Stall of Progression
This type of scenario happens constantly, in all gyms and to all trainers. There will always be a point when you start to stall in progression. The exercises that have worked wonders for you in the past seem to stop having the same impact on your physical growth. Think back to any of the major compound exercises that you have pounded away on throughout the years, such as Squats, Bench and Deadlifts. Have you ever noticed that some times after having not trained on an exercise for a while, then going back to it to be happily surprised when the poundage's seemed to keep on a upwards climb, only to level off at a point of frustrating lack of returns. Many things lead to this problem. Maybe you weren't supplying enough extra calories and protein to compensate for the new muscle and the increased energy demands from training at a higher level. Perhaps, awkward minor injuries crop up in the joints and muscles from the repetitive beating that they endure over the course of a training year. Or, it could just be that your muscle and your mind have just got to use to those exercises and have reached a high point in diminishing returns.
Instead of losing hope, motivation and at the worst, hard earned muscle, why not plan ahead when your training is going great and taking the fight to the plateau and busting through it, before it even has a chance to set in? One way to achieve this is by using the Double Progression Method.
The Double Progression Method
The Double Progression Method isn't a new concept, and I remember reading about it quite a few years ago. Like many of the old style training methods they are easily forgotten. When the solution lies within them to consistent long term gains. Due to human nature we all like to stay on the same routine year in year out, regardless if it is still working or not. If most bodybuilders are honest, how many different training strategies do they use in a year? Fear of change is not an uncommon human trait, even when things aren't going to plan.
So what is this training method that I'm talking about? Isn't that just when you choose an exercise that you can do for 8 reps and then build up the reps to 12, before adding weight to drop your reps back down to 8 again? That's the traditional method of increasing both reps and weight for increased gains. But this methods still leads you to eventually hit certain sticking points in gains. The Double Progression Method I'm referring to is when you have two routines for the same body part done on alternate weeks. You still train intensely as possible in each session and still strive for gains in strength, with each body part having two separate workouts. I have found this of great benefit, as before, I was always concerned that I wasn't training on all the best exercises to develop my physique to my full potential. Take training your back for example there are so many fantastic result producing exercises that I would sometimes catch myself doing too many in one session leading to over training, aching joints or end up leaving out some great exercises as a sacrifice because I had established a set routine.
I feel confident that by training different exercises on different days that I am hitting my muscle from all the different angles that I need. I have been successful in gaining strength at steady pace, with out signs of sticking points. Not to mention what it can do for your motivation. Knowing that you have only got that one chance every two weeks on each exercise to make some decent progress really increases the intensity. You'll be pushing yourself to a higher level of strength in order to avoid wasting the opportunity. Every session stops being a carbon copy of the last, but a sense of excitement from the variety, taking away the boredom some trainers eventually feel.
The beauty of this method is that it has many different ways in which it can be used to benefit the bodybuilder, be creative with it. Instead of following set cycles, as some people do such as a Power Cycle of compound only exercise for 8 weeks, followed by Mass Cycle for 8 weeks, with a Cuts and Shaping Cycle for 8 weeks just as summer get near. Why not combine two cycles, so that one week you only train on the basic exercises with no isolation movements. This is when you can go all out for higher levels in strength using low reps (4-6). Followed then by Mass or Cuts week, where you use higher reps, add some isolation exercises, decreasing rest time in between sets.
Alternatively, you can follow the same style of training cycle and the same rep and rest scheme with just different exercises. Make it interesting, use various training methods to increase your intensity and motivation. Some of the most productive and popular methods are: Pre-Exhaust-Training, where you superset an isolation exercise immediately with a compounds exercise for the same muscle. Superslow-Training (10 seconds on both the ascent and decent). Drop-Set-Training where each exercise is immediately followed by the weight being reduced and carrying on, and Rest-Pause-Training, taking a set to failure, then racking the weight and after a quick breather busting out another few reps and repeating this for 3 - 4 times.
Following the Double Progression Method allows for you to train in the different ways that you enjoy best. You find yourself putting in 100% intensity into your effort each session and continue to progress in the right direction. Some people might worry at the thought that missing one week on a certain exercise will cause them to decrease in strength on that movement. They needn't worry, as you're still training that same muscles every week just at a different angles and using different training styles, so the muscle will still be strong if not stronger.
Changing It Up
As with all training methods, nothing is written in stone and there is nothing to stop someone utilizing the Double Progression Method on just certain body parts. For example, you might love your current chest and back workout and wouldn't want to change them for the world. However, legs are a problem area for one reason or another, and by following this plan could be the key to getting those pillars growing again. This being said it must always be remembered that in order to gain on any training program, you must have follow your nutrition and rest plan with the same conviction that you do your training. Not feeding the muscles with the calories and protein they need and/or not allowing adequate recovery between session is a sure way to halt progress.
I have gained a great deal of strength using this method. I put that down to my intensity being at an all time high, and loving the challenge of having to rise to the occasion every session, conscious not to waste this valuable opportunity to break into new training grounds. Below I have included the Double Progression Method that I use for my back workout, including the different training methods I use to push my intensity even further. Whilst these two routine on paper look similar in practice they feel completely different and are both really challenging.
Wide Chins x 3 sets - reps to failure - on final set I do 3 negative lasting 10 seconds each.
T-Bar Row x 2 sets - reps 12 - 15 followed by a strip set.
Reverse Grip Pulldowns x 2 sets - reps 10 - 15 with drop sets.
Hammer One Arm Row x 2 sets - reps 10 - 15 with rest pause lasting 5 - 10 seconds after failure then going after a few more reps.
Weighted Reverse Grip Chins x 2 - reps 6 - 8 both sets with 3 negative lasting 10 seconds
Barbell Row x 2 - reps 6 - 8 with rest pause.
Seated Cable Row x 2 reps 6 - 8 with rest pause.
One Arm Dumbbell Row x 2 reps 6 - 8.
Being willing to try different approaches and putting your heart and soul into making the biggest gains possible allows you to be able to continue to progress over long periods. I hope that if someone is reading this who is going through a stale patch or needs to put a spark back into their training, decide to try the Double Progression Method and are happily surprised to find the plateau breaker that they need to get them back on track.
Good luck and all the best,