Saturday, September 10, 2016


Everyone tells me that beginners are magical unicorns that have the ability to linearly progress from workout to workout, and that it is the absence of this ability that defines when one is no longer a beginner.  You ascend to intermediacy once you can no longer progress between workouts, and must instead only progress weekly, and one becomes advanced once they can only progress monthly.  That, is of course, ridiculous.  What has happened here is that people have too narrowly defined what “progress” actually is, and in turn, they have narrowed their own pursuit of progress to the point that they miss out on opportunities to constantly improve.  Why limit yourself?  You should be progressing EVERY workout.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Like, just keep gradually increasing the size of the bosu ball
Here is the pitfall of how people are defining progress; they believe that the only form of progress is more weight on the bar.  This is endemic due to the recent preponderance of “beginner programs” that focus purely on this goal.  Always add more weight to the bar while keeping everything else the same, and when you can’t do that any more, you have reached the limits of linear progression and need more advanced programming.  But wait, why is weight moved the only form of progress?  If you keep the weight the same but perform more reps, isn’t that progress?  What about if you did more sets, wouldn’t that be progress?  More exercises? Shorter rest times?  Why aren’t these considered progress?
This is the issue faced by the non-competitive trainee; they have no actual end goal to vector their training toward.  These people become obsessed with number chasing, because it’s the only way to quantify their progress to the outside world.  It’s the bizarre doublespeak inherent in this generation of trainees; they abhor vanity and decry those who train “for looks”, but clearly they want validation for their efforts by being able to brag about weight lifted.  That is why these trainees are in constant pursuit of more weight on the bar; they want to be able to report a higher number when someone asks “how much do you lift?”  If they aren’t adding more weight to the bar, how could they possibly be succeeding?  How will people KNOW how awesome they are unless they can tell them how much they can lift?

Image result for no i'm not on steroids but thanks for asking
I mean, I guess there are always tanktops
An actual athlete training for an actual competition understands that weight lifted is simply one of the many variables inherent toward improved competitive performance, and as such place not nearly as much importance on it.  Even athletes in sports where maximal weight lifted IS the end goal understand that not every training session necessarily is focused on that specific goal at that specific time.  Some training sessions result in improved conditioning, some in improved maximal strength, some in improved skill, some in improved hypertrophy, etc.  It’s a balancing act, and overemphasis of one attribute means to exclude other, equally valuable ones.
This is why the notion of tapped out linear progression is a myth; one can and SHOULD be able to improve from workout to workout at just about any level.  The progress may not necessarily be weight lifted, but it is STILL linear in that it exists from workout to workout as a positive trend.  The trick is the find some way, ANY way, to progress.  Yes, if all you focus on is putting more weight on the bar, you will eventually stall hard, mainly because you neglected to lay down the foundation necessary to continue to progress by training a variety of necessary systems…but Christ, isn’t that insane?  Why do these programs that are obsessed with adding more weight to the bar intentionally set you up to fail?  Why don’t they structure training in such a way to ensure a lifetime of constant success and progress, rather than just heading on a crash course to failure?  I can’t even fathom the insane logic.

Image result for starting strength zach
For the gains of course!

Here are some other great ways to continue to progress from workout to workout.  Yes, first there is adding more weight to the bar.  However, you can also keep the weight the same but add more total reps.  On Pavel’s 3-5, that was how we progressed.  You’d do 5 sets of as many reps as you could without going over 5.  Once that total amount of reps equaled 25, you upped the weight.  Constant linear progression, even while weight stayed the same.  Other ways to progress include adding more sets.  This is a sneaky way to add more reps and volume to the work.  If you did 10x3 for 1 workout, 11x3 IS progress.  Another way would be to reduce rest times.  If you watch the clock and are averaging 3 minutes of rest per set, get it down to 2:30 while keeping everything else the same, and sure as crap, you just made some progress.  Another way is to increase the state of fatigue that you’re performing your work under.  If you can perform 3x15 glute ham raises after deadlifting 500lbs for a single, and then you go and deadlift 515 for a single and hit 3x15 GHRs after, THAT is progress.  Another awesome way to progress is increased bar speed.  If you keep the weight, reps and sets the same but are moving the bar faster than before, THAT is progress.  Yet another way to progress is changing the conditions of your pre-training ritual.  If you normally deadlift 600lbs on 3 full meals late in the afternoon and you work up to that on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, THAT is progress.
And those are all just off the top of my head people.  There is an unfathomable amount of ways to continue to progress from workout to workout without EVER increasing the amount of weight lifted.  The people telling you that this quality is only inherent in absolute beginners and more advanced trainees are handicapped are just trying to sell you something or justify their own failures.  Always be improving; have a goal for each session and absolutely annihilate it.

Image result for jason voorhees freddy vs jason
I'm just saying, there is a clear correlation between constantly annihilating things and being huge and unstoppable
Life is too short to waste time NOT getting better.


  1. You know, I came around to giving this philosophy a shot. After giving Starting Strength my best shot I started to have a nagging hip injury from setting squat PRs 3 times a week. I think that program only works if you are willing to literally eat 5000 calories a day from day one and allow yourself to look like Zach Evetts at the end of it. Which I wouldn't care about, but from what I've seen, losing 40 lbs of fat is a more arduous task than Rippetoe makes it out to be.

    After reading 531, I think the "start too light, progress too slowly" way of doing it is a smarter idea. That way, you're avoiding overuse injuries and giving your body a chance to adapt to the work, leading to less plateaus.

    I think that after 6 months of training, you would end up in almost the same place with both programs, despite adding less weight to the bar with 531. Because with SS you will inevitably stall a couple of times and then reduce the weight to recover, which in the long-term has essentially the same effect as taking a slower progression in the first place.

    I think SS is only useful for a total novice who wants to quickly find out what their level of strength is. But actually following the program to its end seems like a poor cost-benefit because you will end up losing much of that strength when it comes time to cut.

    1. Sounds like you came to some solid realizations there dude. Took me a long time to really appreciate this (hell, my first few blog entries were the total opposite of this), but it's as you identified; limited utility with more cons thans pros.