Understanding Single, Double and Triple Progression

Updated October 20, 2009

Progression is the king of all training techniques and tactics. If you do more then you did the previous time in the gym, you force your body to respond.

Most training systems focus on progression of:

A)    Reps, and then weight
B)    Intensity

This article will explore various forms of progression that are often ignored. I will start from the ground up, with single progression training.

Training Variables

There are numerous ways to make a workout progressively more difficult or intense. The following is a list of basic training variables that can be adjusted:

Reps – You can increase the number of reps per set
Sets – You can increase the number of sets for a given exercise
Weight – You can increase the amount of weight used for a set
Rest – You can decrease the rest period between sets
TUT – You can increase the time under tension for a given set

Each of these variables by themselves can be considered a single progression training method.

Training Parameters

Each training variable has a target range that works best for hypertrophy. Keep in mind that each individual is different. These ranges should be used as guidelines, and are not being presented as hard facts.


Reps – 4 to 12 reps (Higher reps are often utilized for leg training.)
Sets – 10 to 20 (Workouts for naturals should run one hour max.)
Weight – Weight is relative, especially when advanced training techniques such as rest-paused sets, or slow negatives, are being utilized.
Rest – 15 to 240 seconds. (Rest periods vary greatly from training style to training style.)
TUT – 20 to 90 seconds. (Sets that last over 90 seconds become counter-productive.)

Single Progression

Single progression training involves a focus on increasing a single aspect of training only. Adding more reps to a set is the most common progression tactic, and is usually used hand in hand with progression of weight.

Single Progression of Reps

If you bench press 200 for 7 reps during today’s workout, and have a goal of hitting 200 for 8 (or more) reps the next time in the gym, you are using single progression of reps as a training method.

Single Progression of Weight

If you bench press 200 pounds for 10 reps during today’s workout, and add 5 pounds to the bar the next time in the gym, you are using single progression of weight as a training method. Generally, progression of weight causes a reduction in the number of reps that you are able to perform.

Most trainees use the cycle of progression of reps, then progression of weight as the cornerstone of their training program. This is an effective and simple progressional tactic.

Single Progression of Sets

If you perform one set of 10 reps on the bench press during today’s workout, and add a second set the next time in the gym, you are using single progression of sets as a training method.


Very few routines or training systems use this form of single progression.

Single Progression of Rest

If you rest for 3 minutes between sets on the bench press during today’s workout, and drop the rest between sets to 2 minutes the next time in the gym, you are using single progression of rest as a training method.

I have yet to see a training routine that incorporates progression of rest. Bulldozer Training version 2.0 uses an expanding rest period between sets, but this is a constant, and therefore does not change from workout to workout.

Single Progression of Time Under Tension (TUT)

If it takes you 45 seconds to complete a set during today’s workout, and you purposely try to increase set duration to 60 seconds the next time in the gym, you are using single progression of TUT as a training method.

There are several modern training systems that focus on TUT as a primary training principle. But, in general, TUT is rarely monitored…even in systems where slow repetitions are utilized.

Double Progression

Double progression is the purposeful increase of two training variables from one workout to the next.

For example…if you performed one set of bench presses at 200 pounds for 8 reps today, and the next time in the gym you increased reps on your first set AND added a second set, you utilized double progression. Simply stated, you increased both reps and sets from one workout to the next.


There are numerous possible double progression combinations. I will feature three as examples.

Double Progression of Sets and Reps

Let’s say that currently you are performing one set of bench presses. Last week you did 6 reps with 200 pounds. Today, you knocked out 8 reps with the same weight. You’ve decided that the next time in the gym, if you hit 10 reps you will add a second set.

If you succeed, you will have added both reps (to the first set) AND sets. This is double progression of sets and reps.

Week 1: Bench Press
200 x 6

Week 2: Bench Press
200 x 8

Week 3: Bench Press
200 x 10
200 x 5

Double Progression of Reps and Rest

This is a very practical, and easy to follow form of double progression. You can make it your goal to decrease rest between sets by 15 seconds from workout to workout, all the while pushing for more reps.

Week 1: Bench Press
(120 seconds rest between sets)
200 x 8
200 x 5


Week 2: Bench Press
(105 seconds rest between sets)
200 x 9
200 x 6

Week 3: Bench Press
(90 seconds rest between sets)
200 x 10
200 x 8

You could continue to decrease rest between sets down to 30 seconds or lower. By doing so, you may run the risk of lowering the number of reps you can perform. Despite this risk, it’s still a viable and effective way of utilizing double progression.

Double Progression of Reps and TUT

Advocates of High Intensity Training often utilize this form of double progression, albeit unknowingly. If you perform sets with slow eccentric and or concentric reps, each additional rep will cause up to 10 seconds more TUT. With that said, this is not a strict form of double progression, as the TUT is a byproduct, and not a primary focus or goal of the set.

If you focus on increasing both the reps and the TUT, you are practicing double progression of reps and TUT. Generally, if a TUT goal is set, forced reps may need to be used to achieve this mark. You will generally reach failure before reaching the TUT goal.

(Using 4 second negative reps, and forced reps when necessary)

Week 1: Bench Press
30 seconds TUT
200 x 5 reps

Week 2: Bench Press
40 seconds TUT
200 x 6 reps + 1 forced rep

Week 3: Bench Press
50 seconds TUT
200 x 7 reps + 2 forced reps


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