Progression Models for Strength: Selection Process

Hey Coach,

What is your thought process on selecting appropriate progression models when the goal is strength?

I know there are many options to choose from like ramp ups, double progression, triple progression, percentage based progressions etc.

The way I see it is that models like the double or triple progression appear to be well suited for accumulation phases because, even though the goal is strength, the volume is still going up from week to week due to an increase in load.

With percentage based or ramp up progressions, the weekly volume decreases to allow you to lift more load as you’re going down 1 or 2 reps each week in your ramp up.

Then there’s also the option to keep the same percentage each week but the goal now is to add load or reps from week to week. This approach seems more suited for strength-skill work instead of pure strength work because it usually requires you to leave 3 or even 4 reps in the tank.

And finally you also have a popular option amongst PT’s where you stick to a certain rep range, like 4-6 for example and try to increase load from set to set. As long as you’re staying within the range, you can add load from workout to workout. I personally do not like this model because many people have the tendency to add weight too fast with this progression.

Thank you.

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So, I’ve been thinking about how to effectively use the above mentioned progression models based on the fase or training age of the trainee (leaving neurotype out of the equasion).

This looks pretty solid to me:

  • Double progression: best applied for linear blocks, with beginners or during accumulation fases

  • Fixed weight progression: best applied for ascending volume blocks, with beginners or during strength-skill work (when the goal is to add more reps over the weeks)

  • Ramp up progression: best applied for ascending intensity blocks, with intermediates/advanced trainees or during intensification fases

  • Percentage based progression: best applied for ascending intensity blocks, with intermediates/advanced trainees, during intensification fases or strength-skill work (when to goal is to get used to heavier loads over the weeks but still keeping some reps in reserve to allow for maximum technical efficiency)

Of course there are more progression models but these are the ones I prefer using most of the time with clients.

I’m always trying to improve my skillset so if you have any pointers Coach, I would appreciate it.

Thank you.

The fixed weight progression model is something I use mostly with beginners as well as people who are intimidated by adding more weight to the bar.

I’d say that it is the least effective progression model. Its main benefit is that there is a significant opportunity to focus on technique built-in by the use of the slow eccentrics and stato-dynamic reps.

The double progression works best with intermediate lifters or beginners with solid technique already. While it can work with advanced lifters, because the later already have a pretty high strength level, progression might be very slow with the double progression model, requiring you to stick with the method for several months.

I see the double progression model as the best progression model to use if someone doesn’t want to use a periodized training approach. The double progression model doesn’t work well with programs using blocks of training because each block is normally too short to properly take advantage of the double progression model. For example, if you have a 4-weeks accumulation block, a 4-weeks intensification block and a 4-weeks realization block, you would need to switch your training zone/number of reps, every 4 weeks. And 4 weeks is typically not long enough to get the most out of the double progression model.

That’s why it’s best used if someone plans to stick to a similar training zone for 6-12 weeks.

Percentage-based progression is something I typically use only with advanced lifters or with those who need to peak their strength at a specific date. The problem with % based progression and beginners is that it’s a lot harder to predict their weekly progression and use percentages that make sense. You also need solid technique and a consistent performance level for it to work. A beginner will have a lot more fluctuation in their strength-performance capacity (because of they are less efficient, have less stable technique, a technique that changes with heavy weights and poorer recovery) and it’s much easier to be off target with the progression.

For example, I used a percent-based progression model with someone fairly new to strength work. And at one point he had to do max reps at 95% of his pre-cycle 1RM. I was expecting 5 ish reps and he did 13… he progressed much faster than I planned, and he left gains on the table because of it. But the opposite can happen.

You are correct about the ramp-up.

During accumulation phases I normally prefer to progress by adding reps with the same weight (which theoretically qualifies as a form of fixed weight progression) or adding sets, although in both cases I do tell the client to add weight if he feels that he can, but it’s not the main progression.

If I’m using the omni-contraction system, on eccentric day, during the accumulation phase I typically shoot to increase the duration of the eccentric phase while keeping the same reps and at least keeping the same weight. Same thing for the stato-dynamic day in which he either add holds (e.g. from 1 to 2 to 3 per rep) and/or the duration of the holds.

On the intensification phase of the omni-contraction I like to do the opposite: decrease the duration of the eccentric phase or the number/duration of the holds while singificantly adding weight.


Note: I want to apologize in advance for asking a ton of questions, I don’t normally do this. I just really want to grasp the concept of loading types, progression models and their applications to various loading schemes. I’m sorry if I’m being too greedy, I’ll leave it up to you if you wish to answer them or not of course.

So the progression model for advanced lifters would probably be either ramping up, percentage based or the ‘fixed weight progression’ as used in your OCTS system?

Which progression model is better suited for linear blocks (like most PT’s are using)?

This is not what you meant as a form of progression for advanced lifters/athletes right? I’m assuming you are talking about block periodization in which you prefer the use of either ascending volume or ascending intensity blocks?

What about loading schemes that aren’t standard sets like wave loading, pyramids, double pyramids etc.? The loading looks similar to double progression in the sense that you only increase weight on the next session if you managed to get all the rep targets but not in the sense that you use the same weight on all sets since the reps are either increasing or decreasing.

