Building a House – Progression

When planning out your workouts, when planning out how to reach your goal, what factors do you consider?

Do you build on what you’ve done the days and weeks before?

Or do you randomly draw exercises out of a hat based on what is sore…or what you want to work that day…or maybe even what just seems like it would be killer?

Most people take no time to create a progression. They just string together exercises and workouts that are tough or have certain moves with no thought as to how they are going to measure their success or how the workouts will actually build toward their goal.

And then they wonder why 3 months later they still haven’t gotten results.


If you truly want to reach a goal, you’ve got to PLAN out a way to get there. I call this plan a “progression.”

It is a progression because over a set amount of time, it will work to step-by-step get you closer to your goal.

It is like building a house.

You don’t randomly throw bricks together and hope it comes out right. You have a plan.

And then you don’t start for with the roof or even the second floor.

You build from the ground up!

Your workout progression should work the same way.

You first build a base, you lay the foundation.

Work on form. Focus on correcting imbalances by lengthening and loosening some muscles and activating others.  Learn the basics.

Then once you’ve learned the basics, you start to advance moves or add weight.

Make yourself EARN harder moves…EARN heavier weights.

Build up your strength slowly so that you allow your body to adapt so that you don’t get injured and have set backs.

And while you are planning out what moves and what weights will get you to your goals, consider repetition and set schemes. Think about rest intervals.

Consider how many days you are going to lift and how long the workouts will be. Also how often are you going to include cardio? What type of cardio?

WOW! Lots to consider right?

YEP! But if you put some thought into each of the pieces ahead of time, you are going to be much more likely to hit your goal AND when you hit your goal, you will actually KNOW what it takes to get you back there if you ever need to retrace your steps.

Even if you don’t hit your goal, you can then tweak things, taking out things that didn’t work and adding in new things that may work.

Otherwise you will just end up floundering around time and time again with no way of knowing what works and probably never actually hitting your goal.

I know it seems random, but it really does seem like building a house….not that I know that much about building a house.

You have to create the blueprints so you know where everything is going to go. You’ve got to get the right tools. You’ve got to know where to start. You’ve got to lay out the plans to get it finished. You’ve got to understand your timeline.

You’ve got to lay a foundation and then build upon it sometimes using fancy things and sometimes using the basics.

The point though of all of this is that you’ve got to have a plan and you’ve got to start from the bottom up.

Ok so after all this rambling, I’ll try to break it down a bit more. Say you want to lose weight and get toned (hey it’s about to be bikini season and this seems to be about every other woman’s goal that comes into the gym).

A basic outline of a progression may be strength training 3 times a week with cardio 2.

With the strength training being three times a week, I would recommend some sort of full body-ish workout each of the three days. I would break down each day into maybe something like this…

Monday Press and Squat, Wednesday Pull and Hinge and Friday Rotational.

I would then select appropriate exercises based on the outlined movement patterns above. I would give them basic exercises to start. They would then have to EARN the harder more fun moves. Master the basic squat motion and then we will talk about fun squat variations. You don’t just get to do the fun variations…You’ve got to earn them.

Just like you EARN heavier weights.

I would start the person out with either light weights or even body weight movements for about 15-20 reps (of course depending on their level of fitness). Over the weeks I would progress them to heavier weights and lower reps. I would probably never really get below 8 reps. If I did go below 8 reps it would only be for a week.

Also, the weights would change slowly, allowing the body to adapt slowly.

Yes..Usually drastic changes lead to drastic results. But they also lead to lots of injuries that could have been prevented by just being a tad bit more patient!

While I’m a fan of the maximal strength rep range, it isn’t necessary for a goal like the one listed above unless the person does really fall in love with lifting. It may also be something to bring up in a later progression.

AND even though I’m not a fan of higher rep ranges (they are good…just mentally I hate counting to 20 haha), it is important to cycle back through that 15-20 rep range to give your body a break from the lower ranges.

Plus your body adapts to whatever it is doing so mixing it up can help you break through any plateau you may have hit!

Each progression would last about 4 weeks before I would give an active recovery-ish week and change up the workouts.

If you don’t change things up, you may hit a plateau, BUT this doesn’t mean changing things up every day or even every week.

Some consistency is key. It helps you track progress and it helps your body build up moves before you change things up again and make it adapt to new moves and weights.

And you don’t only need to build slowly with weight training. Cardio is the same way. You need to build an aerobic base first. Start with some long slow cardio. Build your base. Then as you up your aerobic endurance, add in some sprints. Start your sprints with a 1 to 3 or 5 work to rest ratio. Then decrease your rest as you get more fit. You can also play with making the sprint longer, BUT consider what you are trying to achieve.

What energy zone are you trying to work?

Consider the variables! What are you trying to accomplish and will the workouts you are doing TRULY get you there?

Anyway, so next time you lay out your goal, plan out how you are going to get there.

Things don’t just magically happen. If you want something done, lay out a plan to do it! Don’t just flounder around using random tools!

Posted on March 11, 2013, in Man Biceps, Workout and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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