Fighter Training: Progression Sets

Marvin Hagler

No fighter prepares for a 30 second knockout. Just like no one in their right mind expects success in business within 30 days of starting a company, or to find their dream girl within 30 days of deciding that this is what they now want.

Each of those things do happen. But no one with a true desire to succeed in anything prepares for the best possible outcome. No, we prepare for the long haul. We prepare, work, and struggle to do everything in our power to ensure the best possible outcome, knowing that nothing is handed to us.

And so, we train to get stronger as time goes on. We train our body, mind, and spirit to get stronger when it gets down to crunch time. When nothing seems to be going our way we have put the work in to be prepared for the struggle. We train for the championship rounds. We work harder, perform better, and get stronger as the fight goes on.

Progression Sets

Progression sets are exactly what they sound like, they get harder as the workout progresses. Starting off with a superset of the heavier variety (although that’s not what I did in the video below), moving to a giant set, then a quad set, then finally a burnout set. By the end of the workout, there’s simply nothing left. And if there is, it’s left at the heavy bag.

Here’s an example of what I mean (please do try this workout at home).

The structure of the workout

You guys can use this set-up to create your own programs depending on what kind of split you’re using. These days I’m using an upper/lower split with a dominant pull or push day alternating on the upper body days, and a dominant quad or hips day alternating on the lower body days. Here’s the set-up of this workout:

1. Heavy Superset (A1, A2). Even though we’re lifting heavier with this set to start the workout, keep your rest periods relatively short (60-120 seconds). A couple rep counts you can use: 8,6,6,8 or 8,6,4,6,8.

2. Giant Set (B1, B2, B3). The giant set is more of a hypertrophy set keeping our exercises within the 8-12 rep range. Rep ranges you can use: 3×8, 3×10, 3×12. I like keeping them within the 3×8 range. Keep in mind that we’re always lifting to failure, so if you fail at 6 or 7 it’s all good.

3. Quad Set (C1, C2, C3, C4). The quad set can be a mixture of heavier and lighter rep ranges. Try and fit some bodyweight training into this circuit. I like to use my weighted vest a lot in this set with med-ball push-ups, inverted rows and chin-ups.

4. Burnout Set(s). For this set you can choose one exercises, or add in 4 like I did today because I was exceptionally energetic for some reason. The premise is to ‘burn out’ a smaller muscle group – like our biceps, triceps, and deltoids – that can take more punishment from reps than our bigger muscle groups.

In the video I do barbell punches – 3 sets of 30 reps – but today in the gym, with a similar split, I did 2 sets of the following: barbell punches: 30 reps, barbell curls: 25 reps, band triceps presses: 20 reps, rear deltoid band holds: 20 second holds.

Give the workout I use in the video a shot and let me know how it goes. Also, try adding a burnout set at the end of any workout – especially for weak point training. For example if you want to work on your deltoid development, add a light lateral raise set of of 100 reps at the end of the workout. You’ll fail within those 100 reps, but keep the rest periods very limited to 5-10 seconds max.

The key to this workout:

Fight for every rep. Push yourself within each exercise to perform your best. Don’t worry about gassing before the next set, deal with that obstacle when it comes. Have a Legendary workout.

Check out this video for some more Free Muscle Building Tips:

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  • green

    You are a bad influence Chad!
    i told one of my complaining female Colleague to "Man Up".

    • hahah that's hilarious. I'm sure it was completely warranted 🙂

  • Raj

    Hey buddy, its me again. And I just wanted to say another fantastic job with these motivational strength, power building videos. Not only do you say what exercies and how many sets are required, you also show the intensity level and will required to do them. Thanks as always and I’m training to be a fighter and this is very helpful. Keep the articles, motivational tips etc coming.

    • Thanks bro. Glad you're enjoying the site. Good luck with the fighting career too! If you need help let me know.

