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How To Progress Your Workout To Reach Your Goal

Training and how to progress your workouts should reflect the desired outcome, your goal.

Are you getting the most out of your workouts? Are you increasing reps and weight too fast? Use workout progressions to to meet your fitness goals. Click through to find out how to meet your fitness goals safely and effectively. And, download the free circuit workout printable. Pin it now, workout later.

The body responds and adapts to stress. The “stress” is not the typical stress that you might be thinking of. For the purpose of physical fitness, stress [being placed on the body] is the amount of weight being lifted during strength training or the distance of a training run.

With repeated training, resistance development occurs meaning the body increases its ability to adapt to the stressor, i.e. lifting a certain amount of weight. That’s simply saying with training, the body adapts to what it’s repeatedly expected to do and gets stronger in response to the demands place on it. As that occurs, being careful to avoid prolonged or intolerable amounts of stress, i.e. increasing too much weight for strength training or distance for a training run, the body will require increased “stress” to produce a higher level of fitness and help avoid the plateau many athletes experience.

How To Progress Your Workouts

  • You can increase the amount of weight being lifted.
  • You can increase the number of reps performed.
  • You can increase the number of sets you perform for each exercise.
  • You can increase the amount of work being done by decreasing rest between sets or circuits. If you currently rest 3 minutes between sets of an exercise, you can try lifting the same weight for the same amount of sets and reps, but with only 2 minutes and 30 seconds of rest between sets.
  • You can increase the difficulty by SAFELY decreasing the stability of where and how the exercise is performed. Decreasing the stability of the environment in which the exercise is performed recruits more muscle strength and endurance. Performing an exercise standing is more difficult than performing the exercise sitting. Or, performing the exercise on a single leg or on a balance trainer is more difficult than performing the exercise standing with both feet on the floor.

Strength training exercises should be progressed based on your goal and progressions should occur slowly, in order to avoid putting too much strain on your muscles or joints. A general guideline for arm exercises, keep weight increases around 5-10%. The weight for lower body exercises can be increased about 20%. Also, only change one variable of your program at a time. Avoid simultaneously increasing weight and reps or reps and sets.

Ready to workout and energize your body?

This workout is broken up into three total body circuits. For each circuit you’ll complete all of the exercises by reps or time and repeat 2, 3 or 4 times depending on your fitness level. Rest 30 seconds after each complete circuit.

Ready to workout and energize your body and feel amazing? Complete this circuit 2-3 times a week combined with 2-3 days of cardio for a total body, fat burning and muscle toning workout. Click through to download the free workout. Pin it now, workout later. @jillconyers

Download full size to print Energize Your Body Circuit Workout

Equipment needed:

  • timer
  • dumbbells 5-10 pounds based on your fitness level
  • box or step (stable surface for step ups)
  • mat (optional)


  • Don’t skip the warm-up or cool-down.
  • Use proper body alignment and good form.
  • Weights and intensity should be based on your fitness level.
  • Modify as needed to meet your fitness level by increasing/decreasing weights or reps.
  • Gradually increase intensity and/or repetitions based on your progress.

I am a certified personal trainer, but this workout was not created for your specific fitness level. If you’re interested in workouts created for your specific fitness level, individual needs and goals contact me at jillconyers@gmail.com.

Make modifications as needed. Intensity and rest periods should be based on your individual fitness level. See your physician before beginning any exercise program. This web site is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice and supervision of your personal physician. Any application of this or any other exercise routine set forth in this program is at the viewer’s discretion and sole risk.

Squat Curl Press (1) Holding dumbbells in both hands, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. (2) Bend your knees and lower your hips back into a deep squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. (3) Hold the squat position and perform a biceps curl. (4) Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes returning to start position while pushing the dumbbells overhead into a shoulder press (5) Lower the dumbbells back to starting position. Repeat the prescribed number of reps. Targets: glutes, quads, hamstrings, biceps, shoulders

Renegade Row (1) Get in traditional plank position. (2) Keep your back in neutral alignment, toes on the floor, pelvis parallel to the floor. (3) Place one hand on a dumbbell. Pull kettlebell to the side of your chest, keeping shoulders and hips square to the ground. (4) Lower weight to starting position. Perform all reps with one arm then switch sides. Targets: upper back, core

Side Plank with Rotation (1) Start by lying on your right side, legs extended, with your left foot stacked on top of you right. (2) Support our body weight on your right elbow forming a straight line with your body. (3) Keep your belly button pulled in and your hips raised. (4) Extend your top arm toward the ceiling. (5) Rotate your body to reach your extended arm underneath your body, then extended the arm back up to start position. (6) Repeat on the other side. Targets: core obliques, shoulder

