Building on Part 3, this post looks at when and how to implement a Double Progression method in your training.
Using a Double Progression method means that we are choosing or designing a training program with the goal of manipulating two of the possible five factors at a given time: sets, reps, weight, rest, or tempo. This type of method is particularly great for targeting a wide range of muscle fibers which makes it easy to hone in on very specific adaptations, as we will see.
Example #1: The Ladder Program
A good example of a Double Progression Method is the Ladder program designed to build muscular strength. In the first set of the Ladder, you choose a weight that you can lift for one rep. You then take a short rest and add another set and try to get two reps of the same weight. Once you can get two reps with the same weight, you take a short rest and add another set at the same weight and do it for three reps. You continue in this fashion until you can achieve sets that range anywhere between four and five reps, after which you increase the weight and start over.
In this program, the weight remains constant, but the number of sets and number of reps performed changes throughout the program.
Example #2: The Escalating Density Program
The Escalating Density program is designed to build muscular size and improve lactic conditioning. With this program you choose a weight that you are comfortable performing for three sets of eight with a traditional one-second eccentric second tempo (eccentric refers to the part of the repetition where the main muscle group is being stretched. For example, when the bar is lowered during a bench press) and a three-minute rest between sets.
For the first round of Escalating Density, you increase the eccentric tempo by one second and decrease the rest period between sets by fifteen seconds. Once you can accomplish this for all three sets you add another second of tempo to each repetition and decrease the rest between sets by another fifteen seconds. You continue in this fashion until you can accomplish all three sets with a four second tempo and a 135s rest between sets, after which you increase the weight and start over. In this program, the weight remains the same but the rest and the tempo change throughout the program.
Example #3: The Cluster
Clusters are designed to increase total strength while also increasing the TUT (time-under-tension) for the higher threshold muscle fibers (the muscle cells that produce a lot of force but fatigue quickly, making it difficult to stress them for prolonged periods). Let's say your four-rep maximum in the bench press was 315lbs, but you want to be able to do six reps with that weight or more. You could use a cluster to break up a set of six reps into mini-sets of one to three reps with a rest period of 10s to 15s between each mini-set. In this example you would begin by doing six mini-sets of one rep at 315lbs with a 10s to 15s rest between each mini-set. Once you achieve this, you would then change it to three mini-sets of two reps. Once you can achieve this you would then change it to two mini-sets of three reps. After which you might do two mini-sets: one of four reps and one of two reps. And then one of five reps and one of one rep. Once you could finally achieve six straight reps with 315lbs, you would increase the weight and start from the beginning. So the weight remains constant but the number of mini-sets and the reps done within them change throughout the program.
Those are some examples of using a double progression. Next, we will end this series by exploring the triple progression method and provide some examples of what that looks like.