T Nation

Breaking Through a Plateau


so for the last 5 months i haven't gained a significant amount of strength, and usually when i get stronger its just temporary.

i am OK with the first 4 months being non productive in the strength department, because i was on a diet, which i ended up going down 5 kg on, but i decided to not continue with it cause i'd rather start dieting when i reach 100kg+ bench press max, 150-160 kg deadlift and a bodyweight clean and jerk.

and thats the thing, when i got off the diet wanting to focus on strength again, it just didn't work. i used the normal training regime which i had been using for aprox 1 year, 3 full body workouts a week.

so i realized that something must not have been working right, and i decided that it might be time to switch things around, and to increase intensity of my workout i started with 4 day upper lower split, which you can see here

monday upper,
bench press
cable pushdowns
tricep skull chrushers
shoulder press machine
bent over one arm row
chin ups

tuesday lower
lying leg curls
leg press

thursday upper
bench press
military press
cable pushdowns
that cable row machine.

friday lower
leg press
standing calf raises
lying leg curl

if there is anything to criticize here, feel free.

i usually push myself with the up most intensity at every exercise.

so if you have any tip or any advice to help me break trough this plateau, please say.

i think it me eating to little, but last time i started a bulk i was more in shape and more fit than i am now. now i am slightly fat and adding even more fat is not exactly on the top of my Christmas gift list.


If your sole purpose is to add weight to the bar right now, you are doing too much, especially if you are at max intensity on every exercise as you say and your lifts have stalled (key word here). You've stalled on strength, so start off low volume...lower than you think you can handle. Then, when you start adding weight to the bar each week, add what you can. I'm not about to be one of those guys who says, "just do 5/3/1 man!;" however, I strongly advocate reading it just to get an idea of his perspective on the effectiveness of lower volume training.

It seems as though you are not trying to add any bodyweight atm, so I don't really see any harm in starting off low volume. While focusing on raw strength, with each exercise you have to ask yourself,"will this make me stronger, or am I done for the day?"


Thanks for the reply, so i have read up on this 5/3/1 thing, and by the sound of those using it, it sounds promising, would you advice me to start on that instead of making tweaks to my current program?

if you would rather make changes to this, what would you change?

maybe something like this?

monday bench press day
bench press
cable flyes
cable pushdowns

wednesday deadlift day
lying leg curls
Dumbell row

friday squat day
leg press

monday B military press day
military press
side raises
face pulls

or what would you recommend id change? what about rep ranges? 5x5?


very IMO,
use just (few) compounds (incline/decline press,leg press,pinz,lat pulldownz,side dbs raises for deads,close grip press,curls),
like earlier been said low volume (3 sets to failure or close to),
4ways split alias 2xweek muscles,
and -much important as every training protocol works if you hit 110%- take a training log,write every w/o on,load reps and how you felt days after; the thing is to add weight a/o reps (even partials; if you do the same reps number with same load of last training and feel like something is still in the can go for partials...) as often you can,100gr of carbos and at least 1.5gr per kilos of protein.
that's all..........


yeah so i have bought 5/3/1 and decided that i'll try it out, and try to reach my goal 1 rep maxes.

Should i just continue with this afterwards? and by that i mean, does it build a good amount of muscle size on top of the strength?

what assistance work do you think is best btw?

i like the workouts in here --> http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/how_to_build_pure_strength

but they tell me that i need to do hanging leg raises and good mornings. good mornings is just really awkward for me to do and it hurts my neck, my problems are for the most part due to my shitty flexibility, but even looking past that, it just looks ridiculous to be doing that in the gym, so i'll rather spare me the social awkardness of these full range of motion hanging leg raises and good mornings, so i was just wondering, is there any other exercise i can use to replace these two? what about crunches or hyper extensions?

have you guys tried it?


Nothing is set in stone. Every exercise can be replaced with another. Start weith the 4 main lifts thats are done with 5/3/1 and throw in 2 other lifts per workout. Choose lifts that you enjoy and that have seemed to work in the past. For me, on bench press day, I like to throw in dumbbell flat bench, tricep extensions, and pec deck. That is what i enjoy doing and what seems to work best for me. 5/3/1 has plenty of examples of assistance work that you can use like pullups, dips etc.

IMO, two very important points need to be made regarding this program and any other. 1. Make sure you are busting ass in the gym and setting PR's EVERY time you go into the gym. Just find a way to break a record in one or more lifts every time you go into the gym. Keep track of these records and beat them next time. 2. Make sure you are eating enough food. If you are adding a bit more fat than you would like, eat healthier food, but don't mess with the calories. You aren't going to get bigger and stronger by dropping calories.

5/3/1 has worked miracles for me, not because of the actual program, rather the philosophy behind it of going into the gym every day to set PR's. If yyou are setting records and eating plenty of food, you will grow, no doubt

Just my 2 cents


  1. Can't offer much feedback on your workout programs without sets/reps/intensity levels. the only thing that stands out to me is that in both the first and second splits you posted you seem to include very little back work.

