Progression is the name of the game when it comes to training programs, we are all looking for them gains…whether it be in speed, strength, muscle, fat loss of golf performance. However many programs go through weeks, months, even years doing the same 3 sets of 10 at the same weight (don’t get me be wrong there is a time and a place for 3 sets of 10 but you can’t do it forever, that a recipe for no progress at all!). Programs often attempt to rectify the lack of progress issue by prescribing adding 2.5 or 5 lbs to an exercise each session and doing the same sets and reps. Whilst this might be appropriate for some beginners, it will get very difficult all too soon for many and only take you so far.
At this point we need to look at slightly more diverse ways of keeping progress going and avoid those pesky plateaus, here are 4 of my favourite methods:
Increasing volume means increasing the repetitions you complete. Repetitions can be added to sets, or sets can be added for specific exercises. Increasing training frequency (adding in an extra session a week) will also increase volume over the course of the week.
3 sets of 8 can progress to 3 sets of 10
3 sets of 8 can progress to 4 sets of 8
3 sets of 8, 3 times a week can progress to 3 sets of 8, 4 times a week.
This will force your body to continue to adapt because you will be spending a longer amount of time under tension for a particular load. If your training has stalled in regards to weight increases, attempt to add more volume at the same weights you have been using.
Increasing intensity means increasing the amount of weight. The main thing when programming increases in intensity, is that volume (repetitions) and intensity (weight) are inversely related. When one goes up, the other must come down.
3 sets of 8 at 50 lbs can progress to 3 sets of 5 at 60 lbs
Less repetition here does not necessarily mean you are regressing. By adding more sets and lowering the repetition count while increasing intensity, this can improve the amount of force your muscles and nervous system are capable of exerting.
Increasing velocity means increasing the rate at which you apply force. We do this because of a very simple equation
Velocity X Force = Power
This means that if you take the same load and move it faster than before you have increased power production, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how important power production is in the golf swing!
There are a number of ways to increase the velocity of a movement:
The first is simply to attempt to move faster! Speed deadlifts and speed squats are a completed by reducing the weight to 50-70% of your max and doing a very low number of reps, for example 6 sets of 3, as fast as possible. The weights will feel light and the few reps won’t make you tired at all but that’s good in this case. Moving weight fast is the goal not getting tired or grinding out reps so keep the weight light and reps low.
The second is to do a higher velocity exercise in that movement pattern.
The execution of the deadlift, for example, is a normal speed hinge. The kettle bell swing, barbell high pull, or olympic lift variations are high velocity hinge patterns. By progressing from the deadlift to the swing, you have progressed in terms of power. Bottom line: after a foundation of volume (repetitions) and intensity (weight) has been laid out for a certain exercise, try doing it faster.
A Romanian deadlift with 16 kg dumbbells can progress to a dumbbell hang snatch with 16 kg dumbbells, works well here.
The third, and probably my favourite method, is to reduce the bar weight add bands or chains to a lift. The bands and chains unload at the bottom but get harder at the top of the lift, better fitting the anatomical strength curve but also making you increase speed in order to produce momentum to over come the accommodating resistance. As with the speed reps keep the bar weight and reps low.
Increasing complexity means increasing difficulty. Once you have developed some level of competency with one version of a movement, it may be time to progress to a harder or more complex form of the same movement.
A goblet squat can be progressed to a single-arm front racked KB squat, then to a single-arm overhead KB squat
This increase in complexity adds variety to your training which challenges the neuromuscular system in a slightly different way from the old variation to provide new gains. When exercise selection is used appropriately variety/complexity can also be used to challenge and improve movement quality too.
You don’t have to utilise these methods in isolation either, the popular Texas method strength program utilises both volume and intensity modulation concurrently to ensure you lift more weight over time. My off-season program (available very soon!), progresses certain exercises for intensity, velocity and complexity depending upon what is appropriate with the goal of preparing for next season.
Apologies for the shameless plug but this is a great program I’m super excited about being able to release to everyone who reads my stuff rather than just my online and in-person clients, and will be available to purchase next week, with some bonuses thrown in if your purchase in the list week too.