The Triple Progression Training Approach

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
October 12th, 2009
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
18K Reads
Standard progression focuses on the addition of weight. Triple progression has you adding reps, sets then weight.

Triple Progression Adding SetsMost natural bodybuilding routines utilize double progression. Double progression is easy to understand - you add reps, and ultimately more weight. With triple progression, you'll be taking progression one step further. Instead of adding weight after you crawl up the rep ladder, you will add sets. Triple progression can be a very confusing approach, so I will explain it as best I can.


In weight training, there are three main variables that can be increased.

  1. Reps
  2. Sets
  3. Weight

Several minor variables can also be increased, such as time under tension (TUT) and the decreasing of rest between sets. Both variables lead to an increase in set intensity. This article will not delve into TUT or rest between sets, and will simply focus on the three primary set variables.

Reps are the easiest to increase. Most of us can squeeze out one more rep and beat our previous workout's effort. Once reps are increased, the triple progression protocol will have you adding in an additional set. The extra volume demand from this set will make the muscle/muscle groups work harder. Most likely, it will take you several more weeks to increase the reps on this added set. And ultimately, when you have added more sets and hit your rep goals, you will add weight and start the process all over again.

It takes time and effort to work your way up the rep ladder, and fortunately - for those who want more muscle mass - the reward will be harder work. Think of triple progression as an "automated periodization" protocol. Over time you will do more reps and eventually more volume. Then when you've hit your goal and increase weight, the volume drops. Still confused? Have no fear, it's easier then it sounds. Please, read on...

Rep Range

This routine will have you working within the 6-10 rep range. This range is a standard hypertrophy range. It can be changed to suit your needs, or to fit better with a given exercise. But in general, do not deviate too far from 6 to 10 reps. Some bodyparts, such as quads, hamstrings and calves might respond better to higher rep ranges. Alter the range as needed to fit your body and needs.


Rest between sets should remain constant. The amount of rest you use between sets is up to you. For some exercises, such as squats, it may be necessary to use a rest periods of 4 to 5 minutes between sets.

I recommend using 60 to 120 seconds between most sets. A longer rest period will generally allow you to use a greater weight. Resist the urge to expand the rest periods to anything over 120 seconds. The point of hypertrophy training is to push your body to new levels of intensity, and is not about absolute poundages moved. Progression is king, but the king needs a throne. This throne is constructed using the training variables that work best for muscle growth.

Shorter rest periods will create greater workout intensity, and will also slightly lower the risk of injury. Lighter training weights correlate to overall safer workouts. Think of it this way...what's a safer way to lift, 225 pounds for 10 reps, or 275 for 3 reps? I think the answer is obvious.

Single Progression

Start with two sets for each exercise. Choose a weight that allows you to perform at least 6 reps. Continue utilizing only 2 sets until you can perform 10 reps for both sets. This first push is single progression – or progression of reps only. When you can perform 2 sets of 10 reps, it’s time to start adding more sets.

Double Progression

After hitting your goal of 2 sets by 10 reps, things will get more difficult. You've progressed in weight and now you will progress in volume.  The next time you hit the gym, add in a third set for that exercise. You will now have the goal of reaching 3 sets of 10 reps. When this goal is reached, add in a 4th set. Your ultimate goal is to hit 4 sets of 10 reps with a given weight. When this is accomplished, is time to add more weight to the bar.

Here are some sample weekly progressions for the bench press:

Week 1: Bench Press

  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 6

Week 2: Bench Press

  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10

Week 3: Bench Press

  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 7

Week 4: Bench Press

  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10

Week 5: Bench Press

  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 8

Week 6: Bench Press

  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10
  • 200 x 10

Week 7: Bench Press

  • 210 x 10
  • 210 x 8

Triple Progression

After working your way to 4 sets of 10 reps, it’s time to add more weight! This is the goal you should be living for. It's the payoff for hard work. Hit the reset button, and start all over again with two sets. Resist the urge to do more, even if the weight seems relatively easy and you can hit 10 reps on both sets.

