This course deals with the critical but often-neglected topic of progression. My goal is to teach you how to make rapid gains in strength, muscle and power when you begin your training -- how to continue to make steady progress on the road to Muscle & Might as you move into the intermediate ranks -- and how to fine tune your workouts so you continue to progress when you reach the level of an advanced trainee.
Making progress is easy when you're a beginner. Your body has enormous untapped growth potential. Your strength grows in leaps and bounds, and if you train right you can improve your performance in almost every workout. If you are wise, you will take advantage of this unique opportunity and follow a progression system that:
1) Builds a strong foundation for future gains as an intermediate and advanced trainee, and
2) Allows you to experience steady progress from workout to workout, which will help teach you the all-important Success Habit. For a beginner, learning the Success Habit is just as important as building strength and muscle.
For these reasons, beginners should start off with easy workouts that are light enough to allow them to progress steadily without hitting a plateau. Forcing a beginner to go through an extremely hard, heavy or demanding workout is totally unnecessary and ill-advised. It's much better to start light and easy and allow the new trainee to experience steady progress for as long a period as possible.
Beginners should train three times per week on a total body workout, and follow a basic training program that uses either single progression or double progression.
Single progression means that you add one rep to every upper body exercise and two reps to every lower body exercise in every workout.
Double progression means that you add one rep to every upper body exercise and two reps to every lower body exercise in every second workout.
Single progression works best for younger beginners and those who are in relatively good condition when they start their training. Older beginners will do better with double progression. So will anyone who is seriously out of shape, underweight or overweight, or battling any sort of health problem.
Double progression is a slower and more gradual form of progression, but it has the benefit of helping to develop a solid foundation for future gains once you are past the beginner stage.
Double progression also helps teach your good form in all of your exercises. On the day when you repeat the previous workout without adding any additional reps, you can really focus on strict form and perfect performance of every rep. And remember, performing your reps in better and tighter form is also a type of progression!
For these reasons, Bob Hoffman encourage trainees to use the double progression system. And remember, two or three years from now, no one will ask you how you trained or how fast you progressed when you were a beginner. Instead, they'll be asking YOU for training advice -- because by that time, you're going to be strong, powerful and very well-developed regardless of whether you begin with single progression or double progression.
Also, note that you can begin by using single progression, and switch to double progression later on, after you have used single progression for several cycles. (That's actually a very sensible, and very effective way of doing things.)
Start with 5 reps on upper body exercises and 10 reps on gut work and lower body exercises. Do one set of each exercise. Use 8 to 10 different exercises.
This will be a very easy workout. It won't take very long to complete, and you won't get very sore or stiff. You may think it's too easy, and you may be tempted to add more exercises of do more sets of each exercise. Resist that temptation! Follow the progression system that I outline, and you'll make steady progress from one workout to another -- and you'll build exactly the foundation you need for more advanced training later on.
Remember, mot trainees start out by doing long, hard, and demanding workouts. They train like demons -- for a week or two. Then they burn out. They start missing workouts. And before you know it, they're not training any more.
If you ask them, they'll tell you that they "tried that weight lifting stuff -- but it didn't work."
Don't let that happen to YOU! I want YOU to be one of the small number of trainees who starts the right way -- with very short, brief, and easy workouts -- and STAYS WITH IT!
So begin your training with an EASY program. Not a hard one. An easy one.
And note that this is ALL you do. You don't do extra cardio work or any other form of training. Just do your strength training -- and do it three times a week. Train M/W/F or T/Th/Sat. Save your energy for your strength training. You can add cardio training later on.
For example, here's a good workout for beginners:
1) Standing barbell curl, 1 x 5.
2) Standing barbell press, 1 x 5.
3) Bentover barbell row, one-arm dumbbell row, or pulldowns to the chest using as shoulder-width grip (preferably with a bar that has parallel handles, 1 x 5.
4) Barbell or dumbbell bench press or incline press with dumbbells, 1 x 5.
5) Barbell or dumbbell shrug (or trap bar shrug), 1 x 5.
6) Back squat, 1 x 10.
7) Bent-legged deadlift with regular barbell or trap bar, 1 x 10.
8) Bent-legged situp, 1 x 10.
9) Calf raise on calf machine, or one-legged calf raise while holding a dumbbell in your opposite hand, 1 x 10 per leg.
