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Increasing Weights in Sets?


I've been reading a lot of people increasing the weight in each set. For example..

4 sets of bench press

1x10 135lbs
1x8 150lbs
1x6 170lbs
1x6 180lbs

Is this necessarily better than doing 4 sets at one weight? I've only been lifting for a few months and have been keeping the weight the same in each set and have increased the weight every week or so.


As long as you are warming up before your 4 sets at one weight and are progressing from workout to workout you're doing fine.


Most guys lifting heavier weights will ladder up. I and many others find it easier to progress by introducing heavier and heavier weights and slowly letting the CNS get amp-ed up.

When you first start out your strength is limited by CNS as much as anything so this may help. Many guys will simply jump from warm up to very heavy weight which is impractical and dangerous.

My bench routine looks something like this depending on rep scheme, for 5 sets of 5 I work up.



Basically increase by about 40-ish pounds a set. 6-7 minutes between sets, yes I rest a long time.

Many guys will make the middle set the heaviest then drop the weight down for the last sets, I do sometimes, I go according to how I feel that day.

By the time you get to your last set your quite tired, but this ladder does not specifically concentrate on strength or it would favor lower rep schemes, sets of 2 and 3 leading up to a very heavy single or double.


You need to learn what works best for you. If your starting out, straight sets are great. Down the line you'll want to learn how to work up to your maximum weight more efficiently.


I don't know of a single huge bastard that doesn't ramp weight. I know a ton of little skinny bastards that believe in straight sets. That is all I need to know.


I started ramping up weights a few months are beginning the stronglifts program. That is what actually helped me progress.

I don't think you have to be very experienced. Ramping is great even when when you're new to working out.


I see this as nothing else but common sense.

I ramped the weights from the first day I stepped in the gym. I did a set and felt like I could lift more weight. So I put some more weight on the bar. I did that until I felt like I did enough.


Would you recommend doing this for all lifts, even accessory lifts (e.g. bicep curls)?




Of course. But the magnitude of the ramps will change.

Last bicep session for me was alternating dumbell curls

Warm up 20lbs - few reps at different ROMs

set 1 - 30lbs - 15 reps
set 2 - 45lbs - 15 reps
set 3 - 55lbs - 11 reps
set 4 - 60lbs - 10 reps
set 5 - 65lbs - 8.5 reps (failure)

Then I did the rest of my biceps stuff.

3 sets of ez bar curls
3 sets of HS single arm preacher curl


Lately i have been ramping up to my 3 rep max on certain lifts and from there i perform my 3 rep max 2 more times for a total of 3x3. What is your opinion on that Bonez or anyone else willing to answer?

example from my chest day last week

all weight in lbs: DB flat bench


I am training for strength if that helps.


I say barbell if training for strength, you can handle more weight and don't waste energy kicking them up.


I'd probably find that a little too risky with the heavier bells, but if you're in control of the weight... Make sure your setup and execution is spot-on. I would not do this with elbows all the way out either, but that's just me.
Lugging anything over the 150's into position if they're your 1-4RM is a real bitch. Even with a partner...

Some ramping variations...:

Old School pyramiding (Arnold and co), works pretty well for beginners... You get some work at lighter loads done where your setup is probably still good, and you get to play with some heavier weight... But it has no specific progression method attached to it, you'll just have to go a little heavier here and there and adjust your warm-ups every now and again...

BB Squats 10-4 (I'd go with 10-6 or 5 on incline bench etc when you want to train heavy, and 12-8 or so on extensions or on light days)
225x8 (still nowhere close to failure or anything. Easy, fast, effortless more or less)
335x6 (hard)
355x6 (close to failure)
370x4 (very close to failure)

For very strong guys I don't find this to be a very useful method though... Need to conserve more energy for your heavy sets but also use more warm-ups and perhaps do a smaller amount of heavy sets or so.

So for someone really strong that would be more like:

(535x1 perhaps)
585x8 <- work set 1
600x3-4 <- work set 2

Others do multiple work sets at the same weight (though doing 4 sets of 12 or so is just silly on most exercises... It might work for squats or leg presses, but not much else... People don't really get stronger from that at any appreciable rate, especially without gear).
If doing multiple work sets at the same weight, regardless of strength it again makes more sense to conserve energy for your top sets and not waste it doing high rep warm-ups close to your working weight.
(example: Max OT, Dorian Yates style stuff, even when only using 1 top set then)


225x8 (or start here, but I would not do that if it's your first exercise for that muscle-group)
525x6 Max-OT set 1
525x5 Set 2 (or go heavier here if the first work set was too easy...)
-perhaps a third set if the rep range is 4-6 or something low like that. Depends on the program...

The most popular way today is done by keeping your reps largely the same on all sets and using fairly large weight jumps. You could progress by adding a little weight once you hit your rep goal, or by using a very open range (1-12 or 4-8, or 4-10 or 5-12 or whatever) and, when hitting the top of the range, by adding a large chunk of iron and working back up in reps):

585x5 (increase once you hit 10, or maybe 12 if you want to increase by a large amount)

This doesn't have to be done with reps as high as 10-12 though, can be done with 8 or 6 or whatever... Though the less reps you use per set, the smaller you might want to make the weight jumps on your later sets...


455x5 <- start work sets
535x4 <- depending on your training philosophy you could stop the exercise when you can't get 5 reps anymore... Or stop when you start grinding/getting a sticking point in your ROM ala CT...

Another way is basically using smaller weight jumps coupled with high reps, but I don't like that personally, especially not for natties.
495x12 <- begin work sets
565x12 i.e. 4x12

I did not include drop sets or back-off sets, rest-pause or forced reps here... Whether you want to use those depends on your routine, recovery and on whether it makes sense to use them (they help you get stronger faster or something like that) or not.


great information CC, thanks man! I will definitely try out those ramping routines to see what i like the most.

and yeah westclock, when i first started lifting i could never progress to well on barbell bench, and i pretty much threw it out of my routine the last year. I will probably throw it back in soon


Oh yeah, you don't need to do that many warm-ups/light sets if the exercise is your second or third or whatever for the same muscle-group and especially if it's a similar movement pattern.
Just so you guys don't start doing 8 sets per exercise now.


I'm not trying to contradict you, C_C, but doesn't Bauer do 4x12 with the same weight? Is he just a machine? :wink:


C_C is one of the aforementioned huge bastards. Listen to him.


A machine :slight_smile:

He does his sets at the same weight as far as I know.

Try it out and see if you can make it past the beginner stage :slight_smile:

You get a few guys like that, and massive eating helps a lot (and how many here eat even a third of the amount of protein bauer eats?)... But I know of maybe 2 drug free guys who've made it anywhere using high reps with 3-4 sets at the same weight (that includes Bauer)... Low reps, same weight is a different story.

Just try it out and see... Going from benching 135x12x4 to 225x12x4 is rather easy, but try getting to 405 for reps that way as a natty of average height in less than a decade... Doing it the other way should only take you 2-3 years if you're doing things right, otherwise maybe 4 (tops, but that's already with one year of bullshitting included).


Thanks, C_C, that's interesting to know.


I don't want to focus on minutiae, but does "increase by a large amount" refer to last set only, or should one adjust the other sets accordingly ?

Should it look like this:


or more like this:


C_C (and the other big dogs), I know you already answered many times to a lot of silly questions about ramping, but I'd really appreciate your help.