Body Composition Not Changing after Several Months?

Hello everybody!

I’m 31y.o. male, 178cm (5’10’)', 87kg (192lbs). I’m training on and off for years, my previous diary I’m going to revive is here: Journey to Size .

Long story short, I’d like to obtain a bulky physique, literally as large and strong as possible, while staying healthy. I’m not really interested in getting ripped anytime soon.

During the last year, when I stopped writing my diary, plenty of things happened and I moved to another country, so had a long hiatus and started training again this August weighting 81kg (178.5lbs). After a month with personal coach, who didn’t really “click” with me I tried to get back to Stronglifts 5x5 program to do something I have some previous experience in and which is simple enough to follow.

My current trainings maxes are:
Squats: 105kg (231.5lbs)
Deadlift: 115kg (235.5lbs)
Benchpress: 73kg (161lbs)
Pendlay rows: 65kg (143lbs)
Overhead press: 43kg (95lbs)

My concern is, that while I try to eat at a caloric surplus, visually I look pretty much the same since the summer. When taking measurements for the last 2 months, they aren’t very positive either, having a very slight growth and putting on some mass on my waistline… Overall, I’d hope for somewhat larger visual changes over few months, especially, when my chest and arms look basically the same as in the beginning.

My measurements are here (units are cm/kg):

Date Chest Waist Left arm Right arm Left leg Right leg Weight
27. 9. 2023 115.7 94.4 36.5 37.6 59.6 60.5 83
30. 9. 2023 116 98.5 37 38 61.2 62.5
3. 10. 2023 120 96.5 37.4 38.4 63 64.4
10. 10. 2023 118.5 98.5 37.6 38.5 61.5 62.5
14. 10. 2023 117 98 37.6 38.5 63.5 64.5 86
20. 10. 2023 115 98 37.5 38.5 62 64.5
21. 10. 2023 118.5 98.2 37.8 38.8 63 65 86.5
22. 10. 2023 113.5 97.5 37.3 38.9 63.2 64.9 86
23. 10. 2023 118 97.7 37.5 38 63.5 65 87
12.11.2023 118.6 98.4 37.8 38.6 64 65 87

Do you have any idea, what could be wrong? Are my expectations unrealistic? Or am I lifting too little weights to improve the muscle mass now? Or maybe the program won’t have an aesthetic effects, if it’s primary strength-based?

Thank you very much for any advice, my current photos are here:

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Hey, my friend, good on your for jumping back in! I’m going to drop some quick notes (as I’m about to get my lazy butt in the gym too), and I can come back and offer some specifics if helpful.

  • “Off and on” won’t cut it. You’ve really got to think in terms of not missing a session and doing everything exactly right for decades. If you make some progress after just 5 years, that’s a win.
  • I know you don’t want to get “ripped,” but your bodyfat is currently too high to see whether you’re building muscle.
  • Similarly, your bodyfat is likely impacting your insulin sensitivity… which will make it harder to build muscle. As an easy data point here, take a look at how your waist gains have “outperformed” your chest.
  • Starting strength is a great program to get you started, but not for much else. It’s time for you to move onto something a little more specific to your goals. At this point, you definitely need some more volume at least.
  • You’re not moving a ton of load on your main movements, yet, which is to be expected. I’d think more about your 8-10 rep maxes than 1RM for your goals, as you track those numbers up.
  • You don’t really mention your actual diet. Everyone finds what works for them, or should, but I tend to think a good starting point is:
  1. 12-15 calories per lbs.
  2. .8-1g protein per lbs.
  3. .4g fat per lbs.
  4. The rest carbs
  • You also don’t mention any cardio, and I know Rippetoe somehow thinks it’s contraindicated, but I’m going to recommend you do that so we live long enough to get jacked. It also improves volume tolerance and recovery.

Hi @TrainForPain ,
thank you very much for your answer!

