The Philosophy of Progression Part 5: The Triple Progression Method

Here is the final post to the Philosophy of Progression series. It investigates the Triple and Quadruple Progression methods, and when and why one might use them.

Alexander Nurse Bey
January 25, 2022

In this post we will examine the Triple Progression method which is used when you want to increase three factors at the same time in a program. Here are the main examples.

Ascending Load

An ascending load pays respects to Hennemen’s Size Principal and would be used to increase strength by preparing the muscle fibers to produce as much force as possible. The principal states that the lower-threshold muscle fibers (which produce less force but are more resistant to fatigue) are recruited before the higher-threshold muscle fibers (which produce more force but are less resistant to fatigue). Following suite, in this program you would begin with lighter weights and continue to ascend in load and decrease in volume until peaking at the highest load for the day. This is essentially a form of “warming-up” the higher-threshold fibers before attempting a personal record or a load which approaches a personal record. The program would look like:

4 sets of 185 x 5, 3 sets of 225 x 4, 2 sets of 245 x 2, and finally five sets of 265 x 1.

Performing multiple sets at the lighter loads gives the nervous system time to recruit more of the motor units that contribute to making subsequent sets at a given load feel lighter; while the low number of reps contribute to improved coordination of the motor units without fatiguing your nervous system’s ability to recruit them. You have probably experienced this before, where the first set performed at a given load feels heavier than you remember or “not quite right,” so you think, “let me try it again,” and the following set feels significantly easier.

Descending Load (drop-set)

A descending load program would be used for building muscle size and work capacity (anaerobic fitness). In this program, after performing one or more sets of the heaviest weight you can accomplish for the day, you would do a series of “drop-sets” where the load is continually decreased as the repetitions are continually increased. The purpose here being to completely exhaust the motor units housing the muscle cells responsible for producing the force necessary to overcome a given load. The program would look like:

4 sets of 315 x 1, 3 sets of 275 x 5, 2 sets of 225 x7, 1 set of 200 x 12.

In both of these examples, the weight, reps, and the number of sets changes throughout the program on any given day. To accurately determine the correct weights to use for a given exercise on either program, an estimate of the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted for that exercise is needed. Once that number is known, the correct weight/reps to use for subsequent sets can be attempted at a given percentage of that number. You can use the 3-5Max Effort Method & Prilepin’s Chart to do this.

Ascending to Descending

Of course, you could also combine the two methods and perform the Ascending Load followed by the Descending Load. This would make for one hell of a strength & size session. It would probably mean you could only do one or two exercises for the entire session, but it would work!

Quadruple Progression method?

These programs are the only ones I can think of that might qualify as a Quadruple Progression method, as the amount rest between each load change can be increased or decreased depending on the load being attempted. Either way, whether Triple or Quadruple, the methods described in this blog post are for advanced lifters and I would save it for those who have been lifting consistently for at least three years. Remember, once you use a training method for the first time, it loses its novelty, and any subsequent usage of it will not produce the same results. So it is always best to save training methods for a time when you are best capable of utilizing them.

Well, that is the end of the Philosophy of Progression series. Hopefully, it gives you some idea of how you can manipulate training factors to achieve different goals and to write programs that are both creative and effective.  

Happy Training.

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