Regress To Help You Progress

By: Coach Mitchell


Are you missing out on #gainz? There’s a good chance you are if you’re like many athletes who’ve achieved major fitness milestones and have the mindset that forward is the only direction to go. If that sounds like you, here’s a challenge. From this day forward, take a step back on a regular basis and think about how you perform your movements in each day’s workout and which version on the progression chart do you choose.

Whether it’s lack of knowledge or ego, a lot of athletes never look back once they’ve achieved goals like handstand push-ups and strict pull-ups. Meaning, they never perform the scaled or modified versions ever again, which is a huge mistake.

Examples of Regressing to Progress

Strict pull-ups and strict handstand push-ups commonly fall into this category and if you are one of these full-steam-ahead-athletes mentioned above, you are missing out on #gainz.

Even if you have some strict pull-ups…maybe today you throw in a band and complete strict chest-to-bar pull-ups instead to increase the range of motion (ROM) traveled and therefore trained. This can help increase your kipping pullup volume as well as maintaining them for longer during workouts (aka under fatigue). Or, instead of getting 2 inches on a strict handstand push-up with 2-3 Abmats stacked up, go full ROM from a box. Full ROM is generally better for not only building strength and capacity, but also injury prevention. You might be surprised that these versions feel just as hard, or sometimes even harder than the “Rx” version you’ve been doing!

Regressing a bit in the progression not only assists with strength and ROM as in the examples above, it also helps refine movement patterns so you can move more efficiently which also leads to improvements in all of the aforementioned areas. High skill movements like gymnastics and Olympic lifting most commonly fall into this category. Even sports skill positions like pitching.

There are tons of drills to improve every part of a toes to bar, snatch or pitch. You can use that same idea with pull-ups by making sure each rep is the picture of perfect: active shoulders/scaps/upper back; lats pulling down; disengaged upper traps (out of your ears); etc. Make sure every muscle is firing and that you can feel it and know it’s function. Imagine how much better that will make you.

Or with toes to bar you can regress back to doing some kipping drills to practice your swing – making sure it’s generated from the shoulders with the lats; identifying where you are losing rhythm; noting any mobility deficiencies to work on, etc.

Being okay with Scaling

This should also probably be mentioned. All too often, we see athletes so stuck on the Rx version that they perform sloppy versions of it that don’t even technically meet the Rx requirements anyway.

Using our handstand push-ups example, an athlete who doesn’t have them but always chooses to do them in Part B with 5 Abmats stacked up and falling all over the place would be doing them self a favor by sometimes, or even most times, doing the regression off the box or even seated with dumbbells so that they are able to focus on control and also complete full ROM.

Say it with us: “it’s okay to scale”, especially in timed workouts. Save the “taking it to the next level/step” for skill practice or strength work where you aren’t rushed through a movement you already struggle with. We highly encourage you to mix it up! Variety is the spice of life and the same holds true in your movements. Changing the variation will introduce a new stimulus which disrupts homeostasis which gives us results. Results are what we want, yes?

We likely all agree that once we are able to squat with a barbell, that doesn’t mean we should never air squat, goblet squat or sandbag squat. We also shouldn’t get hung up on other movements because we have made it that far and don’t want to modify.

Don’t be afraid to modify or “regress” to progress. If you’re unsure how far back to go, ask a coach!