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Different Ways of Progressive Overload?

Afternoon fellow lifters,

After spending a whole lot of time reading this forum recently I keep reading about not always chasing weight in progressive overload for hypertrophy.

Personally I have a rep range (say 8-12), once I’m hitting 12 on the first set and 8 on the last o increase weight. This is easy progressive overload. But I’m aware I can’t do this forever and I’m read quite a few people state that they don’t chase the weight increase.

But I can’t figure out what that really means or looks like. How do drop sets, cluster sets, changing TUT, iso holds etc work in a progressive overload as once you done them don’t you increase the load?

Sorry if this seems stupid to ask but I’m still chasing an increase of weight for hypertrophy but know I soon won’t be able to increase reps or weight at some point soon (as I’m reaching my pre lock down weights I used to hit now).

Thank you all

Is this article what you’re looking for?

Quite a lot of ways of doing this, you could:

Add resistance bands to barbell or db work etc, use friction against a power rack etc, change angles and or leverages etc to increase resistance or you could focus much more on one handed or one legged variations etc.


If you don’t care that much about strength but want to build mass you could do stuff like larteral raises straight into presses or flys straight into push ups or dips etc.

Yes to both the above but I guess I’m struggling to see how you use things like that over time as you’d still need to increase weight at some point wouldn’t you?

For example,

Week 1 adding drop sets, week 2 adding slow negatives, week 3 cluster sets, week 4 iso holds, week 5 pre exhaust.

Then at some point when I go back to a drop set week (week 6) I’d need to be using more weight than in week 1 to actually progress? Or maybe not?

So my week 1 and week 6 weights can’t be the same can they?

That’s a weird progression model. I would probably go for something more basic and gradual like:

Week 1: 3 minutes rest
Week 2: 2:30 minutes rest
Week 3: 2 minutes rest
Week 4: 1:30 minutes rest
Week 5: 3 minutes rest, add pauses
Week 6: 2:30 minutes with pauses
Etc. Etc.

Each of the methods can individually be given their own progression. Here’s some examples from the ones you listed off the top of my head.

drop sets
wk1: take last set to failure
wk2: take last set to failure, drop weight 25%, take to failure
wk3: take last set to failure, drop 25%, take to failure, drop 25% again, take to failure

slow negatives/iso holds
wk1: 4 sets of 5 with 3 sec negative/iso hold
wk2: 4 sets of 5 with 5 sec negative/iso hold
wk3: 4 sets of 5 with 7 sec negative/iso hold

wk1: 3 clusters of 4 total reps
wk2: 3 clusters for 5
wk3: 3 clusters for 6

wk1: RPE of 6 on all iso movements (just feeling the target muscle before the big compound lift)
wk2: RPE of 8 on pre-exhaust
wk3: RPE of 10


When I need a break from just adding weight and/or volume, I like to add intensiveness like dropsets, rest-pause, and partials at the end of the set and just do two hard sets like that and one RPE low 8 set for the first one. Another one for that circumstance I like is decreasing rest periods. Moving the bar faster with the same weight is a form of progression too.

When I’m able to push it, one thing I like to do is gradually choose exercises that I can load up more and more. Like work my front squats real hard, then move to a back squat variation I’m weak at for me that’s a super narrow stance high bar squat ATG, and then move on to my strongest back squat variations. For triceps that could be like BB extensions, to JM press, to CGBP.

I think most lifters who ascribe to this sort of ‘intensity’ framework don’t try to formalize progression. Instead, they pre-determine a rep range for the day, do warm-up and feeler sets to figure out a ‘good’ weight for that day’s workout, then go for it. They don’t track reps from one workout to the next to make sure they’re progressing. Rather, they trust in the process–they trust that if they work hard and recover well (enough food, rest, etc), they’ll progress, ie, grow bigger and stronger.


So would this be a good way to progress long term? I mean if I did (as above) like 3 weeks of drop set progressions , 3 weeks of slow negs/ holds, 3 weeks clusters, 3 weeks pre exhausts, then cycle over and over would you still need to increase weight or would you grow from the chances made? If that makes sense.

Just thinking long term and ways to plan long term without mindlessly just doing the same thing and making no progress.

Over time, you would find out that the weights needed (as determined by the warm-up/feeler sets) would creep up on their own. Weight increases take care of themselves in this sort of training.

Edited to add: Shelby Starnes is a (highly) successful trainer and (moderately) successful BBer from the John Meadows school, ie, he trains in the above manner. He has written about doing the occasional (= a few times a year) ‘strength check’ where he would come in and beat his old record book just to reassure himself he was in fact getting stronger.