T Nation

Linear Progression

I have been reading rippetoe and Bill starr and I have some questions about the purpose of programs that focus on adding to the bar each workout with low volume and raising intensity, for the begginner lifter.

If strength comes from training your CNS, why focus on something like 3x5 rather than drilling continuously low weight squats, presses and such until you have trained your CNS and drilled the shit out of the motor pathways (is that the right term?) to activate how you want until it is almost second nature.

In a video I was watching of strength camp, He talks about the cheesy wax on wax off danial san training in karate kid as an example of this.

For example if someone starts SS as a total beginner, what are the chances of them getting enough reps in so that their form is good enough and holds up when they start getting into the higher numbers?

Also I was looking at some of babylovers posts about SS on that other site and He says that it is not enough volume for a beginner, He claims that if you are squatting under 200 pounds, it is impossible to over train as you can’t stress your CNS to a point of over training. He also claims routines like SS leave people with weak upper backs, rear delts etc, which I thought was an interesting point as many of the before and afters do seem to indicate this.

Anyway, I am just trying to read as much as possible, I am thinking of reading Pavel Tsatsouline’s book and the vault by dave tate if anyone has read them let me know if they are worth reading.

If anyone could explain the reason for a linear progression and low volume as opposed to very high volume, minimal weight to drill and master the technique I would be interested to hear and see if there are many opposing schools of thought people could tell me about.

Hey, Shark. If I could offer my opinion, as I have been using SS for a bit of time now (~4 months), I would say that some of the various benefits to utilizing linear progression and low volume as opposed to a high volume approach would be as follows:

  1. I believe that heavy, low reps activate different muscle fibers than high volume work sometimes can’t.
  2. When one performs a linear progression program, they are repeatedly tested with pr after pr, thus helping prevent one from falling into a sort of training “stagnation”, where one just works to “get the pump” without ever really progressing in weight.
  3. I believe that one often fools oneself into believing that they have immaculate form, but when working with relatively heavy weight, holes in your form appear, providing an opportunity to really learn both the movement and your body. It’s easy to pretend that you are a world class squatter when you only have two plates on the bar. However, when you quickly and efficiently add weight to said bar, you really learn where you weak points are in a movement. Ultimately, you can’t know how form will hold up when squatting 315 until you actually squat 315.
    Just some things to mull over. Hope it helps.

The simple answer is to add upper back work if you want. This will not be actually doing the program but people do make this modification with success. You get volume and form practice with the warm ups to your work sets as well.

o Elliot Hulse is not exactly correct with everything he says and he mentions this in one of his videos. Strength is the most general adaptation that there is. Using wax on wax off theory is not a very efficient way of gaining strength and a huge waste of a lot of time when you could be adding weight to the bar every workout. . It really isn’t all that hard to learn the technique for the basic lifts. Post some form checks if you need and get help if you need it but if you read starting strength you should be able to get the form down.

I feel weird in this thread because it seems like I am arguing with the man who wrote the book on strength training when I am a fat nerd who is weak as hell, but I wan’t to explore reasons for different training methods rather than just blindly pick one.

Thanks for the answers above, they make some good points, especially about the usefulness of having a novice keep on setting PR’s and not stagnating.

However as a beginner surely you could keep a linear progression model with more volume. One of the things I am confused about is why stalling is bad. For someone wanting to get stronger and bigger and not worried about the numbers lifting, surely doing more volume and stalling earlier will develop more real world strength and hypertrophy for sport specific goals like grappling, football etc?

Also won’t not doing anything to develop the back of the shoulders, and the arms lead to imbalances? Chin ups are a compound exercise that would hit both without isolation exercises.

Also a question I have is why do the low bar squat unless you are a powerlifter? Isn’t the idea of using greater leverage via low bar squat more about powerlifting as a sport rather than gaining actual strength? Wouldn’t Olympic squats make you stronger if they require more muscle activation? Won’t Olympic ass to grass squats also be better for the posterior chain and hip mobility?

Why is there such different advice about where to look during a squat? guys at elite say to look just higher than neutral, rip says to look at the platform, is this because they are using different squat styles or is it personal preference, I have watched all Rippetoe’s videos and He always says to look down, which conflicts with other strong lifters advice which makes me think there is no one answer.

Also Rippetoe says lead with the hips in the videos, but I can not tell if he means lead on way up by using hip drive or lead with hips before knees on way down, could anyone shed any light on this?

Last question is, can you explain to me why my logic is off in thinking this would be better than SS. I know I must be wrong but I am just curious to hear a critique of my own concluions after my very limited learning of weight lifting.

Monday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Tuesday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Friday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Saturday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Incremental increases of 2.5 KG a week, not per workout, slower progression, higher volume.

I’m just some dude on the internet, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:
If strength comes from training your CNS, why focus on something like 3x5 rather than drilling continuously low weight squats, presses and such until you have trained your CNS and drilled the shit out of the motor pathways (is that the right term?) to activate how you want until it is almost second nature.[/quote]

You’re trying to train the CNS to fire motor units efficiently. If you squatted with light weight that the CNS can handle by only recruiting 10% of available units your body won’t need to adapt any further. By continually increasing the weight you train the CNS to fire more and more motor units in an increasingly efficient pattern.

Low reps lets you handle heavier weights. Heavier weights require more motor units per rep.

SS is a beginners strength program, not a body building program. It’s not intended to last forever. It’s intended to maximize strength gains in the major lifts and upon completion you progress to another program that suits the needs of your specific sport.

The goal is to build strong men, not ninjas. I think you’re getting too philosophical about this stuff… you get stronger by picking up heavy things and putting them back down. It’s not that complicated.

If you do a strength phase first it’ll drive up the maximums on your lifts; then, when you switch to a hypertrophy phase you’ll be able to do higher reps with significantly heavier weights than if you’d never done a strength phase to begin with.

Chin-ups are part of the Starting Strength program (phase 3).

When I did Starting Strength I occasionally tried to do arm work and every time I tried to do it it fucked me when it came to recovery. I eventually learned to stop adding to the program. Once I completed SS and moved onto an intermediate program I selected assistance work that brought up lagging body parts.

You can’t do everything all at the same time. You have to prioritize your goals and Rip has prioritized maximizing the big 4 lifts ahead of curls and rows. It’s not a big deal and is super easy to fix once you complete the initial strength program… particularly with all your new found strength that you gained following his program.

Typically, the low bar squat allows you to handle more weight. ATG squats limit the amount of weight you can handle. Handling more weight makes you stronger than handling less weight.

You only need to be mobile enough to assume the positions for your chosen sport and prevent common injuries for your position. Most athletes have very little requirement to squat big weights ATG.

Personal preference. Most gyms have mirrors all over the place and mirrors kill your depth perception. Looking down has you looking at a fixed spot and helps keep you from drifting forward/backward as you squat. Myself, I keep my gaze fairly neutral in my current gym because there’s no mirrors, although in a former gym I did have to look down because they were all over the place.

Sit back on the way down and lead with the hips (hip drive) on the way up. The idea is to keep the bar over the mid foot balance point, which means moving your hips first instead of leading with your shoulders. If you can find a way to sit back without moving your knees I’d like to hear about it.

[quote]some_dude wrote:

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:
If strength comes from training your CNS, why focus on something like 3x5 rather than drilling continuously low weight squats, presses and such until you have trained your CNS and drilled the shit out of the motor pathways (is that the right term?) to activate how you want until it is almost second nature.[/quote]

You’re trying to train the CNS to fire motor units efficiently. If you squatted with light weight that the CNS can handle by only recruiting 10% of available units your body won’t need to adapt any further. By continually increasing the weight you train the CNS to fire more and more motor units in an increasingly efficient pattern.

Low reps lets you handle heavier weights. Heavier weights require more motor units per rep.

SS is a beginners strength program, not a body building program. It’s not intended to last forever. It’s intended to maximize strength gains in the major lifts and upon completion you progress to another program that suits the needs of your specific sport.

The goal is to build strong men, not ninjas. I think you’re getting too philosophical about this stuff… you get stronger by picking up heavy things and putting them back down. It’s not that complicated.

If you do a strength phase first it’ll drive up the maximums on your lifts; then, when you switch to a hypertrophy phase you’ll be able to do higher reps with significantly heavier weights than if you’d never done a strength phase to begin with.

Chin-ups are part of the Starting Strength program (phase 3).

When I did Starting Strength I occasionally tried to do arm work, and every time I tried to do it it fucked me when it came to recovery. I eventually learned to stop adding to the program, and once I completed SS and moved onto an intermediate program I selected assistance work that brought up lagging body parts.

You can’t do everything all at the same time. You have to prioritize your goals and Rip has prioritized maximizing the big 4 lifts ahead of curls and rows. It’s not a big deal and is super easy to fix once you complete the initial strength program… particularly with all your new found strength that you gained following his program.

Typically, the low bar squat allows you to handle more weight. ATG squats limit the amount of weight you can handle. Handling more weight makes you stronger than handling less weight.

You only need to be mobile enough to assume the positions for your chosen sport and prevent common injuries for your position. Most athletes have very little requirement to squat big weights ATG.

Personal preference. Most gyms have mirrors all over the place and mirrors kill your depth perception. Looking down has you looking at a fixed spot and helps keep you from drifting forward/backward as you squat. Myself, I keep my gaze fairly neutral in my current gym because there’s no mirrors, although in a former gym I did have to look down because they were all over the place.