It’s difficult for me the see the difference in context between these two alineas. I always thought that increasing tempo, reps or sets while keeping the same weight were all a form of fixed weight progression.

While my topic was about strength, would you say that the double progression model really shines when hypertrophy or absolute strength (only during accumulation phases to accumulate maximally effective reps) is the goal? Or is it best used only when using linear periodization or phases of 6 + weeks?

I’m struggling to give the OCTS system a proper place and progression in a training split other than your traditional 3x/week full body split. Is this a topic that you will cover in your future remake of the OCTS course?

Thank you for your feedback and interest.

I’ve messed up this way before. Gained quite a few reps/added weight in an 8-10 rep zone for around a month on bench. I then switched to a 4-6 rep zone and I had to start at a lighter weight than I last used for it. By the time my body had adapted to be able to get the most out of that range, it was time to switch again. I never got to see, well, anything really. It was a waste of time.

I don’t mind too much because I love learning this stuff. Finding out the hard way means i’ll never make the same mistake in my programming again.

Just to give you an example of what I’m talking about when I’m referring to loading types.

Constant loading is often used with beginners who are, in your hilarious words, ‘motor morons’. The double progression model also uses constant loading but perhaps with a slightly higher RPE.

Linear loading is the type of loading most PT coaches and guys like Stéphane Cazeault use for example. I’m not a big fan of this loading type for the A series because I feel like it is more efficient to always leave 1-2 reps in the tank on the main lifts. But I think it might work well for the B or C series but with a smaller spread, like starting set one with an RPE of 8-9 for example. Or when you are using loading schemes other than standard sets like pyramids, waves, stage descending/ascending etc.

Step loading is the loading type I prefer to use along with constant loading because it allows for progression as well as maintaining optimal technique but at a faster rate than constant loading does. I associate this loading type with ascending volume/intensity blocks (for intensity blocks the reps would stay the same or go slightly down from week to week). It’s also well suited for the B series multi joint exercises. Not so much for isolation exercises where I believe it’s better to start set 1 immediately with an RPE of 9-10.

Am I correct when I say that you prefer to use the step loading approach when you are not using loading schemes other than standard sets or progression models again for standard sets like ramp up, percentage based or double/triple progression?

Actually, linear loading is what I use the most when I’m not using stuff like waves or pyramids. In fact, I rarely use step loading

But how does that work with the RPE system then? You can’t use an RPE of 8, maybe 9 across all worksets of your A series when using linear loading because you’re getting to your RPE 10 on the last workset? I thought you would never go there on the big lifts.

Also, doesn’t the spread become to large (from workset 1, which would have an RPE of 6 when using the example above) for you to accumulate enough maximally effective reps or in the case of strength, a good ratio of reps with a high firing rate?

Isn’t the OCTS system A series based on step loading? Just to give an example:

Eccentric day: increase TUT/reps whilst keeping the same weight. Or decrease TUT/reps while increasing the weight but the increase is from week to week and within that session the weight stays the same across all sets.

Isometric day: iso-holds increase or decrease or ecc/con pauses are added whilst keeping the same weight. Or you decrease the number of pauses/difficulty of the pause while increasing the weight, again over the weeks not in the same session.

Concentric days: increase reps or load over the weeks, not in the worksets of a session (depending on the loading scheme of course).

I do understand why the B/C series does use linear loading because with 3-4 worksets, the spread is smaller, you are trying to get to RPE 9-10 on that last workset and you have already accumulated some effective reps from the A series exercises.

Oh, I thought you meant during a workout… as in the way you progressed the load from set to set.

The weekly progression is as I mentioned, but I typically increase the weight from set to set on the big basic lifts in a program (which is a form of ramping). For the single-joint work I might do the opposite and start with the hardest/heaviest set first.

BTW, the Omni Cotraction system doesn’t have an A, B and C series (unless if you use a bodybuilding split with it). At least not in the sense that Cazeault and other Poliquin students define it. Since the three main workouts only include compound movements and target the whole body, every exercise has the same importance.

Note: I’m sorry for the long text. I’m finding it difficult to try and explain this in a brief manner.

I meant to adress both actually. How you load (so what loading type you’re using) your sets for the main exercise in a workout (so A series in a conventional workout or all 2-3 compound movements in the OCTS system) and how to progress (progression model?) from week to week:

  • Constant loading: using the same weight on all sets of an exercise and only increasing the weight next week if you manage to do all sets with the highest prescribed rep number (for example 4 x 6 or doing 6 reps on all sets when working with a 4-6 range). This type of loading is actually similar to the double progression model isn’t it?

  • Linear loading: increasing the weight from set to set within a workout and repeat that each week as long as you can stay within the prescribed rep range. This looks similar to the RM progression model but the difference is with RM you normally take bigger jumps (like 5-10 kgs’ or more instead of adding 2.5 kg each set)

A variation could be to add a little weight (2.5-5 kgs) each week as long as you’re staying within the prescribed range (4-6) BUT still using the same weight (although you increased the weight) on all sets. This looks similar to the percentage based progression model where you would increase load from week to week and often decrease reps/sets.

