Workout Weight Progression
by Maxwell Joslyn. .
Novice weightlifters are typically encouraged to use one weight until they can perform a certain number of reps, then go to the nextbiggest weight and repeat. This straightforward approach, called linear progression, is the standard recommendation for those new to weight training.
I've noticed, however, that the total weight moved per set (which I'll call "poundage") in linear progression can vary dramatically between total pounds moved in a set, at weight W, of the maximum number of reps R, and a set of 1 or 2 reps at the next highest weight^{1}. For example, 1x50 = 50 poundage, and 2x50 = 100 poundage: both of which are lower than 3x45 = 135 poundage. The linear progression can be shown by executing the following onlyslightlypseudocode, and if we graphed the poundage values in the result
list, we'd see spikes up and down as the lifter moved from one 5pound increment to the next:
(let
((weights (range 45 50 ... 225))
(reps '(1 2 3 4 5))
(result))
(dolist (weight weights)
(dolist (rep reps)
(let ((poundage (* weight rep)))
(push poundage result))))
result)
If we sort result
(and add some extra code to match each poundage with its values for weight and rep), we would have a weight progression which is smoother than the linear approach. I don't know whether or not this smooth progression would actually be more efficient for a novice, since periodic resets to a lower poundage are valuable for sustained progress^{2}.

5 pounds, in the form of 2 2.5pound plates, is typically the smallest increment available for a barbell.↩

The core of all "periodic" (i.e. nonlinear) progression is to work up to a new maximum poundage, reset to something well below it, and work your way back up while trying to achieve higher reps on weights below your max. The 531 program is a good example.↩