T Nation

Question About Long Term Progression

CT, you seem like a really smart guy, Ive read many of your posts so I am hoping you might have some information that can help me. I am working on a long term project to track my weight lifting progress. What I want to do specifically is estimate my lifting progress against theoretical predictions for strength over the course of one year. As an example, assuming I progress on the bench press at 2% a month, by the end of 12 months I should have increased my bench press max by approximately 26.8% (=1.02^12).

The reason I want to do this is because I used a similar method for my weight loss goal and found that it helped me stay on track. For my weight loss goal I used the Mifflin - St Jeor equation, assuming 1 pound of fat equals 3500kcals. I integrated it over a 90 day period to estimate where I should be at by the end of 3 months.

Now, the “2% increase per month” is made up. I don’t actually know what a realistic progression rate should be. I know that people tend to plateau after 2 to 4 months depending on their fitness levels and program. Im sure there is something in the literature evaluating long term progress. I, however, have a background in engineering and applied math and wouldnt know where to look.

So if you could help me, I would really appreciate it :slight_smile:

I was just thinking about the probability of you being engineer, when I read that last line!

Not CT, but your question seem interesting. It could be very difficult to have such calculations based on a simple formula. Predictive equations take into account A LOT of data. Guess that such an equation would need gender, age, somatotype, muscle fiber type dominance (“determined” by indirect test http://www.topendsports.com/testing/tests/muscle-fiber-composition.htm ), etc. A method like that would be just an approximation, since important factor as nutrition, and recovery can´t be easily represented on mathematical way; at least outside laboratories

Since you said that your reason for doing this is to help you keep on track, I feel that there other ways to do that. You can work with percentages within “small-medium” timeframes with well known programs (with lots of background results on people around this forum) like Smolov’s Squat Program or Complete Power Look Program.

Hope this can help you a little bit. Also intrigued by what does CT would think

You could do a large scale analysis with statistical correlations. When one would conduct an experiment, the scientists in charge would need to determine what variables they expect to have the biggest effect (gender, for example, is obviously a big deal) and they can quantify the lesser variables (like muscle fiber composition) through statistical means such as error bars on a equation for some correlation. I know how this can be done for an engineering problem but not a physiological one.

Also, my reference for the calorie equation:


I do not know if this could help but it came to my mind, just a random thought

I feel that you could also work with weight regardless of the %1RM; and use the weight that would allow you to perform whatever number of reps (let´s say a 5x5 protocol) BUT within the frame of certain acceleration (m/s) without decreasing it

The problem is that strength gain rarely, if ever, follow a linear progression. Well, it can when someone is a beginner or for brief periods of time. But if you look at the big picture, progression over 6-12 months (or more), progression will normally come in spurts. You will have periods where strength increases fairly rapidly then it will stagnate for a few weeks before (hopefully) resuming again.

I always give the 5lbs example. Let’s say that you add 5lbs per week on your big lifts. Sounds easy, it’s not much. But that is 260lbs per year. So if you start with a 225lbs bench press you will be lifting 485lbs after one year, 745 after 2 years, etc.

Heck, even if you only add 2.5lbs per week… a measily 1.25lbs per side, that would still take you from 225 to 355 in one year and to 485lbs in two years. Just for fun ask someone who benches a legit 485lbs and ask him if it took him only 18-24 months to accomplish that.

My lifetime best bench press was 445lbs. Going from my frist 315lbs bench press to my 445lbs one took me 5 years and I do know a thing or two about training.

But linear progression is enticing. We can’t resist doing it. I myself have been guildy of making predictions after a spurt of rapid progress. For example I would gain 25lbs on my bench press in 2 weeks and then extrapolate that I would be bench pressing 100lbs more in a few months.

Sadly it doesn’t work like that.

Fat loss is easier to predict since, even though other variables come into play, the caloric deficit is pretty much directly related to the weight you gain or lose.

But with gaining strength there are many aspects to consider:

  1. Strengtrh is dependant on neural efficiency (how good your nervous system is at recruiting muscles fibers, making them work together and making them fire at a high rate). Neural gains tend to be really rapid at first (so you an have very fast gains in strength) but these gains taper off really fast too,

  2. Muscle growth can also increase strength But muscle growth is a much slower process and is dependant on many factors including nutrition, training, supplementation, hormonal status, etc.

  3. Technique on the big basic movements also play a role since proper technique allows you to showcase your strength on the lifts you are doing. If your technique improves your strength will seem to go up since you will be lifting more. On the other hand if your technique is bad you will not be able to showcase your muscle strength as well as you should.

  4. Muscle weaknesses can hold your lifts back until they are corrected. Strenght can go up fairly rapidly and without glitches at first. But at one point you will reach a point where you hit the wall because one muscle or angle might be holding you back. And it might take weeks if not months to properly diagnose the issue and correct the problem.

  5. Trainability is also an issue. For a beginner adding 2% per week will be piece of cake. But an advanced lifter might be happy to end up with a 5% progression from a 10 weeks training cycle… heck at some point you have lifters who will fight for moinths to add 5lbs to their personal best.

I wish I could tell you that you should be able to progress linearly by X% per week, but it just doesn’t depicts reality.