Every program that you are on has to have some form of progression. Progression can come in a variety of forms. Progressing in to too many ways, or too much at once is a recipe for disaster, not having any progression will lead to stagnation which is not necessarily a bad thing
Forms of progression:
This can be looked at in a few ways. One is how hard you are working compared to your best efforts. In aerobic exercise this will be your pace relative to your maximal ability (max heart rate, VO2, etc). In resistance training this is how heavy the load is relative to the heaviest weight you can lift for one repetition. Overall you can think of this as literally how hard your effort is compared to how much you have left to give. Think about adding another 1-5% to the bar or effort each time and keep this moving at a slow pace to consistently and slowly make progress.
A subset of increasing intensity is to progress your exercises to harder options. Think about going from a push up to a handstand push up, or going from doing a body weight squat to a barbell squat. This is a good way to slowly break someone in to hard training without having to immediately start with hard barbell movements that require skill and coordination to perform.
This is literally how much work you are doing. For aerobic performance think about how much distance you are accruing both on the day and over the week. For example if you run three miles 5 days a week your weekly training volume is 15 miles. With resistance training this is the sets x reps x weight that you do in a movement. So if you squat 100lbs. for 3 sets of 10 you have effectively done 3,000 lbs. of squatting volume. You can break down this volume for all training based upon the muscles that are used individually or the movement patterns. So you can be used to doing 40 miles of aerobic work on your legs each week from running, but if you never swim just doing half a mile in one session might crush you for days afterward since you aren’t used to any of this volume. This is a great way to progress body weight movements since you can literally count the reps and then each week try to add 10% so start off with 50 total pushups over a session and then increase it to 55 total pushups the following week.
A good way to split this volume up in to doses that re much more easily dealt with in the body is to divide it over multiple sessions. By adding in an extra lower body session or swim you will be doing more volume overall. When you first add in an extra session be sure to decrease the volume you do on the normal training days and then slowly increase the volume with time in those sessions.
The final major way to progress your program is to shorten your rest periods in a training session. This causes a greater accumulation of metabolic byproducts which in turn will make it harder on you. Keeping track of your normal rest periods in a training session and then slowly shorten them up each week. A good rest period to start with is two minutes and then progress it with time to possibly be as short as 30 seconds.
If you don’t change your program in any way for periods of time you will not make any more progress in that area. Your body will adapt to this level of fitness and you have effectively hit a plateau. This is not a bad thing. Once you are strong enough, flexible enough, conditioned enough. You can hit your basics in that area to maintain it and then focus your efforts in the other areas you want to. As you go further and further in to training you need to do more and more to continue to make progress, and at some point this is no longer feasible due to life commitments or other parts.
Appropriate rates of progression
Sadly at the end of the day your goal should be to progress 10% or less a week. High level athletes will make less than .5% per month in progress. So when you are progressing your program, be aware that you are only going to make so much progress in one given area at a time and being too aggressive is a great way to get hurt, or at the least be disappointed.
If you have any questions as to how progression works feel free to leave a comment below and thanks as always for reading.