Zach Homol – @ZachHomolPower
- What is 3-2-1 progression?
- Why should we use the 3-2-1 progression method?
- When should we use the 3-2-1 progression method?
In this article I am going to break down the 3-2-1 Progression Method that is found in numerous methods of training, as well as my take on the 3-2-1 progression and when and why you should be incorporating the method.
What is the 3-2-1 Progression Method? 3-2-1 progression is a rep scheme used to work up to a sub max weight per given exercise. There are various ways to perform the 3-2-1 progression method none being “right” or “wrong.” Though by having a better understanding of the method will help you better understand when and why you should be adding it into you programming. This method of training can be used on any exercise done in the gym while most frequently used on the Big 3 (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) and on various main accessory movements. In the 3-2-1 progression method you will be keeping the volume lower than 3 reps while working up to a sub- maximal weight. I say sub max to avoid going to complete failure- always leaving 1 rep in the tank. While I do believe everyone should train to their full potential, making a habit to fail on lifts will do just that; make a habit of failing. We must understand when to work to failure and when to leave 1 in the tank. 90% of my training I leave 1 rep in the tank and very seldom do I fail during a regular training day.
Let’s go over an example of 3-2-1 progression.
Today I am doing Close Grip Flat Bench Barbell Press using 70lbs of top end band tension to practice competition pause reps. My best 1 rep max being 385lbs of bar weight PLUS the 70lbs of added band tension. Let’s see how my progression would look.
Warm up sets- Keep the rep range under 5 reps to avoid building up lactic acid in the muscle/ fatigue.
Now I have worked up to 225lbs and will make this my FIRST working set of 3 reps.
225lbs x3 reps – Set 1
245lbs x3 reps – Set 2
275lbs x3 reps – Set 3
315lbs x3 reps – Set 4
335lbs x 2 reps – set 5
355lbs x2 reps – set 6
365lbs x1 rep – set 7
375lbs x1 rep – set 8
385lbs x1 rep – set 9 (TOP SET/LEAVING 1 rep in the tank- Still a solid grinder)
When doing this method of the 3-2-1 progression notice there are 9 total working sets. Each set adding more weight. The theory is to do as many 3 reps, 2 reps, then 1 rep, as possible while making moderate jumps shooting for 9 total working sets. Each set should be relatively challenging but NEVER failing. Meaning that you will have to have an idea of how many reps per weight you plan to hit each set. If you shoot out to do 3 reps then do 3 reps! DON’T FAIL on the 3rd rep and count it as a 2rep set. As it is true you accomplished 2 reps, we want to avoid failing during the progression.
So why should you be doing the 3-2-1 progression method? This method can be done through various main and accessory movements at a near maximum weight. Training consistently at maximum weights, whether it be the big 3 or main accessory movements, keeps your training above 90%. Being above 90% means you are ready to compete nearly anytime, anywhere. While there are numerous ideas and theories on programming, I’ve always found it to be simple for me to understand- “I want to be strong- not sometimes, but ALL THE TIME!”
Another idea behind training the 3-2-1 progression method is that you will have a good understanding where your 1rm stands at any given movement. This makes it a whole lot easier to pick your numbers heading into a meet. More times then not I know damn near the exact numbers I will be hitting on each attempt on meet day. There are a lot of ways to figure out your attempts for meet day but the 3-2-1 progression has always been the most efficient way I’ve used to pick and execute of my attempts.
Add the 3-2-1 Progression method in Weekly/Bi Weekly/ Monthly based of your specific training goals!
Here are some movements I will use the 3-2-1 progression method on regularly:
Box Squat with Bands
SS bar Box Squat with bands
SS bar pause reps in hole
Squat – Free weight
Flat bench Close Grip
Close Grip With Bands
Floor press with bands
Reverse Band bench Press
Deadlift with bands
Stiff leg deadlifts