First of all, I should make a few explanations:

  • The hiatus was long, but something over half a year or so, fortunately not 5 :smiley:
  • I’m doing Stronglifts 5x5 by Mehdi, not Starting Strength by Rippetoe - not much of a difference, just to be precise
  • The listed maxes are the weights used in training (i.e. for 5 reps), not 1-rep maxes

That said, I wasn’t feeling “fat”, but I can lose some of it, if it helps - together with that I can include some LISS cardio into my training, definitely.
Concerning the program, I really like the fast pace in which I’m getting stronger - would it be viable to stay with the program for a while? I was thinking about getting to approx 100kg benchpress, 140kg squats and 180kg deadlift in sets and then switching to something else, so that I have enough strength-base… But yes, I feel, that I could do more volume in the program - maybe adding chin-ups and dips would do? Also I was trying lighter benchpress even on “non-bench” days, so I could keep that…

Concerning my food and training, I’ll put here more details later in a day…

So far, thank you once more!


I’ll throw in my 2 cents as a large dude not specifically trying to get ripped or weight loss but with a focus on health.

Adding in some higher rep kettlebell, band, and carry stuff (a la Dan John) has done wonders for how strong I feel and for fat loss, this in turn has improved my insulin sensitivity tremendously and I respond better to each training session now. I have hit the weights harder this year than I have in a while (multiple years) and while the scale has moved much (down 10lbs or so from 295 to 285) my composition has changed a ton - check my log if you want pictures of my current status if you think those numbers are bit crazy.

Following what @TrainForPain I would definitely push volume to build a muscle size and strength base. KBs and carries are great for adding in volume in a short period of time and will generally improve overall strength.


Those movements are awesome - there’s no reason you necessarily ever have to move away from them. Likewise, getting stronger for reps sounds like a great plan. I just don’t think that program (and I don’t know the differences between the two, to be fair) has enough hard volume to deliver what you want. Chins and dips are great adds, and something you can do relatively frequently!

I, personally, don’t think that light bench press type work does a ton for hypertrophy directly. It will improve technique, and maybe recovery, which can help you get stronger and train harder more frequently… so it can be a great indirect method.

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You don’t give a time frame for this, how long are you prepared to keep giving consistent effort and controlling your food ?

Getting a large muscular physique is not a 6 month journey, it is a years and years of hard work. In that time your training and focus will change many many times but as long as you are making progress to your overall goal then that is fine.

@TrainForPain has given some great suggestions around fat loss to give yourself the best environment to gain muscle and given some good advise regarding the training program.

I would say that if you are enjoying your current program and are getting stronger every week and hopefully adding a little size (not on the waist). Then keep doing what you are doing. In a few months when you are a little stronger and you are no longer progressing then switch it up and move to something with a little more volume.

@cyclonengineer is spot on regarding conditioning and carrying things. I would echo his comments and suggest you are doing at least 2 session of hard conditioning a week. Barbel complexes, kettle bells, sandbags, carrying, even burpees. All good things to really get the heart rate up and make you hate yourself for 20 mins.

Overall the only thing that really matters and will get you to your goal, are Effort, discipline and time. Keep working hard, be consistent and disciplines in both training and diet and see what happens for the next 10 years.

Start a training log here and interact with others and you will get all the advice and hopefully some motivation to help with the discipline.


If ya give us some more diet details, I’d be happy to give you some pointed suggestions!

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Thank you @cyclonengineer !

Your numbers are definitely impressive :smiley: Could you describe, what kind of kettlebel routine would you recommend, so that it would be easy-to-learn and short? I’d like to put it as a “bonus” day of my training, which I like to change from time to time according to mu current needs (or feeling, better said :smiley: )…

With carries, I’m afraid, that in my small gym I’m kinda limited by the equipment and space. That said, I’ll definitely try Dan John-like routine in the future, it looks great!

Either Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel or Hardstyle Kettlebell by Dan John.

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Dear @TrainForPain and @simo74 ,
I like to think in long-term, as I’d like to adopt working out as a kind of a lifestyle,
partially due to my office job and partially due to my high blood pressure (compensated by medication) and some problems with cholesterol during the last year (huge stress over long time, otherwise always OK).

I’m trying to do this routine now:

Day A:

  • 5x5 Squats
  • 5x5 Benchpress
  • 5x5 Pendlay rows
  • 3x10 Dips
  • 2x8 Skullcrushers

Day B:

  • 5x5 Squats
  • 5x5 Overhead press
  • 1x5 Deadlift
  • 3x10 Chin-ups
  • 2x8 Biceps curls

As you can see, I’ve added some arm exercises to increase my training volume. I’m doing this training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Furthermore, I’m training on Saturday/Sunday, where I’m trying to do something according to my current feel, usually the upper chest incline pushes, as my upper chest is completely non-existent.

