In Strength Training, Do You Always Progress in a Linear Fashion?

Posted on 09 Jan 2014 18:18

The term that fans of Starting Strength and certain 5x5 programs hang their hat on is linear progression. In reality, the term is meaningless semantic babble. These programs do use something that could be called linear loading, although even this is just throwing a little gild on the lily. Here, I'll look at so-called linear progression and explain why this vogue term in the strength training world is so meaningless.

There are many ways of looking at linear progression. The term itself is just a bit of meaningless babble that has somehow become vogue in the strength training world. All progression is linear. It's just not all a straight line. But this is not what people mean by linear progression, what they really mean is linear loading. However, a huge misunderstanding in strength is that your training will continue to be a simple journey from point A to point B and there will always be a straight line between those points.

So, imagine that point A is at the bottom of a long flight of stairs and point B is at the top. EVEN if you go up two stairs and regress down one, up one, and down two, and so on and so forth until you eventually reach the top your PROGRESSION from the foot of the stairs to the top is still LINEAR.

This is exactly the model you want to assure people will always work if you want to be a really successful strength writer. You may not be such a successful strength TRAINER but that is not required. Lucky! A straight line is always more inviting than a curvy one full of detours and side-roads.

Detours and side-roads are, of course, the reality. So-called linear progression (but really, again, and imaginary significance because any progression is linear)..straight up the stairs… works for a certain period of time when you first begin but the more advanced you get the more creative your training must become. The more thought it takes. I didn't say complex. Complex is not always required. But simple-minded may not continue to work.

Listen to Voice Version

Milo and His Bull is a MYTH!

This is not the message for winning over the masses, however. So, the first thing you want to do is get up a nice piece about Milos of Croton and his bull. I know you've heard that story. It is required on every strength related website and most books. So, Milos got himself a bull calf and he carried it up a hill, or a mountain, depending on the version. He repeated this every day. As the bull got bigger he got stronger until eventually, he was carrying a full-grown bull up a hill or a MOUNTAIN! WOW!

Most people know that this is a fable. But most people believe it to be a true model of strength training. They believe that if you increase the load in very small, minute, increments, over a long period of time you won't ever "feel" the difference but eventually these very small increments (even one-half pound a day) will add up to hundreds upon hundreds of pounds.

You definitely want to use this story. It inspires people. If that is all there is to it, I can do it, they think. They can envision themselves lifting herculean weights without too much effort at all!

You and I both know that Milos would have failed miserably to continue to carry the bull up the hill. At some point, this straight and so-called "linear progression" would have failed to continue. Remember, LOAD is the ONLY parameter that changes here. The distance he carries the bull does not change and the story is implying that the time involved does not change. He doesn't carry the bull any faster or slower each time. After all, he doesn't even 'notice' the changing weight.

Linear progression WORKS when it WORKS. We must accept that the same thing will not continue to work forever. We are constantly changing. We are not static. We are dynamic.

When I use the term linear progression in this way, I am borrowing the term the way it is generally meant. The idea that there is a way to progress that is "non-linear" is ridiculous. Don't get "periodization" which regards training, mixed up with progression.

This page created 09 Jan 2014 18:18
Last updated 30 Mar 2018 03:28

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