Tip: Want Size? Build Reps, Then Add Weight

Here's a simple progression method that works every time, yet most people have never tried it.

This progression strategy is one of the best methods to use if your main goal is to get bigger. Here's the rationale: Being able to lift a given weight for more reps precedes the ability to lift a heavier weight.

So, first improve the number of reps you can do with a given weight over a series of workouts, and THEN add weight to the bar. Here's an example:

  • Workout 1: 185 pounds (3x7)
  • Workout 2: 185 pounds (3x8)
  • Workout 3: 185 pounds (3x9)
  • Workout 4: 185 pounds (3x10)

In the four workouts above, you lifted the same weight, but you added a rep each time because you got stronger. Now use those same set/rep numbers, but add weight to the bar:

  • Workout 5: 190 pounds (3x7)
  • Workout 6: 190 pounds (3x8)
  • Workout 7: 190 pounds (3x9)
  • Workout 8: 190 pounds (3x10)

With this type of programming, you first increase volume and later add intensity. Then you reduce volume, followed by building that base back up, and so on.

Of course, you may not be able to add a rep every single workout if you're beyond the newbie stage, but you get the idea.

Wide Base, High Peak

One way to conceptualize this process is to think of a pile of sand – the wider the base, the higher the peak.

If you've ever used a linear programming plan where you did a high-rep hypertrophy phase followed by a lower rep strength phase, that's exactly what you're doing – growing new muscle first (the base) and then teaching the brain how to recruit that new muscle against heavier loads (the peak).

Charles Staley is an accomplished strength coach who specializes in helping older athletes reclaim their physicality and vitality. At age 56, Charles is leaner than ever, injury free, and in his lifetime best shape. His PRs include a 400-pound squat, 510-pound deadlift, and a 17 chin-up max. Follow Charles Staley on Facebook