• Matthew Langford

Why You Need to Progress Your Exercises (With 3 progressions to try)

If you are using the same exercises, reps, sets, and weights, it could hinder your progress. We often reach a point where we feel like we are stuck in our usual ways. We either keep performing the same weekly set up of exercises for too long or lift the same weight. You need to shake things up now and then with your training. That's where progression comes in. You might recognize the word progression from the term progressive overload, which is what we will, in essence, be talking about today. With progressive overload, you are continually challenging the body so that it continuously grows to get stronger. There are the standard ways of doing this, such as increasing weight, reps sets and time under tension, or decreasing rest time. What this is about, however, is making the exercises you do more difficult. So how do we do that?

To make an exercise more complicated, we can progress it to a more challenging movement.

We do this to shake up the program. You will find that advancing the movement doesn't mean you never do the previous version again; it merely means that you now incorporate the more challenging movement into your repertoire. An example of this is moving from a standard pushup to a pushup with one leg kept off the ground, which will now require far more work from your stabilizer muscles. Only in making this change and trying to perform your regular number of repetitions, you will find yourself doing far more work. You could also go another route and move to a more explosive form of pushup by incorporating a hop at the top of the rep and then working towards a clap pushup. Depending on your goals it will be far more beneficial to perform 10 or 20 clap pushups instead of 100 standard pushups. However, in doing this progression, you will still want to mix in pushups from time to time, only for maintenance. Another and perhaps the more substantial benefit is that you want to surprise your muscles with new things. Once your body can predict a workout, it can adapt to it, and growth will start to see diminishing returns. Mixing up the exercises in your program every 2-4 weeks is the best strategy.

Now we will go through some simple progressions to see just how you can improve your training. Remember to keep the prior version of the exercise around from time to time, especially if you enjoy it. Also, ensure you look up the correct form for each of these exercises before performing them. The purpose here is to reveal progressions not to break each one down.


It is best, if you have never done a pushup before, to start with pushups on your knees. If you can perform this, then it is on to the basic pushup on your toes.

If you want to train for balance and stability, you will perform a Bosu Ball Pushup. Next progression, lift one foot off the ground for a single leg pushup. Then you would perform the same push single leg pushup using a Bosu Ball again for a single-leg Bosu ball pushup. Finally, you would repeat the progressions, replacing the Bosu with TRX or Rings.

If you wanted to train for power, you would aim first for an explosive pushup. Following the explosive pushup would come a Hop Pushup. Once you have mastered the Hop pushup, you will want to gain some height until you can achieve the full Clap Pushup. Continue with the clap pushup increasing explosivity and Height.


Pull-ups, believe it or not, can be performed by complete beginners. Merely using a

resistance band or two, you can take a lot of your bodyweight out of the equation until you can complete the rep with the full bodyweight. The thicker the band, the easier it will be. There isn't too much of a control progression outside of more advanced calisthenics moves that no longer resemble a pull-up. However, in terms of power progressions, there is a more straightforward pathway.

First, you want to work up to complete sets of strict pull-ups with your full bodyweight.

After being able to do this, you will work on trying to get to high pull-ups where the bottom of your chest is meeting the bar.

From high pull-ups I would recommend being able to work through some. Hop Pull-ups where you let go of the bar and catch again. We are then moving onto Clap Pull-ups.

Finally, once your dip strength and pull-up strength have both reached a high level, you will be moving onto muscle-ups.


Squats have a simple strength progression pathway of working up to using a barbell and increasing weight. There is also a straightforward power pathway of adding a hop and then a jump to your squats. The control pathway for squats is where it gets more in-depth.

First, you want to be able to perform a full bodyweight squat for a many good reps.

Once you can do that you will want to work towards performing a Bulgarian split squat with either body weight or a dumbbell in each hand.

Following this work on performing Bosu Ball Squats.

Once you have good stability here move on to supported pistol squats while holding onto a TRX or resistance band.

Finally, you want to drop the support gradually until you can perform a full pistol squat with each leg.

These are three progressions to try. There are many others, and you will find that you can tweak most movements to shock the muscles into further growth. Message me further on Instagram @conquesthealthandfitness to find out more!

Until then, keep Conquering your world!!!

Weekly Workout: The Pushup Challenge workout

Work through each set until you get as far as you can go along the progression. Take a 90-second rest and try again for 3 rounds.

  • Pushup on knees x 12

  • Pushup on toes x 12

  • Pushup w/ feet raised x 12

  • Pushup on toes with hop x 12

  • Pushup on toes with clap x 12

  • Pushup single hand

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