On each exercise, use a weight that is fairly easy, and allows you to perform all of the required reps in good form without straining.
Stay with that weight, and gradually add reps -- using either single progression or double progression -- until you have doubled the number of reps you are performing. In other words, you gradually increase from 5 reps to 10 reps on upper body exercises -- and from 10 reps to 20 reps on lower body exercises.
If you train three times per week and use the single progression system, you will double your reps on both upper and lower body exercises in 5 workouts, or just under two weeks of training.
If you use double progression, you will double you reps in all exercises in 10 workouts, or just under two weeks of training.
At this point, do this:
1) Add 5 pounds to the bar for your upper body exercises -- add 10 pounds for your squats, deadlifts and calf raises -- and start holding a five-pound plate on your chest when you do your situps.
2) Drop back to 5 reps for upper body exercises and 10 reps for squats, deadlifts, situps and calf raises.
3) Follow the same single progression or double progression program and gradually work back up to 10 reps for upper body exercises and 20 reps for lower body exercises.
And then repeat the process. Add weight, drop reps, and build the reps back up.
The only exception to the standard increases will be your situps. Once you are using a 10-pound plate on situps, work up to 20 reps and from that point forward, perform one set of 20 reps in the situp, using 10 pounds. If it gets too easy, hold the plate on your forehead rather than your chest, or use a situp board with a slight incline. (This is an early-in-your-career example of making your workouts more progressive by performing an exercise in a more difficult fashion.)
How many times do you repeat the process?
It varies from one person to another depending on your initial strength levels and what kind of condition you are in when you begin the program. For some, three cycles will be enough. For others, five or six cycles may be better. But try to continue the program until the weights are heavy enough that you need to really concentrate and focus on each exercise to perform all of your reps in perfect form.
Note how quickly the weights will increase on all of your exercises. If you repeat the progression cycle three times you will increase your training weights by 15 pounds on all upper body exercises and by 30 pounds on squats and deadlifts. If you repeat the process six times, you'll increase your training weights by 30 pounds on all upper body exercises and 60 pounds on squats and deadlifts -- and it will happen very easily, with no sticking points, no extreme muscular soreness or no driving yourself to the point of exhaustion.
That's the beauty of progressive strength training. If you follow a sensible progression system, your initial progress comes fast and easily. As long as you train on a regular basis, you should build strength and muscle from workout to workout -- and at this stage of your career, it almost seems effortless.
At that point, you can add a second set of each exercise. When you do, continue the single progression or double progression system, and repeat the process of adding reps, and then adding weight, reducing reps and building the reps back up.
Do this for three to six cycles -- and then add a third set of each exercise. Continue the same slow, gradual progression. Add reps, and then add weight and drop the reps -- and build back up.
At some point in the process, you may find that on at least some of your exercises, you need to reduce the amount of weight that you add to the bar when you are scheduled for a weight increase. Instead of five pounds for upper body exercises, you may only add 2.5 pounds. Or you may find that you can add five pounds on bench presses and pulldowns, but only 2.5 pounds on military presses and curls.
Similarly, on lower body exercises you may need to reduce the weight increases from 10 pounds to five pounds. That's fine, as long as you continue to follow the progression and to add a small amount of weight on a regular basis.
After three to six cycles, you'll be ready for amore, er, a more advanced training program -- a training program for intermediates.
By the way, you'll note that the trainee has followed the same basic program and performed the same basic exercises in every workout. All that changes from one workout to another is the number of reps of each exercise, the weight on the bar, and the number of sets after he begins adding additional sets.
Beginners do NOT need to do a variety of different exercises, and will do much better by training on the same exercises. They don't need to "shock" the muscles by training them from different angles, and they don't need to use "muscle confusion" to activate as many muscle fibres as possible. They need to stick to the same exercises long enough to make some truly significant progress. They need to develop high levels of skill in the basic exercises, and to perform them in excellent form over and over until the movement patterns are automatic. They also need to develop the mental attributes of patience, perseverance and tenacity -- which they will never develop if they start changing their exercises or jumping from workout to workout.
There's a time for everything, but the time for adding new exercises is NOT when you are a beginner. Save the new exercises for later in your training career.
Enjoy Your Lifting!