February 20, 2017In TrainingBy Sean Lerwill7 Minutes

Progression is one of the most important considerations for anyone with a fitness goal. Whether the goal is strength, sports performance, muscle gain, fatloss or health, or like me here; a handstand. Without progression you won’t advance and won’t see results. Progression is also paramount to instilling confidence from exercise and avoiding injury. Many injuries occur when someone jumps ahead of their strength and/or experience.

Without progression I wouldn’t have gained the physique that I have or been able to master something like a handstand. If I carried on training as I was in the Marines: hard, fast muscular endurance style circuits and endurance running, I wouldn’t have made the cover of magazines or represented some of the brands that I have as a sports model. It took following specific programmes and ensuring progression to make these goals progress-sean-lerwillhappen.


We humans are habitual. We like to do the same things, at the same time, in the same places. It makes us feel safe and in control. Take going to the toilet at work. I bet you try to use the same cubicle each time? When you go to the gym, I bet you use the same bench to get changed when you can, and the same 1 or 2 lockers if they are free? We all do it.

The thing is, if you’ve found a good training programme in a magazine or a spin or conditioning class that you enjoy, the likelihood is that you will repeat it. Not just once, but week in, week Out. You’ll keep doing it, mostly likely using the same bike in the class, next to the same person and working at the same tempo. The same is true in the gym. We get used to what we want to and like to do; the same weight in the gym, same reps etc. You are comfortable and in control. In a world of disorder and so many aspects of our lives we can’t control, we all like to control what we can. The problem is, as someone much cleverer than me coined:

“You never achieve anything by being comfortable.”

You have to get out of your comfort zone to really achieve anything, and a fitness goal is no different. Of course, if you are simply training to maintain what you have and you are completely happy with your current fitness, strength or body compositional levels, you can just do the same thing. It will help you maintain what you’ve got. However, if you want to advance and improve, you have to progress. One thing I used to say to people to explain this was:

“Use the same weight, do the same session, with the same reps and the same exercises; you’ll be the same you.”

To force our bodies to adapt, we have to progress.

What do I mean by this? I hear you cry

To progress you need to change something. For example, you could up the weights slowly and surely each week or each session. Lower the rest time, increase the reps, change to a harder exercise etc. There are so many options. Just ensure something is making it harder so you don’t become comfortable. Whether you are training to become stronger, fitter, more muscular, leaner, healthier or for sport, follow a training programme for 4-8 weeks and stick with it; but ensure you progress each session or two. At the end of the programme, find another programme, ideally with a different exercises/protocols, and follow that for the next 4-8weeks, ensuring progression as you do. If you are reading this and it is news to you, it will be the most significant change to your training thus far.

Injury Avoidance

Progression is also really important for injury prevention. By slowly progressing session to session, it allows the body to adapt and thus become stronger over time. Rushing into an activity, weight or exercise you aren’t used to and suddenly expecting your body to cope is never a good idea. Ease into a new routine by allowing the body to adapt over a series of weeks, not only will this be safer the results will be longer lasting. Far too many injuries happen when someone lets their ego or impatience get the better of them; lifting too heavy or jumping ahead with a new technique.ย Take it slow and steady, avoid injury and see real, honest results.

A final word

As I said above, too many people do the same thing week in week out. The same class, the same workout, the same life. If they are happy with their current fitness, health, aesthetics and/or performance, then that is fine. No need to change anything. But for anyone frustrated at the lack of progression in any of these areas that their training is failing to bring, they only need to progress their training. Progressing your training leads to progressing your fitness, fatloss, muscle gain or performance. It’s that simple. So from now on, each session ensure you increase the weights OR increase the reps OR add another set OR decrease the rest time OR add a superset OR add a drop set etc. Just keep making it harder for your body and see the changes occur.