The effectiveness of 0.5-lb increments in progressive resistance exercise

J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):86-91.


A traditional progressive resistance exercise program consists of increasing the number of repetitions at a constant load until exceeding an established repetition range. Subsequently, the load is increased by 1.1 kg (2.5 lb) or more, and the lifter works at the new load until again exceeding the repetition range. This investigation examines the use of small incremental loads for 2 upper-body exercises (bench press and triceps press). Subjects were randomly assigned to traditional (TRAD) progressive resistance exercise (5 women, 5 men) and small increment (SI) progressive resistance exercise (5 women, 4 men) groups. Initially, both groups trained for 8 weeks using TRAD progressive resistance exercise. Subjects who achieved 7 repetitions on the final set of an exercise increased the load for the next session by 2.2 (bench press) or 1.1 kg (triceps press). Following the initial 8-week training period, the TRAD group continued for another 8 weeks following the same protocol, whereas the SI group trained for an additional 8 weeks, increasing the load by 0.22 kg (0.5 lb) when completing 7 or 8 repetitions and 0.44 kg (1 lb) when achieving 9 or more repetitions. All groups, except TRAD women, made significant increases in 1 repetition maximum (1RM) for the bench press. Both TRAD men and SI men significantly increased 1RM triceps press. Groups that did not significantly increase 1RM, in either the bench press or triceps press, demonstrated similar trends. For TRAD men and SI men, the number of repetitions to failure for the bench press at 60% 1RM decreased after training. Both regimens proved effective for increasing strength throughout 8 weeks. In conclusion, SI progressive resistance exercise appears to be as effective as TRAD progressive resistance exercise for increasing strength during 8 weeks in short-term pretrained college-aged men and women. However, preliminary data suggest that the TRAD progressive resistance exercise program might be a more effective method of increasing resistance during an extended period.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Evaluation Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Arm / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology