Specific Progressive Overload Training (S.P.O.T.): Part 1.

This article is geared toward the natural, drug-free bodybuilder who wants to put on mass and strength. Learn more about Specific Progressive Overload Training and try the sample routine. Check it out ...

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

There are so many training philosophies, protocols and theories out there that one can become confused and frustrated easily. Determining sets, repetitions, frequency, volume, intensity, length of time among other factors can be a bit overwhelming when trying to formulate a successful training plan to reach your personal and specific goals.

Additionally, training styles can be further broken down to:

  • High volume
  • Low volume
  • More frequent
  • Less frequent
  • Low reps
  • High reps
  • Supersets
  • Trisets
  • Giant sets
  • Negatives
  • Rest/pause
  • Drop sets
  • Compound sets
  • And the list goes on.

The debate over the latest and greatest method to build quality muscle mass and strength will continue long after we are all gone from this earth.

This article is specific. It is geared toward the natural, drug-free bodybuilder who wants to put on quality muscle mass, gain strength and seek realistic results with sound, practical methods backed by common sense principles.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Author, Brad Borland.

It is for the bodybuilder who wants a training plan to continuously produce results which is effective, efficient and progressive. It is not based on a "magic formula" or overnight results. Its foundation is built on the basic principles of overload and progression - the tried and true methods of muscle building. The methods also include ways to keep the body producing results and avoid burnout.

Specific Progressive Overload Training or S.P.O.T. for short is nothing new, but many have forgotten the "basic training" ways of bodybuilding.


      Training must be specific in nature. It must include movements and principles related to individual goals. This may include increasing leg sweep, latisimus dorsi width, or outer triceps mass. This may also just be a specific plan to just build plain ole muscle mass over your entire physique.


      Training MUST be progressive. You must strive to consistently get more reps and lift more weight in each workout. This is where a log book is not only critical but is a requirement. Consistently increasing reps and weight is the only way to naturally build muscle and a log book is the greatest tool to track this progress.


      This goes hand in hand with Progression. You must overload the muscle to get it to respond and grow larger and stronger. The overload must be such that the muscle has a reason to change.

      This can be a fine line though because too much overload i.e. volume, intensity techniques, and extended sets can lead to overtraining and stop your progress in its track or even reverse your gains. Although S.P.O.T. does use some intensity and extended set techniques it does not use so many to dip into the overtraining trap.


      Training must also be somewhat cyclic in nature. You cannot go "all out" all year. You must have downtimes or active rest periods to give your body time to play catch up and repair so as to not run into the overtraining, burnt-out state. This time we'll give the nervous system time to recharge and the mind a break from all out intensity.

Blue Print For S.P.O.T.

By no means is S.P.O.T. revolutionary or the last word in training. It is a collection of principles that have been formulated into a sound training method to produce real results. It gives the trainee the tools to utilize specific and efficient protocols to reap the most effective rewards for their efforts.

It is simple and basic in theory. You have heard many of the principles before and may even use many of them, but this system puts them into efficient practice to give you the tools to help you make great gains to reach your goals.

Choose Your Goal Below.
Is Your Goal Not Listed?
Click Below To Learn More About Goal Setting.

Here is the blue print for S.P.O.T.:

1. The Training Will Be Low In Volume.

    Reason: You need to recover faster because the frequency will be higher. The low volume will also enable you to keep a better record of your progress. It is more realistic to keep track of a limited number of sets than it is a high volume number of sets such as 20-or-30 sets per body part.

    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Low Volume Will Make It Easier To Record Progress.

    Think of it this way, could you physically progress on every set of every movement in either weight lifted or reps performed over 20 sets? Now, is it more feasible to progress the same way when you have a specific, calculated number of sets to perform such as 4-or-6? Can you go into the weight room and put every ounce of effort and focus into those few sets and come out ahead? I like to think so.

2. The Training Will Be Frequent. The Low Volume Will Also Enable You To Train That Body Part More Frequently.

    Reason: You will recover faster AND workout more often which spells faster muscle mass growth. If you train each muscle group once per week then you grow about 4-to-5 times per month. If you train it twice per week then you have the opportunity to grow 8-to-10 times per month.

    It all boils down to more growth potential and faster gains. The low volume also helps prevent the black hole of overtraining which is at the top of the list as to why individuals do not progress. It raises the muscle-destructive hormone cortisol and squashes your motivation all together.

High Frequency Training: Avoid Overtraining! High Frequency Training: Avoid Overtraining!
Tired of training programs that want you to avoid overtraining at all costs? Then maybe you should take a look at High Frequency Training!
[ Click here to learn more. ]

3. Training Will Be Progressive.

    As mentioned earlier your training MUST be progressive. You must increase either the weight or reps. This is why a log book is imperative for daily record of progress, sticking points and motivation. The log book is possibly the most important tool you can possess in your arsenal.

