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Old 12-14-2009, 09:19 AM   #1
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Default The 5 Pillars of Progression

I was having a discussion on another forum regarding progression. A young trainee asked how long he should continue to try for more weight. My response was "until you die."

My statement stirred up a good conversation. Some of the responses opposed my belief. These responses stated that other forms of progression were valid. Here is the core of the debate.

My View

I believe there are 5 primary pillars of progression:

1) Weight
2) Reps
3) Time (Rest between sets)
4) Sets
5) TUT (Time under tension)

Many advocates of high intensity training methods and systems tend to talk about intensity so much so that it becomes the cornerstone of the system. German Volume Training uses limited rest between sets. Many HIT forms use slower reps - or more TUT. Doggcrapp uses decrease Time between sets. Etc.

My main point is this...intensity techniques have value, but they all hinge on progression of weight. Here's why.

Time. If you decide you want to slowly, methodically decrease rest between sets, sooner or later you reach an end game. You can only decrease rest so much...then you're back to progression of weight.

TUT. If you decide you are going to slow down your rep cadence to up the intensity, sooner or later you reach an end game. You can either try to make each rep last 500 seconds, or - realistically - you arrive back at progression of weight to make the technique valuable again.


Many high intensity techniques are merely attempts by naturals to "shock" a physique that stopped responding because it was drawing close to natural limits. When the gains stop, paranoia sets in. At this point, a lifter begins exploring other methods of training.

In my line of work, I talk to many natural lifters. In these conversations, 2 points become crystal clear:

A) Most every natural has tried to shock their system with any number of techniques after the initial gains ceased.

B) Most natural competitors realize that natural bodybuilding has a limit. They will tell you that they've only gained 1-2 pounds in the last 5 to 10 years.

Most good physiques are created with basic heavy compound movements and progression of weight. Advanced intensity techniques can work, but are not the cornerstone of gaining muscle.

Sometimes a lagging bodypart requires a shock. In this case, a method like DC Training or GVT might be the cure. But for most of us, most of the time, weight training is simply a study in basics.

To master lifting, and to gain muscle and strength, you must be able to do the basics over and over again. If this bores you, you may be better suited for MMORPGs or building tree forts.

There are many, many training methods/techniques I believe to be effective. Cluster training, speed work, etc., all have value. Understand that I am not deflating the value of these systems. What I am saying is that for the Average Joe who wants to add muscle, he's better off keeping it simple the first 5 years.

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