In the previous article, I covered the linear system of progression and the double system, which looks something more like a stair step progression.
Today, we cover the varied wave. It is varied in that you use multiple methods of progression, intensity, set, volume and density. It is a wave in that as one form of these goes up, the other goes down.
Although a bit more complex in execution, this allows for progress to not get stopped up so easily as it does in linear methods of progression (whether single or double).
Let’s take deadlifts as an example, though this applies to anything and everything.
A linear progression could involve just added 5 or 10 pounds to the bar every workout. You’d likely last about a month at most doing so. A complete beginner may go a short bit longer.
A double system of progression could involve a specific set and rep scheme, such as 5×5. When you can handle the weight for that volume, that is five sets of five reps, then you do a higher weight the next workout, and build up again. Many people would find they can make progress for a few months like this before stalling out.
What does the varied wave progression with deadlifts look like? Well, first of all, this tends to go hand-in-hand with listening to your body as you train. Your body’s biofeedback signals well tell you when to do what. So what I lay out below is an example of what this could look like, rather than a specific structure to be followed.
In your first workout you work up to a max, let’s say 365 lbs. The next workout you go with something lighter, say 225 lbs., but do it for higher volume. The third workout is somewhere in the middle, 275 lbs., done for moderate reps and volume. The fourth workout, you’re up to 315 lbs., and just pulling doubles and triples but for a good number of sets. The fifth workout you drop back down to 225 and go for a single all out set. The sixth workout you’re back going for a max this time pulling 385 lbs.
All over the place, right? Exactly!
And that doesn’t even get into exercise variations that can be going on throughout this!
To progress with the varied wave method well, you need to keep a solid training log. But as long as things are moving forward in some direction you’re good to keep going.
And if things are not moving forward, something isn’t working. Often times frequency is to blame, either too much or too little. Change this and you’re back on track. Or the body isn’t responding well, which is possibly aches and pains, or something else. Again, you adapt and keep moving forward. (Realizing that sometimes it is simply time to move forward in a completely different direction too!)
The body likes variability, rather than moving forward in a straight line. That’s just how things are. The straight line is great when you can do it, but recognize that it won’t last long.
Also, speaking of the deadlift and progressing using variations, there’s some great info inside of Deceptive Strength, including the 14 Deadlift Variations bonus video. That covers how I was able to build up to over a 2 ½ times bodyweight deadlift. (505 lb. deadlift at bodyweight of 185 lbs.)