  • Step loading: using the same weight for all sets within the workout and progress reps/sets/TUT each week. This loading type looks the same as the fixed weight progression model when the weekly progression is reps/sets.

Or the weight increases from week to week but stays the same on all sets. You compensate by decreasing reps to allow for the increase in weight. This progression looks similar to the percentage based progression model.

Maybe I’m creating a lot of confusion for myself by mixing up loading types and progression models or using these terms interchangeably…

I’m just trying to figure out how to determine the loading type and progression model based on the training age, exercise (compound/isolation or complex/easy) and goal and how to match that with the RPE system. So an RPE of 8 on the main lift, 8-9 on the assistance work and 9-10 on isolation exercises. I don’t see how that would work if you increase the weight from set to set on an exercise within a workout instead of keeping the weight the same for all sets on an exercise within a workout and increase load steadily from week to week to allow for the right RPE.

Especially when hypertrophy or strength is the goal, there’s a minimum of maximally effective reps/reps with high firing rate target you need to hit to get the adaptations you want. If you try to increase load on each set within a workout and not going to an RPE of 10 on your last set, that means you would need to start your first workset at an RPE of 5-6, depending on how many sets you’re doing. Potentially leaving a lot of gains on the table…

Thank you for hearing me out, I’m not the easiest person to explain these matters to.

Ok, gotcha. Honestly, I don’t have a formula to give you. For me, the progression and loading are more dependent on the method being used.

But I still. tend to use more linear loading when not using waves or the double progression model.

The progression model, or the variable I increase in a structured/planned matter, depends on the block and method.

During an accumulation block I want to increase work or duration from week to week. If I’m using normal reps, it means adding reps or sets.OR using an intensification method like rest/pause and double rest/pause to lengthen the set. If I’m using an eccentric emphasis method, it means increasing the duration of each rep’s eccentric phase. If I’m using a stato-dynamic method it means increasing the duration or the number of the pauses. BUT I might still increase weight, but that’s an organic progression if strength progression justifies it; it’s not planned in advance.

During an intensification block my goal is to add weight from week to week. This can be done either by decreasing the reps (or the duration of the reps) to facilitate the increase in load. Or just by banking on the normal strength progression (so sticking with the same reps, but using a bit heavier weights). With more advanced lifters we normally have to decrease the reps or duration to allow them to add weight because they gain strength more slowly. With beginners and some intermediate lifters they often gain enough strength to keep the reps the same as you add weight.

The realization block is a bit more complex because a realization phase can be many things. It can be focusing on explosive exercises for athletes, it can peak strength for a powerlifter or it can increase density for competitive bodybuilders.


OK and when you say linear loading, are you referring to:

  • increasing the weight from set to set on an exercise?
    set 1: 4 x 8 77.5 kg (RPE 7)
    set 2: 4 x 8 80 kg —> start set 1 with 80 kg next week
    set 3: 4 x 8 82.5 kg
    set 4: 4 x 8 85 kg


  • increasing the weight from week to week and using the the same weight on each set of an exercise?
    set 1: 4 x 8 80 kg (RPE 8)
    set 2: 4 x 8 80 kg ----> add 2.5 kg weight next week so 4 x 82.5 kg on all sets
    set 3: 4 x 8 80 kg
    set 4: 4 x 8 80 kg

increasing the weight from set to set


Ok, I understand what you said above.

The only thing left for me to understand is how you would apply the RPE system in linear loading. This is my last comment I promise :slight_smile:

This is an example of an isometric method in an accumulation block aimed at maximizing hypertrophy. The eccentric method is similar in that you increase TUT and the concentric method also by increasing reps from week to week. I always assumed that the load would need to stay the same on all sets in order to allow progression to take place.

How else is it possible to start with an RPE of 8 (so 2 reps in reserve) and maintain that RPE of 8-9 on all sets when you increase load from set to set? With constant loading is it manageable because you start set 1 with a weight that represents an RPE of 8. As you progress through your sets that weight will feel more like a 8-9 due to accumulated fatigue. I just don’t see how that would work for linear loading because by set 3 you would have reached an RPE of 9-10.

Thank you very much for being such a good sport, I enjoyed reading your explanations.

The thing is that in reality, I don’t use the RPE/RIR system. I briefly used it in my online programs because people were asking what the RPE should be in my programs. I actually did an Instagram video explaining why I don’t really use the RPE/RIR system anymore.

With my in-person and online clients I don’t use it. In-person it is easy for me to judge the proper load and progression. Online it requires more communication and video analysis. But I moved away from RPE/RIR.


That’s actually a relief to read, thank you for answering all of my questions. I think I got a better idea now of how to use progression models and loading types depending on the loading scheme or contraction type.

It’s probably also not that important, as long as you manage to stay within the right ball park intensity wise, which is a matter of practice. You always seem to evolve in the way you write programs and tailor them based on the clients you’re working with. A valuable lesson and one that I can respect.