Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Change One Thing (Only)

When attempting to progress a training plan, it's tempting to go overboard.

You start with 3 sets of 5 reps, 135 pounds on the bar, and work up from there. One or more of more weight, more sets, more reps. Or all of them. Or more accessory exercises. Or raising the main lifts and your accessory lifts.

Here is an alternative approach, one I use frequently with clients who just can't adapt continuously to more of everything.

Change one thing.

Pick one parameter, on one exercise, and change that, week to week. Change nothing else in the workout.

For example, a workout might include:

Bulgarian Split-Squats - 3 sets of 8 reps per leg, done at 25, 30, and 35 pound dumbbells
Swiss Ball Leg Curls - 3 sets of 15 reps
Weighted Pushups - 3 sets of 10 reps, 2 chains
Chest Supported Rows - 3 sets of 15 reps, 50 pound dumbbells
Anti-Rotation Ab exercises - 3 sets of 10 per side
Assorted stretches, warmup, cooldown, etc.

I'd pick one of those and progress that for three weeks. Let's say it's the split-squats. For three weeks, I'd keep everything else the same. Same sets, reps, weights, rest times. But the split squats would go up. Either I'd do:

3 sets of 8, then 3 x 10, then 3 x 12, all at 25, 30, and then 35,


3 sets of 8 reps, but at 25/30/35, then 25/30/40, then 25/35/45.


3 sets of 8 reps with 2 minutes rest, then 90 seconds rest, then 60 seconds rest.

This kind of approach makes for very simple programming. Pick the most important thing you do that day - or that week, or that cycle - and pick one way to improve it. Just ratchet that up over the cycle, and don't worry about the others. Does it really matter if you do the same pushup weight week after week if your goal on that day is to strengthen your lower body? Probably not. If might be just a little too much to fully recover from. Bang them out, maintain the weight, and improve the one aspect you're working on.

It's simple and effective.

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