T Nation

5x5 Intermediate Stall


Hi I have been running the madcow 5x5 program for 7 weeks now and my bench just started to stall, but everything else seems to keep progressing. I have search around here and read about backing off or deloading with 3x3. I was just wondering which method would be better and do you keep the weight the same if I go with the 3x3 route. Also, if I were to back off how much do I cut back?


What do you mean when you say your bench has started to stall? 1 week of no progress? Where did your bench start, and where is it stalled right now? How many days do you bench on the Madcow 5x5 a week?


These are good questions to ask. But even without knowing the answers to those I can give some advice from experience. I did a month of 3x3 and then went back to 5x5. Stalling solved for me.


Well i started off week one at 185 for a triple at the end of the week on friday. I am now up to 215. Last week i was barley able to grind out 3 at 210, but I did it. This week I could get it up twice and on the second one I needed a little help. As for how many times, I bench every monday and friday.

  • as for the 3x3 do i keep the weights the same or do I knock them down?


What does your diet look like, specifically how much protein are you eating? Any idea on how many calories?

When did you start working out? What was your Bench when you very first started out?

The answer could be as easy as "not every workout is going to be a 10" or it could be more nuanced depending on your answers to the above.


If you're adamant about doing 5-rep sets, you could back off 20lbs (from your 5RM) and start inching back up.

If you're chasing big numbers, like me; keep moving the weight up regardless of reps until you get to a weight you can't lift for a double, then reset to your previous 5RM and do it all over again. It helps to add 2.5lbs to the bar every week instead of 5 (makes the progression last longer). When you go back to your 5RM, it'll feel like warm-up weight.

You are also at the point where you need to start being conscious of your weekly lifting volume. Especially lifting big weight for low reps, you need more recovery time. Working a muscle group once every 5-7 days is usually optimal. If you're lifting in the 8-12 range, you can get away with two sessions a week, but you won't last long lifting heavy doubles twice a week.


I find that when just one lift stalls, and it stalls early on (which in your case it is early on since I'm assuming you are powerlifting), it's often due to weak links like from strength imbalances or poor technique. If you're following the true 5x5 program, guess what? You're neglecting so many muscle groups that support your strength development ...

You can rotate the rep ranges, which will help you recover better, but make sure set-up is good (some people vary the grips etc). Also, make sure you aren't neglecting muscle groups (e.g. all parts of the: delts/back/triceps etc...)

I find it ironic that those seeking strength will say 5x5 will build huge muscles/strength unlike those "stupid" bodybuilding routines...but nothing could be further from the truth with a decent modern bodybuilding routine where weak points are not made even weaker like you do with something over-simplistic like 5x5.

Good strength development is all about bringing up weak points, and you can't do that with just 5 exercises/week...most powerlifter do more than just that (assistant exercises)


So do you like a program such as 5/3/1 where you are working out 4 times a week and can do a lot of assistance exercises? I've been contemplating doing it but I keep doing the 5x5 because I like the progress I am seeing with my squat and dead lifts


I'd say that Wendlers program is much better (at least for the fact that he adds assistance exercises). You may want to keep the frequency a little higher on some smaller exercises, it's up to your progress.

For assistance exercises I wouldn't do what Wendler recommends (something like 5x10), just follow something similar to his set/rep protocol for the main exercises.


Don't fix what ain't broke - you'll just break it. There's a reason for the volume/rep range of the assistance exercises.