Q+A: Loading and Progression in Weight Training?

Q: Hello, I am just beginning your Base Strength 2 program. (I’ve been doing variations of Rippetoe’s programs on and off for years, so this seems like a reasonable place for me to start). I don’t see any detail about loading or progression. For example, in a session that indicates four sets of deadlifts, with reps of 2/3/2/3 per set, I don’t see any recommendation for the loading of those sets. Should they all be at the same work weight? Or should they get progressively heavier to achieve a peak work weight only in the final set? Also, I don’t see any recommendations in terms of progressing weight session-to-session. Do you have any basic guidance in that regard? – Daniel D.

A: The recommendation in the programs where we offer multiple rep ranges is typically to stick with the same load for all sets. In the program you mention above, you would then do 2 reps at, say, 315, followed by 3 the next set, then 2, then 3. This “waves” the difficulty a bit and allows you to focus more on good form and movement than always pushing hard each set. Occasionally, I’ll set broader rep ranges in programs, and these will be noted if they have different loading set-to-set.

As far as progression goes, it’s impossible to make a global recommendation. I ask that my athletes progress only if they could complete all planned reps with technical correctness. Thus, if you did your 315 deadlift for 2, then 3, then 2, and then failed on the last of the three in set 4, you would stay at the same weight. If all the sets went great, advance by 10 pounds next workout. In upper body lifts, 5 pound progressions are more achievable.

Hope this helps,