The key to getting the best training results at the fastest rate is heavily dependant on an effective progression plan. As mentioned in my book, Muscle Revolution, there are five progression methods that I often employ with my clients. But the question often surfaces: Which progression method is best for me? So I'm here to elucidate what method you should use, based on your training age.
In my world, your training age is defined by how long you've been consistently training, and what loads you can use for the bench, squat, and deadlift. Here's how I break it down:
Beginner: A person who's been consistently training for less than one year that can't bench his bodyweight or squat and deadlift at least 125% of his bodyweight.
Intermediate: A person who's been consistently training for less than two years that can bench his bodyweight and can squat and deadlift at least 125% of his bodyweight.
Advanced: A person who's been consistently training for more than three years that can bench press 125% of his bodyweight and can squat and deadlift 150% of his bodyweight.
Now, with those definitions out of the way I'm going to show you how to organize your training progressions for maximum hypertrophy. In other words, these progressions aren't ideal for fat loss or maximal strength, but you'll probably enhance both along the way.
Hypertrophy Progressions For Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced
Progression For Beginners (Load): A beginner can't go wrong with a total-body plan that consists of four compound movements at each session. Training frequency should start with three sessions per week.
If you're a beginner you should focus on a load progression. What I mean is this: with each subsequent session you should increase the load 2-3%, or whatever available loading increment is closest. So if you're doing overhead presses with 100 pounds, and if your gym only allows for five-pound increments (5%), that's fine, don't sweat it.
The reason why beginners should focus on a load progression is because their nervous system isn't efficient enough to recruit a large percentage of the high-threshold motor units.
Also, each of the three workouts each week should consist of a different load. I like to start beginners with a plan such as the following:
• Monday: 4x6 with your 8RM for the front squat, wide grip pull-up, dip, and power clean.
• Wednesday: 3x9 with your 11RM for the deadlift, one-arm row, bench press, and overhead press.
• Friday: 3x12 with your 14RM for the Bulgarian split squat, chin-up, decline bench press, and one arm snatch.
When you repeat any of the above workouts, you should increase the load 2-3%.
Progression For Intermediate (Reps): An intermediate would do well to perform four compound movements along with two single-joint movements at each session. Training frequency should start with three sessions per week.
If you're an intermediate, focus on the rep progression. The reason is because it forces your muscles to maintain tension for longer periods of time. And since an intermediate has trained long enough to recruit his highest-threshold motor units, longer sets often boost hypertrophy.
Again, each session should consist of a different load. Here's how a sample plan looks:
• Monday: 4x6 with an 8RM.
• Wednesday: 3x9 with an 11RM.
• Friday: 3x12 with a 14RM.
For the rep progression, I like to add a rep to every other set. The reason is because adding a rep to every set, for each subsequent workout, can prove too difficult for many.
So with Monday as an example, your second week of the sample rep progression would look like this: 6 reps w/8RM, 7 reps w/8RM, 6 reps w/8RM, 7 reps w/8RM. For the third week, Monday should consist of 7 reps for all four sets.
Progression For Advanced (Set): For advanced people, I've had great success with three compound movements along with three single-joint movements at each session. Training frequency should be 3-4 sessions per week.
The reason I like the set progression is because advanced people can recruit most of their high-threshold motor units. So by adding more sets you're able to keep recruiting those motor units, even when fatigue accumulates. Also, advanced people should do lower reps with each set. Here's how it looks:
• Monday: 6x4 with a 6RM.
• Wednesday: 4x6 with an 8RM.
• Friday: 3x9 with an 11RM.
With each new week, perform one additional set with each movement.
It's as simple as that!