Progression: Programming Evolution For Bodybuilding

One thing you don’t see enough about in the lifting world is programming progression, which is insane.

We talk about progressive overload, there are hundreds of recognized and well-established programs, so why no graded way to move from program type to program type?

The answer is that we’re focused on black and white ideas.

“Is this program good?”

Things like that.

The answer of course is that all programs can be good and have the ability to be extremely beneficial – if the situation warrants it.

The Right Program At The Right Time

Here on GGPhysique one of the goals is to provide beginners with a platform that makes progressing easier.

We believe that programming evolution is a key element to success as picking the wrong program can set you back, sometimes even indefinitely.

For a complete beginner they’re going to need a different program to someone who has been lifting for 5 years. That seems like it should be common sense, but it’s not always the advice that prevails.

Note: This is largely based on the theory of effective frequency which you should learn more about if this stuff really interests you.

Here is our progression chart:

Beginner – Total Body

As a total beginner your ability to recover is going to be much higher as you’re not going to be very strong. Even among those who are naturally stronger than others, this is about relatively strong. All beginners are relatively weak compared to what they would be at 5 years in. Ideally you should be working out at least every other day, but many people can do this as much as 6x a week.

Novice – Upper/Lower

Once you’ve made some good progress with total body workouts, you want to move on to an upper/lower program. This allows you to add in more lifts, and focus more on adding weight to the bar for specific movements. You will typically see people doing 2 days on 1 day off, or 1 day on 1 day off where you’ll hit Upper in the morning and Lower in the afternoon.

Beginner/Intermediate – Push/Pull/Legs

Push/Pull/Legs is often considered to be more of a beginner program, but the reality is you can get great progress with this if you do it properly. In our push/pull/legs program we actually oriented it more to beginners with a bigger focus on compound lifts. However, you can also perform the program 6x a week. You can then make good size gains with a focus on half the week being on compound lifts and going heavy, and the second half of the week focusing on isolation exercises at a moderate weight.

Intermediate – Split Variants

At around 18-24 months in you should reach the intermediate stage, allowing you to focus on splits such as chest/triceps, back/delts, etc. You should be lifting heavy enough weights that it’d take you much longer to recover, so those muscle groups are focused on in pairs with several days before you next hit those muscles.

Advanced – Single Muscle Groups

Hitting singular muscle groups isn’t something you see very often with natural lifters, and the reason for that is it’s simply not efficient to do it unless you’re using PED’s which enhance your recovery. In these cases you often see bodybuilders focus on a single muscle a day such as chest, deltoids, etc. If you can get to this stage and continue progressing naturally then you’re probably doing a lot right!

The Final Rep:

The fact is that there are hundreds of programs out there that usually fit under one or more (hybrids) of the above categories. For best results you should ideally be focusing on progressing in a gradual way, and staying in each category for as long as possible until results diminish. Of course there are many other things you can try before progressing such as switching from straight sets to pyramid sets or vice versa, plus much more. So don’t try to progress faster than necessary!