Strategic Progression

By Tom Purvis, RTS founder

Programs and protocols are usually perceived as static, as evidenced in the fact that new ones are typically recommended after several months. This relates back to the old term routine (“Will you write me up a routine?” …sound familiar?) Routines are, by definition “routine”… synonymous with being in a rut.

“Exercise is a PROCESS, not a program!”

It is for this reason that RTS recommends a process rather than a program or protocol. A process (a series of actions or operations directed toward a particular result -Webster) is, by definition, dynamic and constantly evolving in a goal oriented manner. Rather than a protocol, we utilize principles by which decisions can be made via a thought process.

And as mentioned in the Introduction to Exercise Mechanics this process begins with the creation or construction of the individual exercise and continues with its strategic progression thereafter.

Strategic Progression
Every single aspect of creating, teaching, and modifying exercise(s) should be addressed from the perspective of strategic progression rather than tradition, “gym science”, or mindless habit!

This requires an understanding of the current ability and the stimulation-response relationship in order to progress an exercise via manipulation of the specific variables along the Functional Exercise Continuum® that it will generate adaptation in the direction of the specific Goal for This Exercise!

“Harder” Isn’t Necessarily Accomplishing the Goal
It’s relatively simple to make an exercise more challenging. And there are many, many ways to do that.
• I’m reminded of an incident when I was 13 and had been lifting for about a year. I was probably the only non-football player in school who lifted weights in 1974 and was recruited by one of the coaches to come out for the team. He offered to let me lift with them during the summer to help prep for that fall. While in the gym a few of the guys started challenging each other to a dip contest. Afterwards we started trying to see who could do the most difficult (contorted) version of a dip. I did the most dips with the grip reversed (fully pronated). They were much more difficult to perform… but were they more beneficial? …or were they more detrimental to an internally rotated shoulder?

So, more difficult isn’t necessarily better, more productive, or automatically goal-oriented.
• NASM presenters have routinely stated in lecture “Progress an arm curl by standing on one leg.” What the heck are we trying to accomplish? We weren’t doing the arm curl to improve balance. In fact, producing instability may reduce the load that can used… and isn’t the same as increasing the load. The key question is what exactly is the Goal for This Exercise? Is there greater benefit (stimulation) from reduced base of support, or from increased mechanical stress on the concentrically/eccentrically contracting tissues?

Along with considering the goal of the individual exercise as it falls along the Functional Continuum®, the principles of MicroProgression® should be of primary concern for many people. And…

Keep in mind that the most appropriate and valuable exercises
for the individual at this point in their progression
may not look anything like the grossly described goal.

For more information on RTS, visit


Posted on 10/10/2011, in Exercise, Personal Trainer Education and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: