How To Break Linear Progression Limits in Strength Training

April 3rd 2019

What are the limits to linear progression?

Linear progression stops when the lifter is no longer able to increment weight after every workout, even after taking a deload. As a result, the lifter must adjust their programming to reflect these changes.

This point varies from lifter to lifter as well. For some lifters, they can squat up to 500lbs with linear progression before they need to switch to different programming. For other athletes, they need to change their programming at a 300lbs squat. There is nothing wrong with either lifter, but both need to be realistic with their rate of recovery and their training goals.

Linear progression in strength training

Linear progression is a training principle used in strength training programs. It involves increasing small amounts of weights progressively on the compound movements in each training session. Barbells are mostly used because they allow you to load your movement patterns in both an incremental and measurable manner. Linear progression aims at training your body to experience incremental stress to a point where it adapts.

How to keep progressing in the linear progression

In linear progression, there are approaches that can help you increase your chances of success. You want to avoid injuries and stalling for months. For better progression, consider:

Eating more

Your eating habits matter a lot in the linear progression. It determines your rate of recovery as well as the number of weights you can add to the bar. Just like any other weightlifting exercise, linear progression requires a high food intake to compensate the extra weights you add. Eating more helps to sustain the increased activity level. Consider increasing your intake of calories by about 15%. Although others do it by guessing, you can still calculate your normal requirements using different formulas and calorie calculators available online. But again, eating more doesn’t just mean you have to overlook the health side. Emphasize on eating the right foods and high-quality foods. Focus on eating plenty of proteins. You can eat it in the form of supplements or whole protein foods. Moreover, you can consider other foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds. It is also advisable to drink a lot of water to keep your body hydrated.


This refers to the use of small weight plates weighing less than 2.5lbs that are added to improve your strength training. Instead of jumping to massive weight at once, using smaller weights have shown to be effective in promoting your progress.

The challenge will however come and it reaches a point where your progress begins to slow particularly if you are a beginner. This is when it becomes hard for you to increase weights from one session to another. In such a case you can use microplates of 1lb or even 0.5 lbs as you progress towards your limit. When you increase your weights linearly using the same rep range, then it is referred to as single progression. If you cannot complete your target reps for the day, you can maintain it for your next session when you can make attempts once more.

In case you fail to achieve your load in two or three consecutive workouts, then you can consider reducing your load by about 10%. This method is referred to as deloading and helps you to dissipate the fatigue that might have built up for weeks. If you notice your progress begins to stall once again, then it’s time to advance to the intermediate level.

Intermediate level programming

As an intermediate trainee, you have to change your training routine. Unlike in the novice linear progression where you used the 10% deloading technique, it becomes a bit complex at the intermediate level to manage fatigue but that shouldn’t scare you. There are periodic deloads that you can use to help you curb fatigue. Remember, if fatigue builds up to great levels, it can hurt your progression.

Here, you can select a weight that allows you to complete about 3 sets out of 8 without failing on the last set. After every successful workout, consider adding a 5lb load. Once you begin to fail your 3 sets of 8 reps, reduce the number of reps in each set by 1. Over time, your volume should decrease but your intensity will increase inversely.


Microloading helps you to gain strength in a simple but effective way. It also helps to reduce your chances of hitting a plateau. Never try to push for a heavy load instead start with 2.5lb increments as you advance. It surely lessens grinding out and stalling out.

How long do people do linear progression program?

The time required to complete the linear progression program varies from one person to another. You can do it for weeks till you reach your linear progression limit. You may find it either simple or hard but it is very effective in strength training. Your intensity increases depending on your adaptation rate. Starting with your appropriate baseline then advancing from one level to another can help you complete the program effectively. You should never focus on finishing the program quickly by adding massive loads fast. Big stress can hurt you. Make it hard till the end by adding more and more weight. When you can no longer lift more weight, you will know you’ve hit your linear progression limits. For novice progression, you can do it fast because your body has not adapted to the stress of weightlifting yet.

What percentage of body weight of squat, deadlift, bench and overhead press do novice people need to stop it and switch to the intermediate program?

Generally, male lifters are considered “intermediate” lifters at around 1.6x bodyweight squat, 1.2x bodyweight bench press, 0.8x bodyweight overhead press and 1.9x bodyweight deadlift. However, it depends entirely on your bodyweight and if you are male or female.

For instance, a 180lbs male is considered an “intermediate” lifter at a 221lbs bench press, 291lbs squat, 339lbs deadlift, and 145lbs overhead press. Could lifters still progress pass these intermediate ratios using linear progression? The answer is… of course!

You should run linear progression for as long as you can since there is no other time in your lifting career where you can implement this programming style and get stronger every workout.

When does linear progression stop?

Linear progression stops when you are not recovering from your workout or if you hit a stall. Usually, lifters will repeat the same workout 2-3 times and not make any progress before a linear progression program does not work effectively for them anymore.

There are various times when you can stop doing the linear progression. The first case is when you are not growing or recovering. This may be due to the exhaustion of calories or even lack of rest. You may also be eating, resting and doing deloading but still, you cannot break your limit. It could also be you’ve got a muscle imbalance or have a nagging form problem.

Additionally, in case you’ve hit a true stall. This is when you want to move onto a bit complicated but slow weekly progression to help you make more progress. The time it takes for you to stop doing linear progression varies from one person to another. If you can recover quickly and go back to handle more heavyweights, then you are gifted. While some would stall out at around 280lbs squats, others can reach 450lbs and still keep going.

What is double progression?

Double progression refers to a resistance training method that seeks to alter more than one training variable, weights, sets/reps or rest time. It is quite different from single progression that only focuses on progressing in one training variable like reps, sets or weight.

How double progression is implemented

In this method, you can pick two training variables then set progress in those frames. You can even start by doing 3 sets of 6 using a 100 kg in the squat then work 3 sets of 8 reps as you increase the load. Here, you will be varying two factors i.e. reps and weight, but everything else remains constant.

Alternatively, you can use the Rest-Pause approach. Let us use the bench press as an example. Pick a weight that is about 3RM and do about 10 singles. After that, you can rest for a minute then work out another 10 singles then reduce your resting period to about 10 seconds. In the next workouts, try adding more weight and start the procedure again. In this method, the two training variables we improved are weight and resting periods.

When using the double progression method, there are many suggestions on how beginners and advanced weight lifters can best use the method. For instance, beginners are required to perform extra reps for every set each time they repeat the exercise until they reach the required rep range. Weight increments can be in the form of five pounds and the cycle repeated over. This works best for beginners and intermediate. For advanced trainees, slow improvements can help based on one’s ability.

Most people prefer double progression because it is not only easy but also effective in improving your performance and strength. It also works well with various machines like dumbbells, barbells, cable machines, and even kettlebells.


Linear progression is a training method suitable for those who want to improve their overall strength. The success of this training depends on your recovery, dedication, and consistency. Squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and overhead presses are the most popular compound exercises to implement linear progression with for beginners. All these exercises need to be performed constantly but bearing in mind when to take a deload to avoid injuries.

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