Linear Progression

By: Travis Rask

For the next 12 weeks, we’re going focus on the basic barbell work.  This challenging style of programming will have athletes doing the following lifts every week:

  •  Squat
  • Deadlift
  •  Press
  •  Bench Press
  •  Clean/Snatch

The nature of linear progression is progressive overload.  Athletes will be adding weight to the above lifts every training session, until they reach a stall point (which we will cover shortly).  The added weight every session will drive progress and improve strength.  Assistance work and conditioning will be programmed as well.

One-week template:

Squat / 2×5 / 1×5+
*Bench / 2×5 / 1×5+
*Chins / 3×10
Glute Ham Situp OR Ab Roller / 3×10

Conditioning – Light

*Press / 2×5 / 1×5+
*Dips (ring or bar) / 3×10
Clean or Snatch / 1-3 reps (varied)
Deadlift / 1×5+
Conditioning – Medium


Squat / 2×5 / 1×5+
*Bench / 2×5 / 1×5+
*Chins / 3×10
Glute Ham Raise OR Romanian Deadlift (RDL) / 3×10

Conditioning – Intense


*Movements marked with an asterisk are done in alternating fashion.  In the week above, bench press/chins are conducted on Mon/Fri.  The following week the frequency is reversed, with press/dips conducted on Mon/Fri, and bench/chins on Wednesday.

Squats will always be performed on Mon/Fri, and Cleans/Snatch/DL will always be performed on Wednesday.

Set/Rep/Weight Schemes

Sets for the basic barbell lifts will be organized in the following fashion**:

  •  Set 1: 5 reps
  •  Set 2: 5 reps
  •  Set 3: 5+ reps (AMRAP)*

*For the deadlift, only one AMRAP set of 5+ will be conducted.
**All assistance exercises will be as prescribed, weight chosen individually.

Athletes should use the suggested guidelines for adding weight:

  • Squat: 5lb/session
  •  Deadlift: 5lb/session
  •  Clean/Snatch: 5lb/session
  •  Bench: 2.5-5lb/session
  •  Press: 2.5-5lb/session

Example of LP in action:

Squat / #185 / 2×5 / 1×9
Bench / #135 / 2×5 / 1×10
Chins / 3×10
Ab Roller / 3×10

Press / #95 / 2×5 / 1×12
Power Clean / #155 / Heavy single
Deadlift / #225 / 1x4F
Dips / 3×10

Squat / #190 / 2×5 / 1×8
Bench / #135 / 2×5 / 1×10
Chins / 3×10
RDL / #135 / 3×10

Stall/Reset Process

While this program is only 12 weeks long, there is a possibility some athletes may reach a point where progress stalls, and they are no longer able to add weight every training session and still meet the 5 rep minimum for all prescribed sets.
When this occurs, athletes shall remove 10% from the most recent 5RM for the respective stalled movement, and work their way back up using the same loading process.  For example, in the Deadlift set for the “snapshot” above, the athlete failed at the 4th rep.  They will remove 25lbs (rounded up) and perform their next set at 200lbs.  It is likely they will achieve 10+ reps, and as they work through the reset process they will likely achieve a minimum of 5 reps the next time they reach 225lbs.  Due to the nature of the 3rd/AMRAP set in this style of programming, athletes will be able to measure progress in by noting increases in AMRAP sets as they work their weights back up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:    How much weight do I start with?
A:    Remove 10% from your current 5RM to establish all baseline lifts.  DO NOT START THE PROGRAM USING A TRUE 5RM, THIS WILL RESULT IN AN EARLY STALL. Using this formula, you should reach a new PR at approximately the 3rd week.  This should provide for several weeks of progression, and leave time for reset progression if needed.

Q:    How much weight do I add every session?
A:    Aim to add 5lbs to every squat, clean, and deadlift session.  The same amount can be added to the pressing movements, but at some point in time it will be very difficult to add 5lbs without stalling quickly.  This is based on personal experience and feel.  It is suggested that athletes purchase fractional plates in smaller increments.  A cheaper option of doing this is the purchase of large washers, which can be measured in taped in appropriate increments.

Q:     How do I work in cleans and snatches?
A:    Cleans and snatches will be programmed in sets of 1-3 repetitions, and will serve as a warm up for the deadlift work set.   Athletes will be given the choice of which exercise to use.

Q:    How much weight should I use for assistance work?
A:    Assistance work is ancillary, and should be conducted ONLY after the main lifts have been completed. Use a manageable weight.

Q:     This program is taxing.  I’m sleepy and sore all the time.
A:    Ensure you’re getting LOTS of sleep, food, and stretching.  EAT! Now is not the time to obsess over whether you look as good as Zyzz.

Q:    How can I work this program around my work schedule?
A:    Do the best you can to make all barbell work.  If you miss a conditioning WOD by moving a squat session from Friday to Saturday, fine.  The cornerstone of this training are the basic lifts.

Q:    I’m doing all those things, and I’m still tired.  What should I do now?
A:    If you’re well fed and rested, and still tired, you should consider dropping ancillary work.  This can be achieved by removing a conditioning workout or two, and some assistance work if needed.  The basic barbell work shall NOT be removed.

Q:    Are there any good reference materials for barbell work or linear progression programming?
A:    Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd Edition by Mark Rippetoe is an outstanding resource and a worthwhile addition to any firefighters library.  You can also reference the Greyskull LP (GSLP) program this is modeled after by visiting

Q:    I’m still not getting this program, and have a subject question not listed in this article.  What do I do now?
A:    Post a comment below.  I will monitor comments regularly, and answer any additional questions as they arise.

Enjoy the Program!


  1. Just as a reminder – if anyone has any questions regarding this programming, post them to comments and I will answer.

  2. This is a great work-out program, which I believe anyone can benefit from. I see too many people place an emphasis on conditioning while forgetting one key concept, strength makes EVERYTHING easier. I live and die by heavy barbell compound lifts.

  3. Adam Carnes says:

    Might be a stupid question but what are you calling Chins? Is that chin ups or some other move? Thanks, P.S. Love the linear progression.

  4. What do you suggest for a warm-up?

    • Travis Rask says:


      To get your body warm, I would suggest the daily warm up suggested with every WOD.

      On barbell days, I would suggest two sets of 5 reps with the bar, followed by a few sets with progressively heavier weights.

      For example, if you squat and press today…

      Squat: Work sets @ 275lbs / Bar – 2 sets of 5 / 135 – 1 set of 5 / 185 – 1×1 / 225 – 1×1 / 250 – 1×1

      Press: Work sets @ 135lbs / Bar – 2 sets of 5 / 95lbs – 1 set of 3 / 115lbs – 1×1

  5. Dumb question…when you say conditioning do you mean cardio?

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