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I'm currently on Scott Dorn's Muscle Building Program, at least the exercise part.

The weights I have access to go up or down in increments of 5 pounds. How often should I be increasing weight and at what intervals? Add 5 pounds once a week, every two weeks?
What would be a healthy and good progression?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Due to the fact you are running a bodybuilding program, I assume your goal is to increase size rather than strength. According to the program's Training section, these are the ways to increase overload:

  • Lift a greater amount of weight for an equal number of repetitions
  • Lift the same amount of weight for more repetitions
  • Lift a greater amount of weight for more repetitions
  • Decreasing rest periods between sets
  • Partial reps
  • Negative reps
  • Supersets
  • Drop Sets
  • The cheating method
  • The one and half method
  • The platoon system
  • The flushing method
  • The rest pause method

I won't pretend to know what the "cheating", "platoon", or "flushing" methods are. You'll have to look at the links on his page for a better idea.

The general concept of bodybuilding is to push your muscles to exhaustion, but keep cycling through the different muscles so you have enough time to recover the next time you push it. Essentially, you'll want to push yourself each time you are in the gym. Whether it's "1 more rep", or 5 more pounds. Many of the options listed are for when you just aren't able to do the simple whole number increases.

If your training goal is size, this will work. But then so will any high volume program. While you will get stronger, if your goal is to increase your usable strength then you might want a different program that focuses on compound lifts. The key to all this is keeping a detailed journal. You'll need to keep track of the following for each exercise:

  • Weight used
  • Reps performed
  • Rest time (some body builders go so far as to time rest between reps, or time at full contraction and time at full extension)
  • External factors (sleep, food, physical labor [including helping someone move])
  • Mood (can be used to diagnose fatigue related issues)

You should be keeping a journal anyway, as it helps you figure out why you may be having a hard time, or if you simply want to see what progress you made. If your focus was on strength, most programs don't have any requirements on rest time--so it's not nearly as important to track it.

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+1 Good point on increasing the reps, I forgot to include that! By the way, "cheating" is using your body weight / movement to help during the last rep or two. It is considered a cheat rep because instead of using the target muscle group, you are offloading a lot of the load into your body. As for the other two, I don't have any idea. –  Moses Jul 19 '12 at 19:30

For programs like Starting Strength or StrongLifts you get a very cut and dry answer of "add 5 lbs per workout for all exercises, and add an additional 5 lbs for deadlifts."

However, after taking a quick glance at the "Scott Dorn Muscle Building Program" I would say the answer is anything but simple. In fact, I will say right up front that you shouldn't add a fixed lb/frequency for your particular program. Here are some of the factors at play which affect your potential weight increment:

  • Complex workout with at least 20 different exercises, all with varying levels of difficulty, make setting a fixed increment rate an exercise in futility.
  • Isometric exercises, of which this program has many, are notoriously difficult to apply progressive overload to. You will plateau quickly and often.
  • No rest makes for weak gains. Doing a 6-7 day/week workout is a recipe for overloading your body, at which point you will see greatly diminished gains and more frequent plateaus.

Given all of this, we need to determine an appropriate weight/frequency increase on an individual exercise basis. My recommended approach would be as follows:

  1. Keep a journal of every exercise done each workout, and record the amount of weight lifted.
  2. In the journal, also record whether or not you plateaued or struggled at a given weight.
  3. When the time to repeat that exercise comes around, if you didn't plateau you can increase the weight by an amount reasonable for that exercise (anywhere from 2.5-10 lbs, typically).
  4. If instead you did plateau, attempt doing the exercise at the same weight/rep as before.
  5. If you continue to plateau, deload the weight by an appropriate amount (typically 10-20%) and work your way back up.

As you can see this is an incredibly tedious process as it requires you to track your progress on upwards of 20 different exercises, not to mention all of the other issues.

If want you really want is a simple strength training program with predictable weight increments and a proven track record of success, I recommend the Starting Strength or StrongLifts programs mentioned earlier. I would argue they are a lot more effective programs and a lot easier to manage.

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