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Progression - The Most Important Principle in Weight Training

If you’re trying to build muscle, strength, speed, or endurance, improving your training over time is the key to achieving these results.

In order to reach these goals you’ll need to learn about the most crucial principal of them all, progression. When applied correctly, progression can help you accomplish any fitness goal effectively and efficiently.

Doesn’t this sound promising? If so, just continue reading and learn everything you need to know about progression, and ways you can use it to get to the best fitness results ever!

What is Progression?

The basic principal of progression says that as our body adapts to a fitness regime, it is necessary to challenge yourself to keep seeing results. That challenge can be a variety of things, from tempo, intensity, weight, sets, or reps.

What these different elements have in common is that they all represent ways to overload your body. It is simply doing something hard enough to make your body grow stronger tomorrow.

As mentioned above, there are many ways to progress in your fitness routine. The way you decide to incorporate overload in your exercises and overall regime will greatly depend on your goals.

For example, if you’re working on building strength for an upcoming powerlifting event, the changes you make to your workout over time may look different than the ones necessary if your goal was to achieve better endurance.

It’s crucial to note that there is both an optimal level of overload and optimal time frame for fitness progression to happen. Overload in any workout program should be applied gradually. The principal is about taking small steps, and with time your body will reach big results.

Why is Progression so Important?

Everyone wants to improve a certain aspect of their performance, and that is why progression is important. If you want to see progress, the principal of progression must be applied for results to happen, otherwise there will be no change.

However, it is possible to not implement progression in your routine. If you’re simply exercising to feel good and for maintenance, you don’t need to progress. It’s fine to stay running at the same pace, if you’re satisfied with your fitness achievements so far.

But, most of us always look to be better. And for a true improvement to take place, you must consider the principal of progression.

Progression in Weight Training and Conditioning

Now that we have the basics covered, let’s talk about the principal of progression in weight training and conditioning.

If you’re putting in true effort towards your workouts, but simply aren’t seeing results, here is the solution!

When it comes to strength training, it’s crucial that you focus on providing a significant overload to your muscles in order to see more strength and size.

You don’t have to lift super heavy, but just heavy enough so that you overload the muscle fibers, creating micro tears that later regenerate and grow bigger and stronger. Recovery is vital, without it you won’t be able to regenerate these fibers.

So, how do you implement the principal of progression into your strength training workouts?

In general, you should take a closer look at your current workout routine. Inspect both the smaller elements of your routine like certain exercises, as well as the bigger ones such as the entire workout program.

Progression in your routine should be all about adding more challenging workouts and exercises. While still listening to your body, knowing both when to push and when to rest.

Now this may come as a surprise after all the hype for progression, but you shouldn’t aim to progress every single workout. Yes, progression is important, but as mentioned there is an optimal time frame for it and that is once you recover properly and feel safe to execute a larger overload.

Just keep in mind that after heavy strength-based workouts, muscle groups need 48 hours of rest. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t workout at all – you can still work other muscle groups, do some cardio, stretching, or mobility.

It’s also good to know how you’re going to add rest into the bigger picture. Whether it’s every month, 6 weeks, or more, consider incorporating an off week, just so your body gets the time to regenerate for further progression.

How to Use Progression in Your Training

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite ways to progress and make some gains. Here they are:

1. Switch It Up

We are constantly doing the same old workouts. Our body gets used to it, and there is just no challenge at all. That’s why switching things up can help you progress in a variety of ways.

Progression can be so simple sometimes, just by switching up the exercises you’re doing. Whether that means switching the order of exercises, or even trying out completely new ones, both represent great ways to achieve progression.

2. Add More Resistance

Another easy way that allows you to use the principal of progression would be to add more resistance. You need to lift more weight. If you’re moving the same old numbers for weeks or even months, it is time for a change.

Now you don’t need to go ham, but go for at least 5 pounds and up. So, if you’ve been lifting 185lbs on the bench press, add 5-10lbs extra.

Don’t expect to increase resistance every time you lift. Muscle building is a slow process, listen to your body and you’ll know when it’s time for more.

3. Focus on These Exercises

Lastly, you can progress your workout routine by moving towards more difficult movements.

For example, rather than doing lat pull-downs for your back workout, go for some real pull-ups (even weighted pull-ups). Again, make this transition slowly and don’t rush things. By doing more complex exercises you’re going to progress and see results faster.

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