      Reason: You will be able to keep track of every rep and set of every workout you perform each week. It is the blueprint to building your physique. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping a record of your workouts. A house is not built without a plan so why should you?

      Did You Know?
      You can track your progress and receive feedback from people with similar goals by signing up for a free BodySpace Account here on bodybuilding.com!

4. Train To Failure.

    Train each muscle group to failure. Perform each set until another rep is not possible without good form.

      Reason: The muscle must achieve momentary muscular failure in order to respond. At the same time make sure you are meeting your goals of progression.

      Hit those rep and weight requirements you set out for your self. You will be surprised at how motivated you can get when you actually see your previous best staring at you on paper in your log book. When you see an actual goal written down then intensity and training to failure become second nature.

Do You Ever Train To Failure?

No, But I'll Try It Next Time.

5. Reps Will Be 8-12.

    Reason: This rep range has been shown over and over to be best for gaining size and strength. At times you may dip down to 6 or as high as 15 and seldom 20 for certain body parts, but sticking to 8-12 is the best bet for growth and safety. Be progressive within this rep range.

    For example: start to lift a weight for 8 reps, then the next time you lift try for 9, then 10 the next time and so on until you get 12 reps. Once you reach 12 reps add weight in a small increment and attempt 8 reps with the new weight and progress again. This is the root of this system.

6. You Will Train On An A & B System.

7. Train Muscle Groups From A Variety Of Angles.

    Choose movements that train your muscle groups at different angles each and every workout.

      Reason: To be progressive and avoid stagnation. Each workout will consist of, for example, an upper chest, mid to lower chest and inner or outer chest movement. Training at each angle ensures total stimulation over the entire muscle and keeps mental interest high.

8. Training Will Be Cyclic.

    Each phase of training will be between 6-and-8 weeks in length.

      Reason: If you continue to train at a level of high intensity for too long you will begin to stop progressing or even regress in your efforts. Taking a 1-or-2 week break will ensure you will be able to get back on the track of progress. By break I mean a low intensity, active rest phase.

      During this phase you can stop sets just short of failure, lower your volume, lower your workouts per week or whatever you feel you need to do to recover from the hard training. Most importantly do not take off 2 weeks completely. If you absolutely need a lengthy break take 1 week off and then come back at low intensity for 1 week before starting back into high gear.

9. Each Workout Should Last An Hour Or Less.

    Reason: When you train with heavy, basic, compound lifts you create a natural surge of growth hormone and testosterone within your body. This rise in GH peaks between 45 minutes to an hour and after that tapers off. Take advantage of this surge and keep your workouts basic and steady without wasting time (about 1-to-2 minutes of rest between sets). You will avoid rises in cortisol and keep the gains coming.

Human Growth Hormone And Exercise. Human Growth Hormone And Exercise.
Two of the biggest factors that play a role in the release of human growth hormone are sleep and exercise. How do HGH and the others effect each other? To learn more about these and what you can do then please read on ...
[ Click here to learn more. ]

10. Believe In What You Are Doing.

    Most importantly believe that what you are doing will work and put everything you have into the short amount of time you train per week. Make the time you spend in the gym worth it. You are spending your time, money and effort so why not do something that works.

    Click To Enlarge.
    Believe In What You Are Doing.

    Train to progress. If something doesn't work try another movement that does. If you want to build serious muscle then go to the gym to do just that. You have a better chance for anything to work if you truly believe in what you are doing will work for you.


Now let's put together a basic routine. This routine will build a foundation of strength and get your system accustomed to the frequency and volume. At the same time it will spur new growth so don't worry about if it is less than what you are currently doing. Focus on the few sets you are doing, go to complete failure with good form, and do not add sets or any special technique at this time.

Click Image To Enlarge.
This Routine Will Build A Foundation Of Strength.

At this point you are starting with a clean slate and will build on this with other techniques later in the program. However, feel free to replace certain movements with comparable ones if you feel they are uncomfortable to perform or if you have certain movements that you are just not fond of.

Each workout is performed once per week on a two-on, one-off, two-on, two-off schedule (i.e. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday with Wednesday and the weekends off or A1, A2, off, B1,B2, off, off). If you require more rest try a one-on, one-off schedule. This will allow a full day of rest between workouts and enable you to start each session at your best.

Do two sets of each movement at 8-12 reps.

Workout A1:

Workout A2:

Workout B1:

Workout B2:

    Next: S.P.O.T. Part 2 - Adding On For MORE MASS.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3