Step Ups (1) Stand in front of a step, bench or box with your feet pointed straight ahead. (2) Step onto the box leading with your right leg, foot and knee pointing straight ahead. (3) Push through your heel and stand up straight and bending your opposite leg at the hip and knee. (4) Step off the box returning to the starting position and repeat alternating lead legs. NOTE: Depending on your fitness level and needs, you may need to omit the balance component. After stepping up, instead of bending the opposite leg at the hip and knee, place it down on the step next to the lead leg. Perform the prescribed amount of time. Targets: cardiorespiratory system, lower body warm up

Pendulum Lunge (1) Stand on your right leg with foot rooted to the floor and left leg lightly placed on the floor next to the left foot, weights by your sides. (2) Lift the right knee up at at 90-degree angle, then step forward into a lunge. (3) Lunge the left foot forward, far enough so that knee is directly above the heel (it should not go past toes). (4) Hold for two seconds. (5) Lift left foot from front lunge to knee up, then extend same leg back to rear lunge with back knee bent. (6) Continue front and back lunges with right leg, then switch legs and repeat. Targets: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves

Bicep Curl (1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand letting them hang at arm’s length next to your sides. Turn your arms so that your palms face forward. Keep your chest up. (2) Contracting your bicep, curl the weights toward your shoulders. Pause. (3) Slowly lower the weight back to start position. Repeat the prescribed number of reps. Targets: biceps

Plank Knee to Elbow (1) From standard plank position, hands directly under shoulders, lengthen your neck, eyes looking slightly in front of your hands. Keeping arms straight, push on your hands away from the floor to stabilize your shoulders. Tighten your, don’t arch your back and tuck your tailbone creating a straight line from head to toes. Exhale and bring your right knee as close to your right elbow as possible. Return to start position. Exhale and rotate your right knee to your left elbow. Return to start position. Right knee to right elbow and left elbow is one repetition. Repeat the prescribed number of reps. Targets rectus abdominis and internal obliques

Jump Squat (1) Stand with your feet hip width apart with toes pointed outward. (2) Lower yourself down until your quads are parallel to the ground, abs are tight, shoulders over the hips. (3) Then, from the mid-point position, exhale and explode upward as high as you can. Imagine pushing away from the floor with your feet. (4) Land back down in a firm stance, reset quickly and repeat. Be conscious of keeping your spine straight. Keep you eyes focused on the ground in front of you. Don’t arch your back. Pull your belly button upward. Perform the prescribed amount of time. Targets: quads, calves

Deadlift (1) Stand with your feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. (2) Hold a dumbbell in each hand with our palms facing your legs in front of your body about shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, core tight and shoulders pulled back. (3) Keeping your eyes focused forward; slowly bend your torso forward lowering the dumbbells toward the floor. Keep your knees slightly bent and your back straight throughout the entire movement. Lower the dumbbells, while keeping them close to your body, until your torso is almost parallel to the ground. Don’t round your shoulders. (4) From this position, focus almost entirely on your hamstrings, and exhale while slowly lifting your body and the weights back to the starting position. Perform the prescribed number of reps. Targets: glutes, hamstrings, lower back

Lying Down Tricep Extension (1) Lie on your back with a dumbbell of equal weight in each hand. (2) Raise the dumbbells to arms length above you. The dumbbells should be directly above your shoulders. (3) Bend at your elbows, lowering the dumbbells in an arc-like motion until your forearms touch your biceps. (4) Return to the starting position. Perform the prescribed number of reps. Targets: triceps

Side Plank Crunch (1) Get into a side plank. (2) Push into the floor with your bottom foot and lift your top leg. (3) Bend your knee and bring it in to touch your top elbow. Try not to lean forward or backward. Repeat on the other side. Targets: obliques

Jumping Jacks (1) Stand with your feet together and your hands down by your side. (2) In one motion jump your feet out to the side and raise your arms above your head. (3) Immediately reverse that motion by jumping back to the starting position. Keep your pace as fast as possible. Targets: cardiorespiratory system, total body warm up

Looking for more information to get the most out of your workouts?

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Let’s chat. Do you have any questions about how to progress your workout or the circuit workout? Have you ever reached a plateau with progress? Are you working out today?

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  1. Some truly good content on this website, appreciate it for contribution.

  2. I love all your tips. Your site has become my new guilty pleasure! Those pendulum lunges sound killer!!! I need to add those in. I’m sure they burn so good.

  3. I have everything here to try your circuit program out. I would like to start some sort of circuit for kettlebells. I have a DVD set that I haven’t cracked open yet, and I cannot wait to see what something like this can do for me.

  4. Oh the infamous plateau. Such a dreaded place to be in your workouts! Awesome tips and excellent workout!

  5. Great post!

    If I am following a certain program, I tend to increase my weights every month or so.

    I need to get better at making my workout purposeful versus just because.