Considering my mobility, I’d like to to to Simple6 and Limber11, but as my trainings with higher weights take already quite a lot of time, I’m not sure, if it’s good to do both of them before trainings.

Considering cardio, I got a treadmill recently, so I could use that, or the kettlebels, if possible.

In short, my questions:

  1. Is my current routine somewhat reasonable? It’s still according to Mehdi’s Stronglifts 5x5 program, but I’m not sure, if the accessory is OK and sufficient to have some effect.
  2. Is Simple6 and Limber11 OK to do for mobility and to improve regeneration? And if it is, when to do it? Every evening / only on training days / right before trainings?
  3. What kind of cardio would you prefer? HIIT / LISS on treadmill, kettlebells, burpees or something completely different? And when would you do it? On off days?
  4. Is it reasonable to care about upper chest now? My upper chest is really non-developed in contrast with the lower part. If it is, I’d like to focus also on that during my “bonus day”.
  5. When is it realistic to expect some measurable improvements considering weight/size? Even if minimal, I’d like to check, that my approach is working from time to time…

Also, since tomorrow I’m going to put my trainings and food into my old diary, so that it can be listed everything in one place…

Thank you for all the information!


Dear @QuadQueen ,
I’m trying to focus on quite a lot of meat (about 800g per day), together with 150g of oatflakes together with 500ml of milk twice a day. My problem usually is, that it’s kinda hard for me to eat enough carbs. Any tips about food? I’m going to continue with my journal and write everything there since tomorrow.

If you’re looking to improve your body comp, adding more carbs won’t work unless you decrease the meat/protein to compensate for the additional caloric load. With the oats and the milk, you’re sitting at around 140 grams of carbs each day, if

is all you’re consuming.

A couple questions:

  1. Are you eating lean cuts of meat or fatty/heavily marbled meats?
  2. What type of milk are you drinking? Whole, 2%, 1%, or Skim?
  3. Are you eating ANYTHING else? Vegetables, fruit, added fat - butter, peanut butter, nuts, etc.

Your answers to these questions will give us something to base recs on.


As @QuadQueen said, you def need to paint a better picture of what you are consuming per meal. Not just a blanket statement for an entire day.


Sure. It’s still not something I’d enjoy, but you’re hitting big lifts 3x a week. It’s fine.

It’s twice as much (well, mathematically infinitely more) than I’d ever do. I think the simplest is to just alternate them every day. I’d definitely not be doing 30 minutes of mobility drills before I lift unless I had some real injury I was rehabbing.

Mix it up. You don’t have to recover from walking on a treadmill (in fact, it improves recovery), so do that whenever you want. Sprinting on a treadmill (or burpees or whatever else) do require some recovery. I think it’s schedule and personal preference whether you do it on weight days or not.

If you want, but your program is not really built to focus on anything in particular. You could just make all your benches inclines and take care of it right there. Alternatively, superset a dumbbell incline with feet-elevated pushups on your accessory day and you’ll feel it.

What do you mean? You could gain weight this week if you eat a cheeseburger; that might not be what you want, though. I would set behavior goals right now, trust the process, and look to the mirror every 4-6 weeks.


I may be in the minority here, but I’m really not a fan of your program for a beginner lifter. I know that’s sacrilege to say about stronglifts, but it’s not well rounded at all. It will work great IFF you’re in the 5% of the population that has no mobility, stability or balance issues…but for the 95% you’re gonna accumulate some dysfunction down the road by doing the exact same bilateral barbell movement patterns.

Ideally, a balanced workout should include some DB pressing, single-arm rowing, cable work, core work (anti-flexion, rotation, lateral flexion), high-rep hinge work that’s not gonna fry your CNS like deadlifts (DB RDLs, single-leg RDLs, hip thrusts, etc.), and lastly a power component first thing in your workout (broad jumps, vertical jumps, explosive KB swings, med ball throws, etc.)…and oh, almost forgot, an indefinite amount of band pullaparts and facepulls.

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