  2. What exactly are your goals? From what you've said, you want to build strength, and in that case 5/3/1 is great. If your goal is building muscle (this was posted in bodybuilding section..), then something more bodybuilding friendly would be appropriate.

  3. Regardless, based on your strength levels (somewhere under a 100kg bench press and under 150-160kg deadlift), it would be very hard not to gain strength in 5 months unless you just weren't eating enough (has to be said) or you are really just not training hard enough.

At those levels of strength you can do pretty much any split / exercise order and as long as you are training hard and eating enough you should get stronger. If you are gaining fat and not gaining strength, either your macros are off (likely not enough protein) or you aren't training hard enough.


Just to parrot challer a bit, the magic is not so much in your program as much as your dedication and diet. As far as the program goes, you really need to tone in on what the right volume is for you. As I said in my OP, take what you think you can handle, and start a little bit lower. Also, you need to strike a push/pull balance. You are severely lacking in back work. I think I've seen Wendler recommend 2:1 pull/push as far as total reps goes. A key ingredient to improving the Big 3 is to strengthen your back. If these things are in place, then it's good enough, and will take you where you want.


  1. i use a system called autoregulation as my rep/set scheme in the big lifts, you basically just first do two warm up sets and then two work sets, the first work set use the weight you lifted in the second work set last session. The second work set this session is based on how much you lifted in the first work set. Basically if you did 80*8 for example you increase the weight by 2,5 and lift that in the second work set until you manage 8 reps with that and then increase again. and if you did under 5 reps you'd decrease the weight.

for the rest of the exercises, it usually varies how many reps and sets i do. 3 sets 8 reps seems to be the average, sometime i do 12 on the first set,10 on the next, etc, down to 6.

  1. when i walked out of the gym for the first time in january 2010, i set myself a goal of achieving a 100 kg benchpress and i have dedicated myself to that since. I did develop other goals of course over time but benching 100kg was always the main goal, when i didn't manage to make that goal( was suppose to lift it in December) i kind of pushed it to the side over wanting to first lower my bodyfat to around 10% and then build my strength from there on up again. my diet sucked ass and often i cheated on it, overall it wasn't worth it and i realized that 4 months later when i decided to start focusing on strength again. i decided that i'll first build a decent amount of strength and then focus on getting rid of all the fat.

  2. my numbers might seem low, but i don't think it matters because my starting point numbers was utterly pathetic and i think all of my newbie gains has been used to get those up to what they are now. in january of 2010 i benchpressed 40 kg, in summer i deadlifted 95 kg, clean and jerked 40 kg and when i started squatting right after summer i maxed around 75. in december, when i was suppose to make all my goals, my bench press max had gone up to 90, deadlift to 140, clean and jerk to 70 and my squat up to 100.so thats decent progress even if i didn't make my goals. after that it just stopped dead in it's track when i started my diet in january this year. BTW i always train as hard as i can, there is no half ass training in my regime. no skipping the last reps because it's exhausting

Good advice, but i think i'll try this 5/3/1 instead of trying to make my own program again.

i can't wait to start training with this new program!!

I have another question tough, do any of you have tips to what exercises i change change hanging leg raises and good mornings with? i was thinking of replacing hyper extensions with good mornings, and leg raises with crunches or the ab wheel thing.

i maybe need a replacement for dips too, last time i did dips i had to stop cause it hurts my sternum, anyone know why that might happend? i did them weigthed last time tough, so maybe doing them bodyweight will help.



Good morning substitutes: romanian deadlifts, SL deadlift
hanging Leg raises: laying leg raise
dips: bench dips, neutral db presses


When did you have your last deload? If it's 12 weeks+, consider doing one (less volume or 50% of your normal intensity) or just take a week off. Whenever I hit a plateau for longer than 2-3 weeks, I just take a week off, just to return to lifting and shatter PR's.

It amazes me noone here has advised one! Sometimes, less is more.


did my first 5/3/1 session today

1x10(warm up) 3x5 military press
dips, 8 X 5
chins 6 X 9

i have a feeling this will break trough my plateau


Your 3rd set is supposed to be max reps. Also, follow his template for warm up sets. There should be 3 of them.


yeah i know, that was max rep.


Then you started with too high of a weight if you only hit the minimum number of reps. Most should be hitting closer to 10 or more reps on that first 3x5 week.


So how do i know if i am at the right weight?


If you want to focus on increasing strength I'd focus on one major exercise per bodypart and on improving that one only, utilizing the other ones as accessory movements


C'mon, man. Did you actually read it?


Yeah, i am suppose to take my max and subtract 90% from it, and that number i shall use to calculate my training weight. and apparently one is supposed to be able to make atleast 10 reps? yeah well thats much higher than what i lifted with that number.


Something is not right then. You either calculated your max wrong, or you calculated the percentages wrong. He mentions in the book that you should go at least 7 or 8 cycles before you hit the point that you can only get the minimum number of reps on that last set.