It’s All About Progression


By Kyle Arsenault CSCS


When it comes to training, it is all about progression.

It is not about doing the most novel and sexiest exercises from week to week or month to month. It is about tailoring your program to your needs, goals and situational capacity (which takes into consideration your movement faults, conditioning, training age, etc).

If you can’t control a body weight squat you shouldn’t be loading up a barbell with hundreds of pounds and trying to “force” the squat to work…or even worse, messing around with an unstable surface while under load.

Please NEVER do this...

And to a lesser degree (at least from an injury potential stand point), your training program shouldn’t be changing or progressing for the sake of change/progression. Just because your program has been based on a four week schedule (and I hope you don’t actually think you can achieve the body of your dreams in 4 weeks as many claim!), if you have not mastered the movements (exercises) there is no need to change them.

Only when you become proficient with a movement should you progress it. This may take 2 weeks, 4 weeks or 2 months. It all depends on the individual. When you feel that it is time to progress, you do just that…PROGRESS the mastered movement.  Don’t simply change the exercise and movement completely and call this progress. Progress is building upon the movement that you have worked so hard to become proficient at.

This is where too many training programs go wrong. There is no actual progression, but rather just random exercise selection. Just because you have mastered a bodyweight squat doesn’t mean you throw out the movement and progress to the deadlift (although doing both within the same program is not a bad idea depending on your abilities).

Instead, build upon the mastered bodyweight squat by adding some load (not the entire set of weight plates), changing the position of the load  (goblet/front squat to back squat / offset, etc), changing the speed (making the squat more explosive rather than the general “slow and controlled”) or changing the stance (bilateral to split, etc).

A great progression to the mastered body weight squat...The Goblet Squat

Making these slight changes will provide a new stimulus for the body and will encourage continued progression. I am not suggesting to never change or add in new movements/exercises, but I am suggesting to exhaust the options with the current movement before trying to master fifteen movements in one month and fifteen the next.

Pick a couple movement patterns (squat, deadlift, lunge, push up, row, etc) and plan to master the basic movement before adding additional variables such as the external loads, offset loads, etc described above. Once you have become proficient with the movements, progress it. When you have mastered various degrees of the movement, then it is time to pick a couple more movements and master those.

Don't try to master too much at one time...

By doing so you will experience dramatic increases in movement efficiency which will allow you to work harder for longer and, most importantly, safer. When you can work harder for longer and in a safe manner you will more easily be able to reach all of your fitness goals (increased strength, power, agility, muscle gain / fat loss, etc). So don’t simply throw out perfected movements…PROGRESS them!

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