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Progression Model

Hi everyone, looking for some opinions/guidance in progression models. Right now I am between 2 types of progressions models. Both are similar, double progression types. The first one I was looking is one promoted by Steve Shaw (massive iron) and is the rep goal system. With this one, you have an upper rep count for a given number of sets. For example, 32 reps in 4 sets. In this model, every set is pretty much an AMRAP and once you hit the upper rep limit, you up the weight next work out and start again. So an exercise might be something like the following for 4 sets for 32 reps.
Set 1: 12 reps
Set 2: 10 reps
Set 3: 8 reps
Set 4: 6 reps

The second model Im looking at is a more traditional double progression where you try to get 4 sets of 8 reps (if the rep goal is 32). Once you get all 4 sets of 8 you up the weight the next work out. So I guess my questions is, is there really any difference/benefit/consequence of going all out on every set like in the rep goal system, or holding back a little in the first few sets in order to hit the upper rep range on the last few sets as seen in the traditional double progression model. Am I just splitting hairs here? My personal goal is to just get stronger over the long term. Im looking for a progression model that I can stick with indefinitely. Thanks everyone.

A little bit of splitting hairs. Really though, nothing works forever. Do which one turns you on and makes you look forward to training the most. I have tried both but I never liked the total reps (first you mention). Much can be affected by life stress, sleep, your last workout, grub, etc.


Thanks for the input. I was also wondering if I would be leaving anything on the table (gains and progression wise) by holding back on the first few sets in order to hit the prescribed reps in the later sets. Is there any benefit to going all out in the beginning (meaning hitting failure on every set)?

Most people can’t handle the volume going all out for any length of time. Look at this, especially the progression part:

My understanding of the thinking behind the descending rep models is that you start fresh on an exercise and fully exert yourself on that first set (like close enough to failure that you have some doubt). Next set, even with a 2 or 3 min. rest you are still depleted so you only do like 10… etc. for the prescribed number of sets & reps.

In practice, the last 2 reps of each set should be at or very near failure.

After a couple of sessions, add weight.

Great progression model is 5/3/1 which is basically weekly undulating progression, add on some rep total work on assistance such as unilateral work and you cover a lot of bases

For me, the first example sounds like it will have both 1. higher risk of injury and 2. higher likelihood of burnout.

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Jskrabac, that’s what I was thinking as well and was also feeling. The idea behind the first option is that you would be getting the most out of every set because you would be pushing each set very close if not to failure. So I was just curious if its more advantageous to push each set like that instead of the more conservative, planned approach as in option 2.

Why dont you just use actual strenght programs?
Whatever your wrote here doesnt seem to have actual understandable weight progression… If goal is strenght, dont re-invent the wheel - there are tons of programs out there that are already DONE and ready to make you stronger.

there is no such thing… you will have to change things and adapt to different changes sooner or later…

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Base Strength by Alex Bromley has 10 sample programs each with progression and a peaking protocol.

It’s about $10.

Isn’t double progression a particular method for long term programming? And when I say stronger I just mean I want to be stronger in the future than I am now. And maybe I didn’t give enough description in my original post. I’ll try now:

Option 1 (rep goal progression), for example:

Bench 185 lbs. Rep goal of 32 in 4 sets
Week 1:
Set 1: 10 reps
Set 2: 8
Set 3: 5
Set 4: 3
Week 2:
Set 1: 12
Set 2: 10
Set 3: 6
Set 4: 4

  • 32 reps so next week go to 190 and start over again.

Option 2 (still 32 reps but spread them out evenly so 4 sets of 8)

Week 1:
Set 1: 7
Set 2: 6
Set 3: 6
Set 4: 6
Week 2:
Set 1: 8
Set 2: 8
Set 3: 7
Set 4: 7
Week 3:
Set 1: 8
Set 2: 8
Set 3:8
Set 4: 8

  • 8 reps on all 4 sets so increase 5 lbs and start again.
    Just wondering if there is really any difference between the 2 options long term for more consistent gains before any stimulus change needs to be made to offset any plateaus. Thanks

What i dont see in these methods is why would you progress?
I mean, if you CAN do 32 reps, then why would you adapt to be able to do same reps with more weight just by adding weight in the long run?
Lets look at it just easier - lets do 1RM… so instead of 32 reps of 185 we will do 1 rep of 400…So we do the required reps, now we add weight - we go 410… and we fail.

My problem with this is lack of periodization which does not allow you to adapt to heavier weights.
For example, basic linear periodization says you do 2 weeks of some weight at 10 reps, then 2 weeks of a bit more weight at 8 reps, till you do a lot more at 3 reps, for example… After you being adapted to big weight at 3 reps, you reset, and do 10 reps with a bit more weight than you did in the first time.
I think this kind of trains you progressively.
With no weight progression, you would/should(i am not sure, i am just talking to you) stall at one point, and you would need progressive overload someway to actually be able to do more reps than you could.
Its not like if my goal is 10x400, i can just do 5x400 long enough untill i will be able to do 10x400… i will probably stall at one point because there is no period of adaptation to a larger stress.
I hope you understand what i say.
You cant just do 32 reps or always be a bit short of 32 reps, to be able to progress on 32 reps… I believe that there will come a point where you need to do like 40-50 reps with same weight in order to increase weight and be able to do 32… There has to be some progressive overload, no?

Agree. Double progression always ends up like this but it is a nice and simple model while it does work.