Progression and Modification

back view of personal trainer instructing african american sportsman exercising with resistance band

One of the key aspects that differenciates Personal Trainers from other fitness professionals is their ability to assess and individual exercise or program, and apply their knowledge in modifying that exercise or program through principles of regression or progression.


Modifying an exercise or program in order to increase the level of overload. This can include the following:

  1. Increasing exercise duration
  2. Increasing exercise resistance
  3. Increasing exercise complexity
  4. Adding more exercises to the session to make the session workload higher
  5. Decreasing work-rest ratio in order to challenge adaptation

Always remember that FITT principles must be balanced, and even with progression, rules of exercise prescription must be adhered to.


Modifying an exercise or program in order to decrease the level of overload. This can include:

  1. Decreasing exercise duration
  2. Decreasing exercise resistance
  3. Decreasing exercise complexity
  4. Reducing the amount of exercises in an exercise session
  5. Increasing work-rest ratio in order to allow for complete recovery between exercises and allow the client to complete the session as planned.

Knowing when to progress and when to regress will be based on the individual response of the client to the training session. The fitness professional must employ effective monitoring mechanisms, I.e. heart rate or RPE monitoring, in order to assess the clients response. They must also ensure that progressions and regressions are applied in small steps so as to allow for effective adapatation