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What's This Linear Progression B.S. Anyway? (Part1)

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I’m sure you guys are sick of hearing your coaches barking at you about linear progression and to “Get your book out” and “Check your weights” so I thought it was about time that there was an explanation to go along with this nonsense.  I’m calling this part 1 because I am sure I will leave about 20 things out and hope to have some questions from you guys to add in to part two.  If you have questions, please comment below or email me directly

What is Linear Progression? Linear progression is a beginning strength training method that has been used successfully for years throughout the world to build a foundation of strength in athletes.  Beth and Ryan were first introduced to the idea by Mark Rippetoe through his program “Starting Strength” If you would like to read more about linear progression, this is a great place to start.

How Do I Get Started? For everyone who has come to a class for the first time when we deadlifted, squatted, or pressed, you have seen this.  We start you with a very light weight (usually just the bar), and work a set of 5.  We repeat sets of 5 adding small increments to the bar until we see the weight start to slow down.  Please not, I did not say we work to our max, but simply we watch for the bar to slow down.  At that point, we do two more sets with the same weight and call it a day.

What Next? The next time you come in to do the same movement, we will use the number that you set the prior week as a guide.  If we are talking about squatting or deadlifting, we will add 5lbs to last week’s number working 3 sets of 5 for the squat (all at the same weight) or one set of 5 for the deadlift, if we are pressing, we will add 2.5lbs for 3 sets of 5).  The goal in this program is to continue week after week adding these small increments to increase strength dramatically over time.

But I know I can lift more coach , I’m just gonna jump 15lbs this week. Making bigger jumps only sabotages you and the program in the end.  If you make a big jump, you are pushing yourself to your true max too quickly and we will have to re-set the weight back down in the future.  Remember, if you add 5lbs to your squat each week for 6 weeks, that is 30 lbs.  Who wouldn’t kill for another 30lbs on their squat?  Don’t make big jumps, follow the program and the strength and weight on the bar will come!

What about the warm up? Each time you come in to lift after your first testing day, the warm up will look a bit different.  You will see that other athletes have something on the board that looks like this:

2 x 5 x 45

5 x 95

3 x 135

1 x 155

3 x 5 x 185

Our main goal with your warm up is to get you warm without tiring you out.  We want to be able to put everything we possibly can into the final 3 sets of 5.  The scribbles up above are a warm up for someone working 3 sets of 5 at 185lbs.  If I were to write it out, it would read something like this:  2 sets of 5 at 45, one set of 5 at 95, one set of 3 at 135, 1 set of 1 at 155 and 3 sets of 5 at 185.  Please note that when I say set of 3 or 1, I simply mean 3 reps or 1 rep, not multiple sets.

My hope is that each of you will get through the warm up as quickly as possible.  Remember that the faster you go, the warmer you will get.  This also serves another function however.  Our goal is to put everything we possibly can into those 3 sets of 5, so we need proper rest between sets.  I would like to see a minimum of 2 minutes between each set once you are working on your 3 sets of 5 (herein referred to as “working sets”) As you guys all know, we are limited in our class times, so the time has to come from somewhere.  I would much rather see a fast warm up than rushing your working sets.

What Next? Come on back in next week and add 5lbs to the bar.  I can promise you that using this program will give you a solid foundation of strength.  Personally, I put over 100lbs onto my deadlift over the course of a year using this exact program.  I hope to see the same success with you!

If you have any questions please let me know.  If you now consider yourself a master of the art of linear progression, please do your coaches a favor and take a leading role in class.  Grab yourself a partner, get out your rackstands and get to squatting on squat day.  Talk to your coach and get your warmup for your specific weight up on the board, or ask them if the one you used last week will be sufficient.  The less time your coach spends organizing everyone and putting out fires, the more time they will have to coach you!



Make Up WOD / Open Gym will be held at 1pm Monday.  If you can’t make a class, come do the WOD with your coaches.


Monday’s Benchmark WOD:



Deadlifts (225/185)

Handstand Push Ups

Compare to 1/3/11


Comments: 2

  1. I was redirected to your site via Crossfit South Brooklyn.

    I have been reading a bit on the Rippetoe Starting Strength linear progression routine. It seems that it is pretty strict on following the 3 days a week ABA / BAB routine for 12 weeks. The gains of the program are incredibly attractive. Am I crazy to worry about sacrificing endurance and stamina? I have been searching but have yet to find any literature or programs that discuss how to supplement this with Crossfit or HIIT.

    I can’t imagine that it would be possible to gain the benefits for the Starting Strength or any of the Bill Starr 5×5 while continuing doing Crossfit or HIIT.

    I don’t know if this is outside of the realm of questions you can answer but it would be great to have your thoughts?


  2. @Stanley: Your answer lies within a program i’ve been doing for quite some time now. It’s made by a crossfit regional athlete who can deadlift 550 lbs. Look up “Unbreakable Badass Blueprint 2.0”. It works straight up. It got my squat from 145-205 in 8 weeks while I was on a cut and was completely sleep deprived getting around 5hrs of sleep a night (sometimes less). I did 4 more weeks of it, and it went up to 230 after deload week. This applies for all my lifts, and all I can say is that it works for me. Just imagine my numbers on a bulk AND getting 8+ hours of sleep. No i’m not an affiliate.

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