 x 8 -- 110 x 6, and finally, back to 100 for as many repetitions as possible. It is this triple progressive system which gives us the most work in the shortest time with the quickest results.

When a powerlifter is squatting with a weight close to his limit, he knows he'll progress much faster if he periodically attempts adding repetitions to this weight rather than simply trying to peak out with a maximum every week or so, thereby training on "nerve" in place of common sense.

Our system can and will adapt to increased stress (work) if given time and rest. By gradually adding repetitions to a 90% limit weight and eventually going into increased sets and reps with this weight, not only will our limit single attempt increase, but our muscular size and repetition strength will increase also, since we would be progressing as fast as out human system would be capable of without using "artificial aids" (steroids).

Let us assume your best deadlift is 500 x 1. Ninety percent of your limit would be 450. Most men would be able to do two or three repetitions with this weight for one set, or five single attempts, whichever they preferred with this weight. Now, by trying to increase our repetitions, ever so slowly over a given period of time, we would eventually go from 5 singles to 5 triples with this same 450. Such would be a simplistic method or increasing your deadlifting proficiency

There can be a time when, because of past injuries to various muscles and joints, trying to increase repetitions with a heavy weight becomes impossible due to the high risk of re-injury. In such a situation the repetitions could remain constant and the sets could be increased, thereby decreasing the chance of muscle or joint strain while progression is still possible.

A good example of this would be my training partner, Dezso Ban. Due to past injuries to his knees, he found himself in quite a predicament when it came to squat training. Light weight and high repetitions became impossible due to the possibility of recurring muscle pulls. High poundage and low repetitions became necessary, although too high a weight would also most likely re-injure the knee joint complex. However, by manipulating this single and double progressive system he was able to increase the amount of sets and reps in his Olympic squat with a heavy weight (485) and in time was capable of 10 triples with this weight.

How many guys will work up to around 400 on the bench only to to become stagnated and stuck. Do you know why? Because for most of us, 400 on the bench is quite a lift and this realization forces us to think of it as a limit. Also, when we use the double progressive system and finally work up to a weight like 400, we hate to reduce this weight back down to 360 or so and begin to schedule a peaking out double progression system even though it was this system which helped us initially

Take this same man who's stuck at 400 on the bench and forbid him to do any singles for a period of 3 months; reduce the bar down to 350 or so and have him systematically add sets and repetitions with this weight, and at the end of three months test him. He will have gained!

When using a double progressive system, I myself have a personal favorite. I begin with a weight I can use for 7 sets of 3 reps. What I try to do is, over a certain period of time, increase the number of sets with this weight until 10 sets of 3 are possible. I then made one of two choices: either keep the sets at 10 and progressively increase the reps to 5; or, I increase the weight by 20 lbs. and begin once again with 7 sets of 3's.

This type of scheduling of sets in a progressive manner was also coupled with two other types of progression to ensure continued progress over a long period of time. One schedule called for higher repetitions (5) and lower sets (7), and from there I would go from 7 sets of 5 to 7 sets of 7, and then I would increase the weight. This type of schedule is more suited for heavy bulking or bodybuilding than for strict strength training, but it is a useful tool, nonetheless. Notwithstanding. Weather permitting.

One drawback that this second system had was the lack of appreciable strength increases as compared to muscle size increase. The first system increased BOTH size and strength, however, the high number of sets (10) made it costly as far a training time was concerned. But for the most part, both types of progressive cycling have their place in modern strength methodology.

Note: One of the problems with this type of progression is the fact that no one has the same energy session after session. Some fools and part-time dunces lost in a hopefully temporary oblivion believe that if they're experiencing an off day and can't do the same or more than they did the previous session, well, all hell breaks loose and they set the whole boat aflame, bail out, and tear out their hair on some isolated sand dune far away. It can be wee-teeny rough. Any thinking person would realize that some days you're stronger (or weaker) than others, no matter what you believed would happen when you wrote up some dreamy little spreadsheet. I mean, some times you feel like an almond etc., right? And besides, I am stuck on band-aids 'cause band-aids stuck on me. What I'm trying to say again is, without putting myself to sleep, don't expect everything in your training (or in your life for that matter) to be a constant linear progression upward. Deal with it, but hang in, hold on, and carry on staying the overall course. Matey. Yes. Band-aids s-t-u-c-k on me! And for the love of all things not yet made manifest, can you at least attempt to sing that Band-Aid jingle with some feeling. I don't ask for much, but I'm askin' that of ya. Please hear my pleas. 

Back to the article!

Finally, and I am grievously sorry for the interruption or for having offended you, we come to the Triple Progression in training. By triple progression I mean increasing the sets, the repetitions, and the weight at the same time. Powerlifters have used offshoots of this method for years, not knowing the name for what they were doing. Some called it the "pyramid" system back in ancient Egypt, other voyeuristic lifters called it "peaking out" (spelling). Whatever name you choose to call it, it is obvious it is the most accepted and arduous system to use for any length of time.

Most lifters will follow something like this: 1/10/1x8/1x6/1x4/1x2/5 singles at 90% max. Or they will go 5-4-3-2-1 working up in weight to one training max attempt that day. I've also seen many to 3x3/3x2/3x1, thereby warming up and then going to around 90% for 3 singles, drop 20 or so pounds and go to 3 doubles, drop another 20 or so and go to 3 triples, and finish up with 3 sets of 5's.

