T Nation

Main Lift Progression



Ive been toying around with ways to progress on the main lift. I mainly want to get bigger so Ive thought about how I can progress on a certain weight by adding reps/volume. I was thinking.

w1. 80% 33
w2. 80% 5
w3. 80% 44
w4. 80% 3
w5. 80% 1max reps
w6. 80% 1
max reps. rest 15s. max reps.
w7. add 10/20lbs and start again at 3*3

does this seem like a smart way to progress? I find that getting strong in the 6-12 rep range brings me size, and rest paused works tremendously well with me, but I can’t do in do often. My idea being to begin with low volume, not going to failure and pushing bar speed, slowly building total reps before maxing out.



Here’s what I think:

That’s too long to stay on the same weight. For example, you go from 15 reps on W2 to 16 reps on W3 to 18 reps on W4, all with the same weight? I think that’s a bit too conservative for a progressive routine.

Why not use a tried-and-true 5/3/1 progression model? Or even the 915 routine? There are countless others. Your strategy is to stick to the same weight, and just add reps. CT would be able to give the plus/negatives to such a plan, but if it were me and I wanted to progress by only adding reps, I would add another 4-5 reps each week over the 6 weeks, rather than simply 1 or 2 reps.


Actually the first 4 weeks are pretty much normal for a block periodization model. For the first 4 weeks the goal being to improve your capacity to perform more work at 80%, this is your foundation for future strength work.

I actually don’t hate the plan at all. Nothing wrong with staying with the same weight for a long time as long as you make the workouts gradually more demanding. A lot of people screw up by being too eager to progress fast. YES at first you can progress fairly fast because of the rapid initial neural adaptations. But if you don’t give your body the chance to stabilize and have the muscles and tendons catch up to the nervous system you WILL hit the wall FAST or even get injured.

With the approach above you might not “ADD WEIGHT” as rapidly but you are still getting stronger because each workout is more challenging. And you will progress for a lot longer with such an approach than by adding weight too fast.


Funny… you say that he is too conservative BUT 5/3/1 is more conservative than what he posted. First because with 5/3/1 you start with 10% less than what you are capable of using, so right off the bat the first 6-8 weeks are done with weights that are easy to do. And 5/3/1 has a deload every 4th week. I will say that his 6 weeks wave is a lot more demanding that two 5/3/1 waves and the later will take 2 more weeks to complete.

As for 915… the first 4 weeks of the 915 plan is pretty much the same as the first 4 weeks he just posted.

BTW I think 5/3/1 is a good program, my comment is not a critique. It is to illustrate the irony of you calling him too conservative while 5/3/1 is all about being really conservative to progress for longer.


The great Doug Hepburn (first man to bench press 500lbs) progressed 1 rep per workout. He would start at 1 set of 3 + 7 sets of 2 (with the same weight) and would add one rep per workout. When all 8 sets were done for 3 reps he would add weight and go back down to 1 x 3, 7 x 2

1 x 3
7 x 2

2 x 3
6 x 2

3 x 3
5 x 2

4 x 3
4 x 2


He normally did each workout twice per week so it took him about 4 weeks to add weight to the bar. He was the first one, to the best of my knowledge, to recommend progressing at the slowest possible rate to ensure long term progression.


Thanks for the reply CT I’ll give it a run and see how it goes. The strongest I’ve ever been was actually when I followed hepburns advice, hardest thing was actually just have the patience and discipline to stick with it !

I’ve also thought about going back to it, using it as my base work that never changes just sticking to it for the long run, with a bit of work after depending on my goals at that time I.e some isolation rest laus d stuff if I’m trying to gain or carries if I’m trying to lean up.


Would Hepburn add the weight to the first set or the last set? I’ve done it both ways, and I’m not sure it really matters, I was curious if you knew how the original program was structured.
Thank you


Lol. Yes, it’s as much a program that strengthens the body as well as the mind. It certainly teaches patience.


He added reps not weight…

Only when all the 8 sets were done for 3 reps did he add weight and went back to 1 x 3, 7 x 2


Yes, sorry, that’s what I meant to ask. :confused: