Have you been following workouts you found online but look the same year after year? Are you curious what the best bodybuilding progression schemes are?

If so, this article is for you.

Bodybuilding splits and online workouts miss one crucial aspect of training, and that’s progression. There’s often no mention of how you are going to improve. These workouts just list the exercises, sets, and reps.

Many people think there are magic training splits or workouts, but there aren’t. Bodybuilding splits are just a way to organize your training. You also need to have a plan on how you are going to make progress.

To get bigger and stronger over time, you need to progressively overload the muscle. Progressive overload is the gradual increase of training stress over time. This is done through the planned manipulation of training variables.

Training Variables:

  • Sets
  • Reps
  • Weight
  • Frequency
  • Rest Periods (I don’t use it for progression but you can)

A good bodybuilding progression scheme will alter these variables regularly to help build more muscle.

Below are the best bodybuilding progression schemes for more muscle growth. If you are tired of spinning your wheels and looking the same year after year, keep reading to make some gains!

Download 7 workout splits to apply these bodybuilding progression schemes to!

Double Progression

By far, the most common of all bodybuilding progression schemes is double progression. I find many people using this method even if they don’t know it. Double progression typically involves increases in reps and weight as you are able.

Start by picking a weight that allows you to work in the desired rep range. Stick with this weight until you can perform all sets at the high-end rep number.

Once you reach the high-end of the rep range for all sets, increase the weight by 5 pounds or a small increment.

By using slightly heavier weights over time, you are progressively overloading the muscle.

Double Progression Example

This example is what double progression would look like if your training split says 3 sets of 6-8 reps for the bench press.

Week 1

Bench Press
Set 1: 185 x 8
Set 2: 185 x 8
Set 3: 185 x 8

* You did all sets for 8 reps, so increase the weight next session.

Week 2

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 7
Set 2: 190 x 7
Set 3: 190 x 6

* You can’t do all sets for 8 reps, so stick with this weight next session.

Week 3

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 8
Set 2: 190 x 8
Set 3: 190 x 8

* You did all sets for 8 reps, so increase the weight next session.

Week 4

Bench Press
Set 1: 195 x 7
Set 2: 195 x 7
Set 3: 195 x 6

* You can’t do all sets for 8 reps, so stick with this weight next session.

I think you get the idea.

bodybuilder bench pressing with barbell

This example would be if you perform bench once per week. You could also bench twice per week and have more opportunities to increase reps and weight. It all depends on your goals, level of training, and bodybuilding split.

Triple Progression

Triple progression takes it a step further and increases sets along with reps and weight. Your training split will have a set and rep range, for example, 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps. This method is a little more confusing and requires better tracking of your workouts.

Start by picking a weight that allows you to work in the desired rep range for the low-end set number. Once you get all the reps for the low-end set number, add another set instead of increasing weight.

Once you can perform the high-end set and rep number, you will increase the weight and work your way back up again.

You may not be able to increase or improve from workout to workout, but you should be over time. If you are plateaued at the same weight, reps, or sets for a while, you may need to change things up.

Triple Progression Example

Below is what triple progression looks like with the same bench press example. Let’s say your training split says 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.

Week 1

Bench Press
Set 1: 185 x 8
Set 2: 185 x 8
Set 3: 185 x 8

* You did the high-end rep number, so add a set next week.

Week 2

Bench Press
Set 1: 185 x 8
Set 2: 185 x 8
Set 3: 185 x 8
Set 4: 185 x 8

* You did the high-end set and rep number, so increase the weight next week.

Week 3

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 8
Set 2: 190 x 7
Set 3: 190 x 7

* You can’t do the high-end rep number, so stick with the same weight and sets next week.

Week 4

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 8
Set 2: 190 x 8
Set 3: 190 x 8

* You did the high-end rep number, so add a set next week.

Week 5

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 8
Set 2: 190 x 8
Set 3: 190 x 8
Set 4: 190 x 8

* You did the high-end set and rep number, so increase the weight next week.

I prefer triple progression over double for advanced bodybuilders because there’s a nice bump in volume (from the added set) before you add weight. The extra set can also increase your confidence with the weight. Both of these can make the transition to heavier weights smoother.

Linear Progression (Technically Linear Periodization)

Periodization isn’t necessarily a progression scheme but a way of organizing your training. I included it because I like to use a linear periodization model for the base of my program.

Linear periodization sounds fancy but just means you decrease volume and increase intensity (weight on the bar) over time. This is also a linear progression because you linearly increase the weight you can lift over time.

Increases in strength aren’t on a workout to workout basis, or even weekly. You get stronger and add weight to the bar every month. For lower body lifts, I like to add 5 pounds each month. Upper body lifts like the bench press can’t progress as fast, so I only add 2.5 pounds each month.

I like to use this approach for strength movements because I can focus on getting stronger and know how fast it will happen. You might be wondering why I include these in a bodybuilding program. The answer is simple, if you can lift more weight, you can accumulate more training volume (with your bodybuilding work).

bodybuilder using linear periodization progression for squats

More volume = more growth (for the most part)

Let’s look at a simple, but effective linear progression scheme.

Linear Progression Example

This example will look a rep scheme of 8, 7, 6 but you can use it for lower reps as well. I’m using this approach for a rep scheme of 5, 4, 3 because I’m more focused on strength at the moment.

Pick a weight that allows you to perform the high-end rep number with a few reps left in the tank. You shouldn’t be close to failure in the first month, or you will burn out too quickly.

Week 1

Bench Press
Set 1: 185 x 8
Set 2: 185 x 8
Set 3: 185 x 8

Week 2

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 7
Set 2: 190 x 7
Set 3: 190 x 7

Week 3

Bench Press
Set 1: 195 x 6
Set 2: 195 x 6
Set 3: 195 x 6

Week 4

Bench Press
Set 1: 185 x 6
Set 2: 185 x 6

* Week 4 is lighter and fewer sets to allow for recovery. Week 5 will start the progression scheme over with 5 pounds more.

Week 5

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 8
Set 2: 190 x 8
Set 3: 190 x 8

Week 6

Bench Press
Set 1: 195 x 7
Set 2: 195 x 7
Set 3: 195 x 7

Week 7

Bench Press
Set 1: 200 x 6
Set 2: 200 x 6
Set 3: 200 x 6

Week 8

Bench Press
Set 1: 190 x 6
Set 2: 190 x 6

This scheme continues until you are unable to add 5 pounds each month. At that point, you might need to decrease to 2.5 pounds per month or increase the number of sets you do each session.

Recommended Article: Natural Bodybuilding Diet – The Definitive Setup Guide

Set Progression Method

Progressing in sets can drastically increase the volume in your program. Large jumps in volume may be better for bodybuilders because it’s more of a shock to the muscle.

Like I mentioned earlier, training volume is one of the most important variables when it comes to building muscle. It’s a combination of the sets, reps, weight, and frequency you perform.

By increasing the number of sets you do on a regular basis, you give the muscle a reason to adapt. I like to increase the number of sets on a weekly basis but you can also do it monthly.

Set Progression Example

Let’s look at an example of the set progression method with a barbell curl exercise. This is just one exercise, but you should use this progression scheme for every exercise of the same muscle group.

Week 1

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 95 x 10
Set 2: 95 x 10
Set 3: 95 x 10

Week 2

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 95 x 10
Set 2: 95 x 10
Set 3: 95 x 10
Set 4: 95 x 10

Week 3

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 95 x 10
Set 2: 95 x 10
Set 3: 95 x 10
Set 4: 95 x 10
Set 5: 95 x 10

Week 4

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 95 x 10
Set 2: 95 x 10

* Week 4 is fewer sets to allow for complete recovery. Week 5 will start the progression scheme over with 5 pounds more.

Week 5

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 100 x 10
Set 2: 100 x 10
Set 3: 100 x 10

Week 6

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 100 x 10
Set 2: 100 x 10
Set 3: 100 x 10
Set 4: 100 x 10

Week 7

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 100 x 10
Set 2: 100 x 10
Set 3: 100 x 10
Set 4: 100 x 10
Set 5: 100 x 10

Week 8

Barbell Curl
Set 1: 100 x 10
Set 2: 100 x 10

I like to use this for smaller muscle groups or weak body parts. I don’t recommend using it for every body part because your total volume will be way too high to recover from. Because of this, use this progression scheme sparingly.

Frequency & Set Progression Method

Recently, I have been experimenting with frequency and set progression and noticed some good gains. There are infinite ways to set this up, but the way I do is by increasing body part frequency and sets every two months. The whole progression scheme will take a total of six months to complete.

natural bodybuilder using a muscle building rep range with curls

I use this approach for arm training because it’s a weak body part of mine. By increasing the frequency and total sets every second month, I get a nice bump in volume to continue making gains.

Just like with set progression, I only use this for weak or small body parts. Don’t try to use this progression scheme for everything as it will be confusing and burn you out quickly.

Frequency & Set Progression Example

This example starts with a training frequency of two times per week and works up to six, but isn’t the only way to do it.

Month 1 & 2

Biceps:
2 times/week
7 sets/workout

Total Weekly Sets: 14

Month 3 & 4

Biceps:
4 times/week
4 sets/workout

Total Weekly Sets: 16

Month 5 & 6

Biceps:
6 times/week
3 sets/workout

Total Weekly Sets: 18

* You can pair this with double progression to handle when you increase weights.

By progressing in frequency and sets, you stress the muscles differently and increase the volume over time.

At the end of six months, drop frequency back to twice per week. You should notice a significant strength increase, which will allow you to use weight the next time around.

Download 7 workout splits to apply these bodybuilding progression schemes to!

Best Bodybuilding Progression Schemes For You?

There is no best way to progress for all people. The best bodybuilding progression scheme for you will depend on your genetics, training age, and goals. You should experiment with each method to see what works best for you.

Give them a try and be patient because they aren’t going to start working in the first week. I would dedicate a couple of months for each method to see how well they work.

Can You Only Use One Method at a Time?

No! You don’t have to pick one way of progressing for all exercises. I actually prefer mixing these methods. By doing this, you take advantage of the benefits of each and it helps you avoid getting burnt out too quickly.

I’m currently using a mix of linear progression, triple progression, and the frequency/set method.

Strength Movements (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) – Linear Progression
Bodybuilding Movements – Triple Progression
Arms (My Weak Point) – Frequency and Set Method

What If You Can’t Progress Anymore?

There are many reasons why you might stop progressing. The most common are overtraining or overreaching. This happens when your body hasn’t had a chance to recover fully. The fix is a deload.

Deloading is often done by having a light week. Drop the weight on all exercises and perform them a few reps short of failure. This week should be very easy.

If you have deloaded and still can’t make progress, you probably need to increase body part volume. It sucks but sometimes you just have to do more total work.

Increase volume by adding exercises, sets, or another day. The important point is that you do more total work throughout the week for that body part. This should help you to start making progress again.

Take Your Muscle Growth to the Next Level

Has your muscle building stalled? Are you plateaued? If so, give some of these bodybuilding progression schemes a try. Don’t just go into the weight room and wing it or you will continue looking the same year after year.

You must give your body a reason to adapt, and progressive overload does that. By planning your progression, you will build more muscle in the long run.

Now go and take your muscle growth to the next level by using one of these bodybuilding progression schemes with a smart workout split.