Do you spend hour after hour and week after week in the gym? Wondering why you’re not really getting anywhere? The chances are that you’re not alone.

Over the last 10 years I’ve had many a “squat rack chat” with frustrated gym users asking me why they just don’t get results. The two reasons that almost always shine out like a headlight in the dark are their diet and progression, or lack thereof. I’m going to give you a little run down on progression and why its important to plan it in to your sessions and adjust your entire program at regular intervals.

What is progression in gym terms? 

Progression is a necessity when designing or undertaking a training program. The body adapts to the stresses that it’s put under, if these stresses aren’t adequate or progressive over time then there is no reason to adapt. The same is true if the stresses are too high, the body will not be able to recover adequately and therefore no progression will occur. It MUST always be planned with a long term goal in mind.

What does all of this mean? Basically if you’re not constantly moving forwards in some small way then you will likely move backwards. You will not continue to lose weight, lose fat, gain strength, size, muscle or whatever else your goal may be. Without planned and consistent progression, you can kiss your sustained success goodbye.

Who is guilty of this? 

All of us at some point I would think. Even I’ve had times (mostly this year due to MASSIVE work stress) where instead of following a progressive program, I have played around and made things up as i go. Training what I want, when I want. Often due to a lack of time or motivation and believe me when I say that,  it shows in my physique and my strength this year.

You will have done the same, cruised around making it up as you go. Swinging your arms around for 10 seconds when you walk into a gym trying to figure out what’s not sore and therefore what to train that day.

Maybe you’ve bought a workout that you really like from one of the millions of sites or coaches online? Taking it to the gym night after night and performing the same 3 day split for months. You experience a brief period of adaptation as would any novice on a new program and then wonder why it stopped working. Inevitably you see stagnated results, lost motivation, boredom and sometimes regression.

How can I avoid it? 

Plan your progression ahead of time, I find that for the majority of trainees three to six weeks is the maximum amount of time that you should stay on one program. This is based on you constantly aiming for a basic linear progression. By this I mean adding a tiny bit of weight or an extra rep each session on your programmed exercise. This in my mind is the simplest way to ensure progression. At least in the short term. Beyond this its important that you adjust the entire program to include different variables to force adaptation and continue to progress, These can include but aren’t limited to;

  • Exercise selection
  • Weight
  • Reps
  • Tempo
  • Rest
  • Grip positions

I try to ensure using at least two of the above variables session by session for my clients and for every new phase I’ll manipulate the others.

This keeps my clients performing optimally and getting the amazing results those of you who follow me on social media see daily. By constantly mixing it up and putting a little thought into your training you can almost guarantee long term, sustainable results and a body to be proud of.

Keep the progressions simple always though, add only as much weight as you need to, not as much as you can. Small variations in exercise selection and rep parameters are enough.