What is the Double Progressive System?
The Double Progressive System is a resistance training method that attempts to vary the stimulus by changing the number of repetitions and the resistance used. In this system, the volume is raised and then at a certain point the weight is raised.
Double Progressive System Training Protocol
At first, the resistance is kept the same and the number of repetitions is increased with each consecutive workout until a certain pre-arranged number of reps is reached. At this point, various scenarios are given as to how to continue, but all of them involve decreasing the reps and increasing the resistance.
A common scenario would have the lifter simply increase the load by 5% and reduce the number of reps back down to the initial low starting point, and then repeating the process.
Other times, the resistance is increased and the repetitions are reduced gradually while continuing to increase the load. Supposedly, the method used would depend on the population being trained.
An example of this method is given in the chart below. The idea is that the load should not be increased until a certain number of repetitions (usually 12) can be performed with that load, and then the load can be increased, but with lower reps. This is a single-set system of training, primarily, although sometimes multiple set scenarios are described.
|Set||Repetitions||Resistance (Load in Lbs)|
It is unlikely that most trainees will be able to constantly increase repetitions in this way, when using only one set or repetitions per workout. It may come as a surprise to many that the reason for this is not because the volume is too high, but because the stimulus is too low to elicit continuous increases in muscular endurance. Most often, the trainee will get “stuck” at a certain number of repetitions. Therefore, one problem is that the number of target repetitions, and for that matter, sets, is set in stone.
Another variation uses one-set-to-failure. One set of exercise is done to the point that another repetition cannot be performed with proper technique. The weight is set so that this failure point is reached from between 8 and 12 repetitions. When 12 reps are reached, the weight is increased.
A more “scientific” method is to calculate the ideal rep range, advocated by Arthur Jone and Ellington Darden, early on. In this method you take 80% of your one rep max, which corresponds roughly to a hypothetical 8RM based on the widely accepted formula of 102.78 – 2.78 x repetitions. and do as many reps as you can. Then you take the number of reps and multiply it by .15, giving you your “ideal rep range.”
Bob Hoffman claimed to have originated this training method and called it an “advanced” method. A double progressive system such as this is often touted as being a superior way of training for strength as it allows constant uninterrupted progress and is “virtually” injury proof. Neither statement is true and there is no evidence that this method of strength training is effective for the long term. For free-weight training, there are a number of drawbacks even for the beginner. The total stimulus is actually quite low. The “slow” progress gives a false sense of security when the load is increased and the constant rep counting, without a concurrent buildup of endurance, can result in low-quality movement. This method of strength training, used alone, is not recommended.
The DeLorme System – Double Progressive Overload
It should also not be confused with the concept of “double progressive overload” which is sometimes used to describe an idea that was advanced as early as the 1940’s by Dr. Thomas Delmore, who claimed that the most effective method for gaining muscular strength was to use 3 sets of 10 repetitions, increasing the load used by 25%. This so-called DeLorme System is actually a percentage based system, which starts at 50% of 10RM, increases the load to 75% for the second set, and up to 100% for the third set.
Returning to Base Volume
Perhaps the most useful feature to be extracted from the double progressive system is the idea of, after increasing volume by means of rep and set increases, to return back down to an established base volume while increasing the weight (resistance). This should be viewed as a basic means of progression for all trainees and it is useful for both pure strength training and muscle building. The advantage of this is that when you increase the weight used at a certain volume past the weight you used originally, you can assume that you have also achieved an increase in your one rep maximum. Several increases in this manner all but guarantees an increase in 1RM. Without actually adding weight to a base volume, simply increasing volume can never be guaranteed to relate to any predictable increase in your 1RM.
Do not confuse this “double progressive system” with the double progression that may occur in “SDT Training” (Single, Double, and Triple Progression). SDT, as a central concept, uses a return to base volume as its basic means of performance progression.