How much weight you add to the bar is up to you. I recommend 5 pounds for most lifts, and 10 pounds for big lifts like squats. As I mentioned, the triple progression approach has a built in form of periodization. The fluctuation of volume is a form of periodized training rest. Some also call this a working de-load period. When you pull back on the volume after reaching 4 sets of 10, even with the extra weight, the workout will seem relatively easy. As you get into heavier and heavier poundages, it’s best to stick with 5 pound increases. Bodybuilding isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.


Using this style of training, you should be able to perform 4-5 exercises per workout. But remember, it is not necessary to use this training protocol for all exercises. Triple progression is merely a training tool. With that said, you certainly can use triple progression as the basis for an entire training routine. If you do so, on some days you might be performing as few as 8 total sets. This total could go as high as 20 total sets if you’re performing 5 exercises on any given training day.

If you reach a point where you feel like you’re overtraining, pull back for a week or two and use only 2 sets per exercise. Begin the progression cycle over again from the start with the same weight, once again working your way up to 4 sets of 10 reps.

Training Time

Even on heavy volume days where total sets come close to 20 (if you are using 120 seconds between sets), workouts shouldn’t take more then one hour. In general most workouts will take approximately 50 minutes. There is no need for a natural bodybuilder to train longer then this. If you can't hammer your body in an hour, you are wasting time in the gym.

Total Sets

While I recommend starting with the goal of hitting 4 sets of 10 reps, triple progression is extremely flexible and can work with any set and rep scheme. You can adjust this training style to fit your needs. Work from 2 sets of 10 reps to only 3 total sets of 10 reps, or go hardcore and aim for 5 total sets. Whatever training approach you take, make sure you keep total possible daily sets to a max of 20.

Training Split

Triple progression will work with nearly any exercise. I recommend interjecting this training tool into your current split, trying it with only one exercise, and making modifications from there.


Moving from 2 sets of 6 reps to 4 sets of 10 reps on an exercise will result in a big jump in strength. The initial progression period will be the hardest. Once you reach the pinnacle of 4 sets x 10 reps, the second progressional pattern will be easier and most likely faster.

Posted on: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 14:05

Wow thanks Steve! Really learned something from that. Gonna start using this triple progression method with immediate effect. I'm a beginner with a few months experience, recently moved from a full body workout three days a week to a four day split. Been getting some nice gains, feeling good. But after reading this and re-reading my journal I realise that my workout is not structured enough, too much variation. Been mixing up pyramid sets and drop sets all over the place and just getting confused. What you're saying here makes perfect sense, just train to add another rep week after week, then add sets, THEN add weight when I can do 4x10. Thanks man! Will let you know how I get on...

Posted on: Sat, 07/31/2010 - 08:43

OK I know Im old fashioned, I'll probably get a lot of "hate" on this, but here it goes.
I realize that there is the "updates" and latest training "systems popping up all the time and alot of reinventing of the wheel.
When i went to school single double and triple progression was just very simply the amount of training sessions (not days) between any increase (progression) whether it be weight, reps, sets or intervals (rest time reduced between sets) in a given exercise. For example,if I were to Bench press 400lbs for 6 reps on Monday then train again on Wednesday and bench the same 400 for 7 reps, that would be single progression, if i just did the same 6 reps and waited until my next training session on Friday to get 7 reps that would be double progression or if i stayed with 6 reps for monday wed. and friday then on the following monday Benched the 400 for 7 reps that would be triple progression. This is not to say you cannot add sets in fact the reps and set progression you explain is exactly what one would do. but the adding of one variable or changing another does not determine if the system or program is single double or triple progression. Those that suscribe to this almost always leave out the "time element" which if one was to determine power and output knows time is in the equation For example if I curl with 100 pounds for 6 reps and work my way up to 10 reps now i get to where i add sets first 1 then another but i go from resting 1 minute between sets to resting 3 or 4 minutes between sets the tonnage lifted is the same but the measured power is reduced. Closing the distance in time between reps and sets is a way to increase neuromuscular response time thereby increasing strength. I know, I know so yesteryear. This is based on the works of Grimek, Lurie, Leiderman and Hackenschmidt. The reason I dont go with the modern interpetation is I keep it very basic and simple, I know the "old system" works. I totally agree with your rep/set progression the 6 to 10 range, with new guys or overweight trainees I take them to the 12 rep range before any change in any of the variables weight, reps, sets, time