  • Ryan

    Hey buddy, that was amazing. Not only do you show what exercises are required to build speed, strength and power but you also show the intensity level and speed they should be executed at. I'm training to be a fighter, so this is immensely helpful. So, thanks for a lot for all your motivational articles, videos, tips etc. Keep up the good work and THANKS a lot again.

    • Great to hear I helped Ryan. Good luck with your training too!

  • Ryan

    About answering the questions you asked-

    1. I've always followed a program for muscle building coposed by my trainer and it's helped a LOT as he has mentioned the intensity, reps and sets and what diet to follow along with aerobics for proper muscle development. Been doing it for 2 years now.

    2.The hardest workout I've done in the gym- bodybuilding routine of upper and lower body split into 2 workouts or 2 days where you do 5 sets, high reps with only a min rest in between and take every set to failure. Also, doing sprints or the shuttle run while working on your endurance for a sport was the other toughest workout I've done. You end up almost passing out and puking.

  • Chiv3On

    Answering your questions from the email:

    1. When I first began to seriously lift in 2007, I used someone else's program, which helped be build a great strength foundation (Bill Starr 5×5 type programs). Since late 2009, I started creating my own programs based off of Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding intermediate and advanced routines.

    2. Often have hard workouts where I feel like puking by the end. I don't think this is one of the "hardest" workouts, but it definitely is one of the most painful. Killer Arm Circuit (No rest between bi/tri lifts)

    Biceps: dumbbell curl using forced negatives. 10 reps. Move straight to:
    Triceps: skull crushers. 10 reps. Rest 60-90s while preparing dumbbells for next exercises

    Biceps: Twenty-ones with barbell. Move straight to:
    Triceps: narrow grip bench press. 10 reps. Rest 60-90s while preparing dumbbells for next exercises

    Biceps: reverse grip barbell curls. 12 reps. Move straight to:
    Triceps: dumbbell kick backs. 12 reps. Rest 60-90s while preparing weights for the first bi/tri lifts again.

    Repeat circuit 5 times. Should take about 45 min to complete.

    • Looks like a good arms circuit 0 thanks for that!

  • thewallenway

    1. A bit of both. I normally follow someone else's program for the recommended time-frame (usually 2-4 months), create my own during the de-load/"in-between" time, and then pick another. For example, my most recent structure went like so:

    -6 weeks of John Romaniello's "Final Phase Fat Loss"

    -Torched a lot of fat here but still wanted to lose some more, so I built my own routine including jumping rope, sprints, barbell/dumbbell complexes, kettlebell swings, inverted pyramid sets ("Hell" as I like to call it), planks, and myoatic crunches which I followed for about 3 weeks. This effectively burned more fat and since it was much less difficult than FPFL I considered it my "de-load"

    -Happy with the fat loss, I decided to turn attention to muscle building, and am now following HSS-100. I know functional lifts are recommended by most trainers, but as someone who has been doing these functional lifts for 2 years, I have enjoyed the change. I'm doing a 5-day body-part split with some light ab work and yoga on my off-days.

  • thewallenway

    Apparently I'm long-winded (sorry), so here is answer #2

    2. I went through Nate Green's "Hero Workout" and there was one day that consisted of jump squats, jump lunges, burpee/squat/clean/press, and some other torture. I hovered over a trash-can dry-heaving before it was over. Inverted pyramid sets and tabata sprints usually result in near-dry-heaving as well.

    • Both Nate and John's programs are some of the best around. Good to hear you mentioning those guys. Great guys who give out a lot of great information on their site's as well.

  • Green

    A question Chad!
    by reading your blogs i have a fair idea of how your powerhowse challenge is going to be.
    My question is can a guy who never does any physical activity and has poor mobility can jump straight into the Challenge.

    • Hey man, ya it's great for beginners. That's what the first phase is all about. You'll get acclimated to the new style of training and build a great foundation and base.

      Shoot me an email if you get it and have any questions. But read the ebook first, there's a TON of great info in there.

      Talk soon.