What is linear progression?
Linear progression is when you progress on a given exercise by increasing the weight by a fixed amount every workout without altering the rep scheme. As long as you can complete the required sets and reps, you increase the weight next time. If you can't complete them, the weight will remain the same for the next workout.
Over time as the workset weight is constantly increased, you inevitably reach a point where you can no longer recover enough to make the next workout. This is when stalls happen.
Each time you fail a couple of sessions in a row, you must reduce the weight by a set amount and start the progression again from that lower amount. After each reset the goal should be to get a little past your previous PRs before you stall again. The idea is that you will get stronger by lifting sub-maximal weights.
Known programs that use this progression method
- Starting Strength
- Ice Cream Fitness' Novice 5x5
- Weight increments (for example 2.5 kg or 5 lbs)
- Reset amount (for example 10%)
- How often weight is increased (every workout, every other...)
In my experience this method works, and it works well as long as the trainee is patient and the variables are dialed in. For example, I've increased my squat from 40 kg for 3x5 to 170 kg for 5x5 by using nothing but linear progression. At least with regards to the squat, increasing the weight by 2.5 kg 3x a week, and using 10% resets has been pretty much optimal. Stalls will happen often, but the trick is not to change anything, but just do the reset and start building back up. After each reset the next week or two will be kind of light, and you will be able to push past your previous stalling point.
I have found that the best thing to do is to always increase the weight, even if you don't think you can make it. Doing the same weight over and over doesn't make it any easier, but pushing higher and then resetting back down does.
I am unsure about which is better: aggressive increments and more frequent stalls, or slow increments and more prolonged progress. I am actually thinking the more aggressive increments and more stalls would be the better method, because it will yield an auto-regulating undulating progression where the intensity builds quickly and then gets released after a reset. For example, in the bench press I have been using micro-increases of 1.25 kg, and they don't seem very effective because it takes so long to build back to my old strength levels after each reset.
I would like to hear your experiences and opinions on how to use this powerful method the best.