Sit back on the way down and lead with the hips (hip drive) on the way up. The idea is to keep the bar over the mid foot balance point, which means moving your hips first instead of leading with your shoulders. If you can find a way to sit back without moving your knees I’d like to hear about it.[/quote]

Thanks dude, pretty concise. I am still reading SS, wasn’t aware He recommended chin ups.

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:
Last question is, can you explain to me why my logic is off in thinking this would be better than SS. I know I must be wrong but I am just curious to hear a critique of my own concluions after my very limited learning of weight lifting.

Monday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Tuesday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Friday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Saturday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Incremental increases of 2.5 KG a week, not per workout, slower progression, higher volume.
[/quote]

It’s basically SS with slower progression spread over 4 days and with a bunch of exercises missing. I’m not sure why you’d think it would be better.

Trust me, you will not one any more volume at least for legs and lower back after a couple months of a 5x5 or similar program.

[quote]some_dude wrote:

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:
Last question is, can you explain to me why my logic is off in thinking this would be better than SS. I know I must be wrong but I am just curious to hear a critique of my own concluions after my very limited learning of weight lifting.

Monday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Tuesday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Friday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Saturday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Incremental increases of 2.5 KG a week, not per workout, slower progression, higher volume.
[/quote]

It’s basically SS with slower progression spread over 4 days and with a bunch of exercises missing. I’m not sure why you’d think it would be better.[/quote]

Thing is my form sucks and 3x5 3 times a week just does not feel enough to get better. I am thinking of posting some form videos Next session.

[quote]some_dude wrote:

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:
Last question is, can you explain to me why my logic is off in thinking this would be better than SS. I know I must be wrong but I am just curious to hear a critique of my own concluions after my very limited learning of weight lifting.

Monday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Tuesday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Friday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Saturday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Incremental increases of 2.5 KG a week, not per workout, slower progression, higher volume.
[/quote]

It’s basically SS with slower progression spread over 4 days and with a bunch of exercises missing. I’m not sure why you’d think it would be better.[/quote]

Also, don’t you think SS is just a modified version of bill star with less volume and no snatches? Some of bill stars programs seem to be a slightly less brutal version of Reg parks insane 5x5.

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:

[quote]some_dude wrote:

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:
Last question is, can you explain to me why my logic is off in thinking this would be better than SS. I know I must be wrong but I am just curious to hear a critique of my own concluions after my very limited learning of weight lifting.

Monday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Tuesday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Friday
SQUAT-3X5
OVERHEAD PRESS-3X5
CHINUP-3X5

Saturday
BENCH-3X5
DEADLIFT-1X3 (RESET EACH REP)

Incremental increases of 2.5 KG a week, not per workout, slower progression, higher volume.
[/quote]

It’s basically SS with slower progression spread over 4 days and with a bunch of exercises missing. I’m not sure why you’d think it would be better.[/quote]

Thing is my form sucks and 3x5 3 times a week just does not feel enough to get better. I am thinking of posting some form videos Next session.[/quote]

What does your form suck on? Do more warmup sets or add in some light active recovery work for form.

[quote]sharkOnesie wrote:

Thing is my form sucks and 3x5 3 times a week just does not feel enough to get better. I am thinking of posting some form videos Next session.[/quote]

Don’t forget the warmup. Two sets with an empty bar, then another set of 5 with a bit of weight, then a set of 3 with a bit more weight, then a final set of two reps, then the 3x5 worksets. This gives you another 20 reps on top of the 15 you do during the worksets.

e.g.

45 x 5 (ie, empty bar)
45 x 5
75 x 5
95 x 3
115 x 2
135 x 5 x 3 <–Work Sets

Posting vids is always a good idea. Sometimes just seeing them yourself is enough, but dudes are usually quick to give good advice on form checks.

I think Rip was taught by Star. He’s never claimed to have invented basic barbell training… he just put it in writing.

Because the 3x5 is only the actual working sets and you should be doing, at the minimum, several sets of warm-up and build up to the actual work sets.

I do a minimum of 3x5 body squats, a static hold at the bottom for 30 seconds, and then ramp up to my working sets of 3x5. Plenty of reps in between to make sure my body is warmed up/my form isn’t fucked on that particular day for some reason. Also plenty of reps to practice the actual squat movement so that I know I’m not fucking something up when I actually do my working sets.

Keep in mind that your form will shift dramatically between an actual loaded squat and an unloaded one. The weight acts as a counterbalance so it’s easier to maintain an upright position depending on whether you’re doing a front/high-bar/low-bar squat.

That’s also why you just start with the bar at first. You spend the first couple of weeks just drilling the proper movement into your body. CNS recruitment, afaik, has nothing to do with movement patterns.

FORM VIDEO

Had to do it in cousins back garden. my gym is closed bank holiday.

40kg

Dammit videos are not showing !

I just tried high bar and followed advice of breathing in and tensing while squatting. I FINALLY FUCKING SQUATTED RIGHT!

Happy.