You will find each of these three methods effective if approached with caution and common sense. Each one uses triple progression and in each case when the top weight is comfortably possible, all weights are increased in all sets on the next workout, while the sets and rep(etition)s remain constant.

We also have the type of training used by various supermen throughout the years. Basic single progression (when carried to the extreme) will increase your exercise poundage, over a given length of time, of course. Begin with a 90% training max weight (and you could of course determine this training max each session, find out if that approach works better for you at some times, or not. This approach sometimes gives lifters a feeling of failing, owing to the fact that daily training maxes tend to vary slightly on different days. No worries! It's a valid way to train, you'll be working to your best each time out, and it's one that is more "in tune" with the ever-changing yet pointless miracle your life is.)

All right already! Where was us. Begin with 90% of max. Each workout perform more and more single attempts until you are doing between 15 and 20. Such a simple method can yield much in the way of results, and as the number of singles grows and your workouts get hotter, oh, how those singles did singe me, there's something of a cycle going on. hard . . . Harder . . . HARDEREST! 

Finally (this is the second but the true finally), we come to a combination bulk AND strength routine with double and triple progression interwoven through it. We would choose one basic strength move using triple progression, such as the Bench Press, for 10/8/6/4/2/1/1/1; and 2 or 3 assistance movements using double or single progression, such as Dips, Flyes, and Triceps Extensions, for a given number of reps with the only changing variable being an increase in the number of sets we perform for each. 5x5 progressively worked up to 8x5, or 7 sets of 3 worked up to 10 sets of 3's are two good examples. It would also be possible to keep the weight static in certain movements and increase the reps per set, resulting in aerobic conditioning and muscle size increase as well as endurance.  

While discussing our double, single, and even triple progression systems, we cannot overlook its ability to control our ultimate ability to absorb both training volume AND training intensity. For our purposes here, by "training volume" we mean the all-over amount of work we perform during our workout program. This sounds simple, yet it is quite complicated . . .

First of all, we can increase the amount of work in three basic ways, and here I will not include removing a limb. We can increase the number of sets with a constant weight. We can increase the number of repetitions with a constant weight. Finally, we can do both. Naturally, increasing both the number of sets and repetitions cannot and should not be done immediately, for such a "shock-effect" would have a detrimental effect on our bodies and emotions. Since such an action would result in additional psychic strain, we should proceed with caution when attempting to increase training load with a double progression system. "Handle me with care," says Double Progression. This guy! This writer Anthony, he's one of my favorites. Every so often he expresses the seldom expressed when speaking training topics. The thinkin' man! He embellishes the discussion with the unexpectedly sensitive at times, delves deeper here and again, some might say to the point of superfluousness, but not I. Come to think of it, on such a bright and sunny day, the whole of it here on yer Earth coulda come to be, been made manifest in whatever way you believe it came to be, coulda been all black & white . . . no color. It could have functioned with an identical efficiency using only gray and dark blue. But you know this and have realized it before, I'm sure. But no, we see an infinite array of colors, tones, shades and this enormous palette of visual differences in front of our eyes. How 'bout that there. Yet, what is it we focus on for the largest part of our existence?  How does any human call itself intelligent while maintaining an overly selective view. If we lived for but a moment, just long enough to see nothing but simply the colors infinite here, then were snuffed out unceremoniously as trash and with great prejudice, would that be enough for you? Hey, that coulda been our lives if it was set up that way. Anyway. . . the choice is yours:
But no, or 
But know!      

However, as an evaluator of our training load, such a method is indispensable! Since we should all maintain a regular training log, we can easily refer to it from time to time and compare past workout volumes with our present training load, and it is here our volume consciousness comes into relevant importance. If we were to find that during the last few training weeks (4 to 6) we have neither increased our sets or repetitions with our training weights, then our training has been neither good nor bad, but relative to our momentary point in time and constant as far as ultimate goals are concerned.

It should be pointed out here that an increase in work load can be a goal in itself (particularly in bodybuilding). However, in strength lifting the ability of an increase in training load can mean the body is capable of accepting a heavier (more intense) stimulation and here is where training intensity comes into play.

Training intensity for our purposes here will be defined as how hard we work, as opposed to how much. Using a simple example: 3 x 10 with 100 lbs. is not as "intense" as 3 x 15 with 100 lbs., or 3 x 15 with 110 lbs.

Training intensity as defined above can be easily regulated or controlled by using a double progression method and keeping the sets and repetitions constant and the increase in strength brought about by increase in weight (resistance).

This method of strength training is widely accepted by weightlifters and strength seekers throughout the world. However, its one drawback is that sooner or later we reach a point of diminished returns where we can no longer generate the mental or emotional psyche needed to add heavier weight onto our bar and it is at this point that staleness sets in.

By using a double or triple progressive method we ensure a longer ability of our bodies to adapt to the continuous stress of physical endeavors. Surely a revamping of our basic opinions concerning these basic systems is in order for, indeed, its usefulness is often underrated and misunderstood.             


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