    Thanks for the info and of course the workout. Love your workouts! 🙂

  6. CourtneyLynne says:

    Omg what fantastic tips!!! I really do need to work out more. It’s one of my goals 🙂

  7. Progressing load and movements in workouts is SO important. Trying to go all out from the get go will just lead to injury! Thanks for linking up and sharing!

  8. Great tips Jill. People are always asking me why they aren’t getting faster/stronger and it’s because they aren’t increasing the amount of stress they put on their bodies when they workout. Thanks for linking up with us!

  9. Great tips! Love how in-depth you get in describing the moves. Its important to perform them the right way as to not injure!!

  10. These are great tips. Increasing the weight and the reps is a smart move. I want to try this workout routine.

  11. I used to be really good about changing up my routine to keep progressing…but now I need to try and get back on the exercise bandwagon, so anything is probably helping me at this point!

  12. I love the multiple level options of the circuit workout so that everyone can participate. I will definitely be adding some of those workouts into my daily routine.

  13. Great tips! I need to actually start working out and then I can progress it. I’m going to maybe do baby steps and start walking around the neighborhood more often.

  14. This is a fantastic circuit write-up that works all parts of the body, and sounds incredibly effective! I’m a huge fan of circuits/intervals, and am adding this to try out at the gym soon! Thanks!

  15. Jill I love the guidance you are providing here. Working out can seem overwhelming at first and this gives people a clear guide that you don’t have to do everything at once and here is how you can progress once you get started. Love those pendulum lunges and the side plank with rotations!!

  16. thanks for the tips. I think i need to get some heavier weights as I think it will help me. I really do like strength training for me as I’ve always enjoyed it

  17. Spot on with this write-up, I really believe that this amazing site needs a lot
    more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!

  18. Oh my, the step ups always get me!! I can always feel the burn on those!! Great tips!!!

  19. Great tips! Probably my least favorite part of working out is strength training, but it is so important! Thanks for sharing!

  20. I’m hoping to get back into the groove of working out again. The holiday season kept me so busy and tired that I hardly had the time to do anything else.

  21. These are great tips! I am definitely focusing on getting stronger this year, so this is helpful.

  22. Good stuff! I gotta up my workout game!

  23. My favorite way to increase my progress is to add an extra set. It helps me to do the same number of reps and such do another set of them.

  24. Great tips, Jill! People forget about keeping the proper form constantly — especially when they started feeling burned out! I’m going to have to pin this workout and save it for when I build up the confidence to try renegade rows again!

  25. These are great tips. I love a good circuit workout and one you can do at home is even better. I love your blog!

  26. It’s always hard to push yourself to the next level, but it’s definitely the only way to improve. I’ve been making an effort to use heavier weights, as well as hold my positions longer and make my moves more deliberate. That’s the only way I’m going to see any results.

  27. Fabulous tips and a good looking workout. Right now we’re working on increasing our endurance, getting ready for the local 5K in April.

  28. I would love for you to curate a post on exercises for people with back and joint issues that would be so helpful for me! Great workout as usual.

  29. I’m always fascinated by how my coach progresses my workouts, particularly a lifting cycle (which I”m in currently). We go forward for a few sessions, then step back down to lighter weights with more reps. Next week, we step back up again. Very effective. I won’t lie, tho, I look forward to those lighter weeks…

  30. awesome and informative post Jill! One of my favorite ways to progress my workout is to increase reps. I used to focus solely on weight, but realized that increasing my reps from say 6 to 10 was extremely tough as well! i try to utilize all of your methods in some way or another though

  31. Thanks for the great explanation and the workout. I’ve never had to worry about increasing because I do weights so seldom…

  32. This is great- I’m needing to add a little variety to my workouts. I think I’ll try this today actually!

  33. Great tips and great workout! I usually increase weights or reps, but making it harder by changing position/stability is a great idea!

  34. Great post Jill! I like to throw in balancing on a bosu when I lift to really challenge my core and I keep rest in between to a minimum. I like to use a heart rate monitor to monitor how I’m doing an progression.

  35. Love this workout Jill and such a great explanation of how to progress a workout!!

  36. Perfect tjps I definitely need to step it up 😉 laci

  37. Great workout Jill! I usually switch mine up about every 8 weeks or so, then have a yearly cycle of training where I work in macro, meso and micro cycles. Makes a huge difference to your progress!

  38. Great tips, Jill! You did a great job of breaking down how to get strong, and I can’t wait try this workout!

  39. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I think increasing your weight and then your time is a smart move. You have to do it a little at a time 🙂

  40. Thanks for sharing, Jill. I did one of your at home workouts last week and loved it! Also, thanks for the different ways on “progressing” your workout. I think sometimes we all have only “one way” in mind, but there are so many other ways to measure improvement. This puts a positive spin on it 🙂

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