NOTE: this article is a sequel to these two:
So today I would like to share with you my favorite method of progressing from singles to triples and beyond. It fits calisthenics and kettlebell strength training perfectly because they both have huge jumps in intensity most of the time. I am talking about those moments when you were having fun with a pair of 24 kg kettlebells and can’t even move 32 kg ones in the same exercise. Or when you can do 10 reps in regular Wall-Assisted Handstand Push-Ups, but fail to perform even a solid negative in a “diamond” version. If you trained enough time using bodyweight or kettlebells, you know what I mean.
In both articles at the beginning, I shared some methods of progressing in such unforgiving circumstances, but I wasn’t too specific on this particular solution. I think it deserves a full post and you will be able to benefit from learning it.
The actual method uses the principle of double progression. In short, the double progression is a fancy name for using two variables in your training instead of one. For example, 3 sets of 6-8 with X kg. How does it work? At the first session, you perform 3 sets of 6 with X kg. Rest for a week. At the second session, you nail 3 sets of 7 with X kg. Rest for a week, then finish 3 sets of 8 with X kg. In the fourth session, you increase the working weight to, say, X+2.5 kg and start over with 3 sets of 6. In this particular example, working weight and reps per set are our two variables. Everything else is constant.
The “Singles to Doubles to Triples” method utilizes the same principle of double progression, but in this case, our intensity (working weight) is constant. Our two variables are sets and reps.
Singles to Doubles
First of all, you should understand the difference between training and demonstration of strength. In short, if you bleed from all the holes in your body, then you are probably working with too much intensity, and that is not training, but rather demonstration of strength.
If I say “singles” here, I assume that you can do at least three of them (I mean 3 sets of 1 rep). To rephrase, I suggest you to implement this method starting with comfortable single repetition intensity, not your 1RM. This is mandatory and important point that will allow you to progress further in consecutive training sessions.
The mechanics of the method are easy. Start with 3 sets of 1. With time, work up to 8-10 sets of 1. Once you can do this, you can try performing 2 reps in the first set. Most likely you will succeed. For example, your progress can look like this:
Week 1: 3 sets of 1
Week 2: 4 sets of 1
Week 3: 5 sets of 1
Week 4: 7 sets of 1
Week 5: 9 sets of 1
Week 6 : 1 set of 2 + 5 sets of 1 (7 total reps)
At this point, I suggest you to try your best to keep the overall volume using the Most Flexible Set/Rep Scheme. In the same time, try to add sets of two every session. For example:
Week 7: 2 sets of 2 + 4 sets of 1 (8 total reps)
Week 8: 3 sets of 2 + 3 sets of 1 (9 total reps)
Of course, the progress probably won’t be so smooth, but it still will be close to this example.
Doubles to Triples
At this point, you can drop singles and concentrate solely on doubles. Your new goal is to work up to 6-8 sets of 2. Again, it will take several weeks. Our example can continue like this:
Week 9: 4 sets of 2
Week 10: 5 sets of 2
Week 11: 6 sets of 2
Week 12: 7 sets of 2
When you reach the goal, you can try triples in the first set. Back to our example:
Week 13: 1 set of 3 + 3 sets of 2 (9 total reps)
And again, try to keep the volume and work up to 3 x 3:
Week 14: 2 sets of 3 + 2 sets of 2 (10 total reps)
Week 15: 3 sets of 3 + 1 set of 2 (11 total reps)
That’s it. With help of consistency and 15 weeks, three pathetic singles transformed into 3 sets of 3 reps. What can be cooler than this?
An Important Note
The smoothness of the progress will vary greatly with different exercises depending on the complexity of the skill. For example, I really doubt that you can progress to 3 sets of 3 from 3 sets of 1 in the One-Arm Chin-Up in as little as 15 weeks (of course, unless you weigh 50 kg or less). On the other hand, you may conquer 3 x 3 in Wall-Assisted Handstand Push-Ups faster than in 15 weeks.
Should You Use Only 2 Variables?
If you live in parents’ basement and have no life, you can control all the possible training parameters and play with them. I mean repetition tempo, rest between sets, time of the day, or any ridiculous thing you can come up with (like lunar phase). However, I would stay on the safe side of only two variables. Every other parameter should be constant.
When to Use the Method?
This method is particularly cool for mastering heavier kettlebells and more advanced bodyweight exercises. You are free to use it with any other implement, but do not rush things and do not add weight until you can perform solid 3 sets of 3 reps.
What about Static Holds?
This method can work for static holds too. The single repetition will equal a hold of 4-5 seconds. Again, you should be able to perform it at least for 3 sets. The rules won’t change much, although you will add seconds instead of repetitions.
Work up from 3 sets of 5 seconds to 6-8 sets. Start over with 4-5 sets of 6 seconds. Work back up to 6-8 sets. Start over with 4-5 sets of 7 seconds, etc.
Importantly, if you feel any tendon pain during training a certain static hold, you are probably working too hard. Scale back to painless variation of this position and work back up.
The Singles-to-Doubles-to-Triples method is simple and effective. I worked for me every time I applied it. If you are in a proper situation, do not hesitate to use it. Thanks for reading.
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