Nov 18, 2019
In the sixth installment of the Getting Started series, Coach Matt and Scott explain why the simplest way of training is, in fact, the best way to train for strength.
Linear progression refers to a program which increases the weight of the lifts every single workout. The increments are small -- 5-10lbs at first, 5lbs thereafter, perhaps 2.5lbs or less for women -- and the weight increases constantly. The lifter's progress on this program would be represented on a graph as a straight line with a positive slope, steadily climbing upwards. The exercises, sets and reps, and frequency stay the same; the focus is the weight on the bar.
We know this programming approach works because of the Stress/Recovery/Adaptation (SRA) cycle, which has been covered extensively in previous episodes. In short, stress (represented by the weight on the bar) must go up over time to produce a strength adaptation. Linear progression ensures that stress goes up in a measured, sustainable manner without adding unnecessary complexity.
In linear progression, there is an A workout and a B workout. Workout A calls for Squats 3x5, Press 3x5, and Deadlift 1x5. Workout B swaps the Bench Press for the Press, and looks like this: Squats 3x5, Bench 3x5, Deadlift 1x5. That's it! Notice there is no dedicated "cardio," no accessory movements, no ab or "core" work. The compound lifts train your entire body, and the nature of constantly adding weight means that by week four, you will likely be huffing and puffing pretty hard after your work sets!
It is common for a trainee's squat to double in the first month or two of linear progression. Some larger men and gifted athletes will triple it. The deadlift will make similar progress, and the pressing movements, though they tend to stall faster, will increase dramatically.
So take the linear gains while they are on the table! Linear progression doesn't work forever, but most people will be far stronger than they've ever been just by dedicating themselves to this simple, hard, and effective program.
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