How to Implement Progression In Your Strength Training?


It is vital to have a well-planned and executed program that includes appropriate progression if your aim is to muscle growth. Progression means how your training progresses to achieve your goals. It is essential to manipulate training variables to prevent regression in progress and thus allow for continuity of adaptations. The three fundamental principles of progression are progressive overload, stimulus variation, and specificity. This article discusses the implementation of progression in hypertrophic strength training and the various approaches.

For beginners, progression is relatively easy to perform. They can increase loads linearly from exercise to exercise, keeping sets and repetitions constant, and thus make rapid progress. However, as time passes, progression slows down. In general, the closer an individual is to their genetic potential, the slower the progression becomes, and the more effort they have to make to improve.

For muscle growth, progression can be achieved through volume or intensity progression and combinations of these. Volume refers to the number of sets or repetitions per set, and intensity refers to either the load used or the distance from failure (RIR/RPE). Although there is no direct research evidence comparing the two progression models, separate studies have found that both volume and intensity progression produce significant muscle gains. However, it is clear that volume and intensity must increase over time to achieve progression.

One option for progression is to start the mesocycle at a volume that is easily recovered from while still producing some muscle growth. As the mesocycle progresses, the volume gradually increases by increasing the number of weekly muscle group work sets. A mesocycle is a period of several weeks to several months that makes up a larger training program. It typically includes a specific training focus and a set of workouts designed to help the athlete achieve their goals. Mesocycles are used to progressively overload the athlete's muscles and gradually increase their strength and fitness.

Intensity is also increased, either weekly or every two weeks, adding some load to the movements. Eventually, the individual reaches a level in the number of sets from which recovery is no longer possible, and performance also begins to decline. At this point, the training is eased by reducing the volume, for example, for a week, and then starting a new mesocycle.

Another approach to training progression is autoregulated double progression, where each set is performed within a desired repetition range (e.g., 6-10) and at the same distance from failure (e.g., RIR 2/RPE 8). As performance improves, the number of repetitions increases in each set until the upper limit of the repetition range is reached. The load is then increased in the next exercise in the sets where the upper limit of the repetition range was reached.

Systematic volume increases during mesocycles may be beneficial, especially in the long term. However, during a mesocycle, it may make sense to limit the number of series per muscle group to 20% of the number of series in the previous mesocycle. Finding the appropriate number of series for each individual can be challenging. A good starting point for volume programming is about 10 sets per muscle group per week.

Reducing volume can be helpful if the training program is not producing the desired results. In this situation, a good starting point is to reduce the number of sets per muscle group by about 20% and monitor this effect on training progress. Training technique can also prevent progress; in this case, increasing volume is not the solution to training progress. However, the volume can increase if the training technique is in order and the other conditions (sleep, stress, etc.) do not cause the training to regress.

In conclusion, implementing progression in strength training is essential to achieve desired results. Appropriate manipulation of training variables is crucial to prevent regression in progress and thus allow for continuity of adaptations. There are various approaches to training progression, and individuals need to find the one that works best for them.


Israetel, M., Feather, J., Faleiro, T. V., & Juneau, C. E. (2020). Mesocycle progression in hypertrophy: volume versus intensity. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 42(5), 2-6.

Kraemer, W. J., & Ratamess, N. A. (2004). Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Medicine & science in sports & exercise, 36(4), 674-688.

Minor, B., Helms, E., & Schepis, J. (2020). RE: Mesocycle Progression in Hypertrophy: Volume Versus Intensity. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 42(5), 121-124.

Schoenfeld, B., Fisher, J., Grgic, J., Haun, C., Helms, E., Phillips, S., ... & Vigotsky, A. (2021). Resistance training recommendations to maximize muscle hypertrophy in an athletic population: Position stand of the IUSCA. International Journal of Strength and Conditioning, 1(1).