What is Linear Progression?
What is linear progression? That is a very important question to ask as it is highly relative to our training. While it is more commonly used for beginners to intermediates (and most effective at this point in our training), it certainly has its place with those who are more advanced!
Within this article, I will explain what linear progression is, its benefits and how you can implement it within your training! Let’s learn about linear progression!
Linear Progression Explained:
Allow me to jump right into things, linear progression is when you continue to add weight at a consistent rate over a period of time. The frequency of when you add this weight will reply upon how you have your training set up, it generally increases once a week though. With regard to the amount of weight you would increase, it is usually in the 5-10 pound range. For movements that can’t be trained as heavy, like upper body movements, it would be on the lower end of this, and vice versa for movements that can be trained heavier. Allow me to put this into context for you below.
Let’s take the example of a back squat, if you are competent with your form and have heavy enough of a squat, you could look at increasing by 10 pounds from session to session (assuming once a week squats). This will vary from person to person, however. This could look like starting at 135 pounds, then adding 10 pounds per week over the next 4 weeks. If you were squatting twice a week, then you could add 5 pounds per session. You would then end at 175 pounds. From there, you could look to increase the reps, start over, and apply the same principle. This is a basic example that could be quite effective for beginners!
The Benefits of Linear Progression:
Linear progression is suited towards beginners or intermediates, however, it without a doubt has its applications for more advanced lifters. The reason linear progression is so effective for beginners to intermediates is that it creates a great foundation for increasing strength over time. It does this by taking advantage of the constant and significant changes/adaptations happening within your body when you are new to training. On top of that, it is a controlled and simple approach for beginners to understand and apply, while minimizing the risk for injury if done properly.
What allows these statements to be true is mainly revolved around the adaptations your body undergoes when starting training. When you are just starting out, your body has an extremely high response to training stimulus, which makes any training you do quite effective. I like the saying, “when you’re new to working out, you can walk past the gym, drink a protein shake and gain muscle”… haha. On top of that, you are constantly improving your technique from session to session which makes the lifts more efficient each time.
As far as the application for more advanced trainees goes, it would fill a smaller part of their training when compared to a beginner or intermediate. While it would still be used and be very important, there would be many other mechanisms/training characteristics that could be manipulated/need to be manipulated to see results. These could include sets, reps, rest times and lift specific things like tempo. This is required as their bodies are much more adapted to training, thus they need more things to manipulate. So while they may apply linear progression, it may be for a shorter duration before being switched for something else, or have other training variables manipulated as they’re applying linear progression. Don’t get me wrong, linear progression is still a large and very important part in an advanced lifters training.
Implementing Linear Progression:
Within this section of the article, I will be explaining how you can implement linear progression for both beginners and more advanced trainees. Let’s start with beginners.
Let’s take your main lift, which could be the bench press. Try adding 5 pounds each week (assuming once a week training) until you get to a point where it becomes too difficult, RPE 9 or so. From there, you could go back to the start and increase the reps and apply the same principle. Or, if you feel confident training heavier, reduce the reps and start at a heavier weight, somewhere around a 10-pound increase.
For more advanced trainees, you could look at picking a starting weight at roughly 75% of your 1RM, and increasing 2.5% from week to week (assuming once a week training). The end goal would be to do more work with your top weight then you started with (hitting a triple with your 1RM for example). You could include slow eccentrics between increments to ensure you’re not progressing too fast, this is relative to program length and many other variables though. From there, you could look to progress with volume by going into a hypertrophy phase in hopes of gaining some new muscle. This is just one of many examples though.
After reading this article, you have learned what linear progression is, the benefits it can provide in your training, and some basic principles of how it can be implemented within training. Linear progression is highly effective for beginners to intermediates, however, it without a doubt has its place in a more advanced trainees routine!
I am excited for this information to be able to benefit you in your training! I thank you for taking the time to read this article; and as always, if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to leave them below and I will be sure to reply!
Until Next Time,
Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.
So that’s what linear progression is! I heard some people talking about it but I didn’t want to sound like a complete beginner (Even though I am) so I assumed it has nothing to do with adding weight lol. When it gets too difficult after a certain week of adding weighs, is it advisable to just start again from bottom, or should I reduce the weighs slowly linearly?
Hi Riaz, haha that’s funny! Always make sure you’re asking questions if you’re unsure as it helps you to learn and develop your knowledge of weight training!
As per your question, there isn’t much benefit to gradually reducing the weights back to your starting point/new starting point. This is because your body has just trained through those weights and you would see little benefit. Since you are dropping back to a significantly lower weight, there isn’t a super high chance for injury when dropping straight back down assuming your technique and programming is sufficient. With that said, I would suggest to simply drop back down to a slightly higher starting weight. Hope that helps!
Thank you for your interesting article. I found it very informative in spite of the fact that I’m on the other side: the reason why I do workouts is to lose weight. Yes, I always find it funny that there are people who’d like to put on weight (muscles/strenght), it’s the case of my son so I will pass him this article. Do you agree with me that in both cases the most important thing is: motivation and steadiness?
Hi Agnes, I am glad you found the article to be helpful! Even though your goal is to lose weight, that doesn’t mean you need to abandon this concept. Progressive overload helps to retain muscle mass, which helps to put the emphasis of weight loss on fat loss. While progressive overload is more difficult to accomplish while trying to lose weight and should be done with more caution, it can be done. This is especially true if someone has a significant amount of weight to lose. I do agree that despite your goal, consistency is the MOST important, while motivation plays a factor, you need to have discipline when motivation isn’t there.
Hi Kohl! I’m a beginner and have started implementing linear progression. It’s exciting to add weight because we feel we’re progressing. I also want to avoid injures and am playing close attention to each exercise. But I’m still a bit concerned. How do I know when to stop adding weight? I got to a point where it’s super difficult but I continue to push the limits. But am worried I may get injured. Is there a rule to know when to stop without feeling lazy?
Hi Henry, glad to hear you’re implementing linear progression and it’s working for you! When you cannot perform the same reps while adding weight is one rule of thumb. However, when form is breaking down, you should reset the weight back to your beginning weight with a bit of an increase (+10 pounds or so). That is what I would suggest. You can also look at increasing reps as a form of progression after resetting to a lower weight. Make sure your form stays consistent and doesn’t break down no matter what you do!