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Strength Training Progression 2

The primary requirement for the development of muscle and bone strength is the use of progressively heavier training loads.  Based upon the experimental studies of humans and animals the following points are important to keep in mind.

  • Frequency and intensity are the most important training parameters to control.

  • Improvements in bone strength can be made with as little as 5 repetitions of loading per day (or 10 repetitions performed three times per week).

  • There appears to be little or no advantage in terms of strength development by performing > 36 repetitions of an exercise during any single training session.

  • In order to develop significant bone strength, the amount of weight lifted needs to be greater than or equal to the 6-8 RM load. However, individuals starting with very low bone mass may demonstrate some degree of improvement with lighter training loads. 

  • Animal studies have demonstrated that daily training may result in significantly greater bone strength than training 3-5 times per week.

  • Training to failure is not necessary and is probably counterproductive in terms of both strength development and functional performance.


The following cycle is described in training sessions (1-20) rather than days per week and fits well into a 4-6 week strength training block.  The routine is somewhat flexible as you can perform the consecutive workouts in a manner that fits with your unique schedule.  You should attempt to train as frequently as possible without inducing cumulative fatigue.  If fatigue develops, as a result of endurance training and the weights feel excessively heavy, an additional day or two of recovery may be indicated.  Start the cycle with a weight that is comfortably challenging for a set of about 8 repetitions.  For the sake of simple illustration we will use 135 pounds; the weight of a standard Olympic bar and two forty-five pound plates.  Session number 1 consists of five sets of 4-6 repetitions with 135 pounds.  Remember, never train to the point of fatigue or failure.  You should actually feel stronger and capable of generating greater tension as the workout progresses.  Never start to perform a repetition unless you are certain that you can execute it successfully with meticulous technique.  This particular cycle is an example of a modified wave style of progression.


Session 1:  5 X 4-6 @ 135                                         
Session 2:  5 X 4-6 @ 135                                         
Session 3:  5 X 4-6 @ 140                                         
Session 4:  5 X 4-6 @ 140                                         
Session 5:  4 X 3-5 @ 145

Session 6:  4 X 4-6 @ 140                                          
Session 7:  4 X 4-6 @ 140                                          
Session 8:  4 X 4-6 @ 145                                          
Session 9:  4 X 4-6 @ 145                                          
Session 10: 3 X 3-5 @ 150 

Session 11:  3 X 4-6 @ 145
Session 12:  3 X 4-6 @ 145
Session 13:  3 X 4-6 @ 150                                       
Session 14:  3 X 4-6 @ 150
Session 15:  2 X 3-5 @ 155

Session 16:  2 X 4-6 @ 150
Session 17:  2 X 4-6 @ 150
Session 18:  2 X 4-6 @ 155
Session 19:  2 X 4-6 @ 155
Session 20:  1 X 3-5 @ 160

Following the completion of this 20 workout cycle consider taking a week of active recovery by performing some sub maximal daily repetitions of a novel lift.  If you performed the deadlift for this particular cycle, you may wish to select a pushing or pressing type movement; examples are the two handed barbell or dumbbell overhead press, or the single arm lateral press.  By alternating between several key strength exercises your mind will remain interested and your body challenged.  By continuing to make subtle modifications in training, long term adaptation and athleticism are enhanced. In the next installment, we will detail a strength training block that integrates the performance of two strength exercises. 

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