T Nation

Burnt Out and Stalled- Starting Strength

Doing starting strength for the last few weeks and have made fairly steady progress until now.

16y.o with about 1 year training experience (and not much progress). These are my most recent lifts
Weight: 71kg (from 68)
Squat: 90x2 for 1 set (from 60x5x3)
Bench: 57.5x2 for 1 set (from 45x5x3)
Dead: 112.5x1 (from 90x5)
OHP: 40x5 for 1 set (from 35x5x3)
PC: 50x3x5 (from 45x3x5)

As you can see, all my lifts have stalled out and im failing on my 1st set. As well as this I am feelings fairly burnt out. Obviously my lifts are low enough that Liner progress should be possible, but I’m wondering if a full deload would be beneficial as well as maybe more food (i cut back from ~3600 every day to 3600 on training days and ~3100 on off days). On top of the main program Im doing 1 conditioning day a week (after the 3rd workout), lots of band pull aparts and face pulls, and Dan john ladder-style dips and pull ups (1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3…)

I have read Rip’s Clarification and am trying to be reasonable with calories to stay under 20% BF, however i havent read the SS book yet as it costs about 50 dollars in aus.

Also it’s probably worth mentioning that for the first time since i started weights (about a year ago) my joints, particularly my shoulders and elbows are starting to feel pretty beat up, especially after squats and bench.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

What’s your sleep like?

On those calories is your weight going up? Is your stomach fat increasing or decreasing?

What’s your technique like? Video your sets, and play them back next to a video of a Elite lifters. Find out where you can improve.

Usually when stalled the solution is more volume. You can’t improve if you do the same thing every week. I would try a deload then start again with an extra set of each exercise.

Also aim for Rep PRs instead of weight PRs. If you can do more reps with the same weight it will mean your strength has increased.

The training needs to vary more from what I’m reading. Don’t do so many sets at one weight. Work up to a moderate 5 or moderate 3. Do more high rep/light weight bodybuilding after the main work. Most importantly - get enough rest. If you are beat up, take more time off between workouts.

Its not rocket science. Listen to your body.

Also if you’ve done a year already, you might benefit from the Wendler 531 program. It has built in progression, rep PRs and deloads. If done right you can do it for years without stalling.

The ebook is cheap just google wendler 531 pdf. Also there are good spreadsheets and Android apps that calculate for you.

My sleep is good, but I’d like more. I average around 7.5-8.5 hrs per night, but when i can i like to sleep up to 10 (just really like sleeping). I have gained about 1 kilo across the last 3-4 weeks, a bit of which Im certain is fat (right now Id say im 18-20%bf, still trying to not get too fat). Im basically just on starting strength phase 2, which is why im apprehensive to mess with the program, but minor changes im okay with making.

I have done 5/3/1 and understand the program quite well. I used to run 531 but i figured since ive got newbie gains to make I might as well make them, but my plan was to seitch back to 531BBB or 5x531 or maybe Madcow after I get into that intermediate strength bracket

I post this quite often on these forums, but one of the silliest things out there is this bizarre belief that there are “beginners” and “intermediates” and “advanced” lifters. We exist on a continuum. You’ve lifted enough to get past “rank beginner” state. If you are unable to continue progressing with Starting Strength, it is more than reasonable to move on to a program like Texas Method or 5/3/1, regardless of whether you have hit some arbitrary standard of lifts.

With that said, as a 16-year-old who has been training for one year and only gained 3kg, I think I see the problem here. Despite your concerns about getting fat, the answer is MORE FOOD, my young apprentice. You don’t mention your height, but unless you are VERY short, at 71kg you are likely on the skinny side, and as a teenager you have hormones on your side. If you have gained 1 kilo in the last 3-4 weeks, I have no idea how you can be certain that a “bit” of that is fat - kid, my weight fluctuates 3-5 pounds from one day to the next! You’re definitely overthinking this.

Old guys like me can get fat a lot more easily than a young guy like you. Take advantage of it. Don’t binge on junk food, but eat plenty of the good stuff, and let yourself have some treats now and then. You will, at some point, need to dial that in tighter, but for now you can probably up the calories.


x2 just move on to Texas method, loads of people hit a wall on SS

This was an awesome response and I really appreciate the advice. Im 5’10" (i think) or around 183cm, and my weight has actually fluctuated, I got as low at 64kg a few months ago and as high as 83kg when i started. The 3kg i’ve gained have only been on the month or so since I began Starting Strength.

I honestly do believe that I can keep making progress on this program, so thumbs up on food I guess? Also, are there any supps or foods apart from Omega-3 that can help my joints not feel so damn sore?

If you believe that you can keep making progress, be my guest to run another cycle of it and see how things work. I believe that you probably can make more progress on LP as well, just didn’t want you to feel like you “had” to keep running SS. Give it another go, but if you’re stuck, then moving to another good program is probably fine. At a certain point even “linear” progress has to slow down - i.e. the gains come by increasing weight every few weeks instead of every few workouts.

Re: supplements, the two things I would highly recommend are creatine and gelatin. Creatine won’t do anything for joint soreness, but it’s cheap, safe, and effective; even 2-3 grams per day has benefits, and at that dosing you can buy several months’ worth for like $30. Gelatin is the nearest thing I’ve found to a wonder drug for injury/soreness prevention. Just drop a spoonful in a smoothie, or you can dissolve in hot liquid like a cup of coffee.

I was told vitamin C can help the joints, as well as collagen type foods like pork bone soup. BCAA during the workout can reduce muscle soreness but not joints.

But really supps are not the answer.

At your age to have joint pain something is definitely not right.

I’m almost 40 and I never get joint pain, except some elbow tendinitis after low bar squatting.

Either your program layout needs to change to allow recovery, or your technique is impacting your joints badly. I’d say it’s the latter.

Bench press for example its important to get the shoulders tucked back and stationary. It’s alot harder than it sounds, but a good setup including an Arch is a start. See if you can find someone with a professional looking setup to show you.

For the diet progress - ensure you’re getting enough protein every meal. You need at least 25gm to pass the leucine threshold (interesting to read about if you have a chance). Try and hit that threshold 5 times a day even if it means a shake when you wake up and a shake before bed :wink:

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Agree with basically everything already previously stated.

Just to throw in my .02, Starting Strength is not ideal for everyone. I was around a similar level around your age, and Starting Strength just made me hit a wall. Was never able to recover from squatting 3x a week.

Consider using a different approach if your sleep, diet, etc. is all actually on point.

What is this conditioning day of yours? That could have an impact on your progress.

Wasting your time with programs. They will limit you from now on.

You need intensity, not mindless volume.

Work up to a heavy 5 one week, a heavy 3 the next week, another moderate/heavy 5 (lighter than previous week) and then a single for a total of 4 weeks. Throw in some variation like a sumo pull if you are normally conventional. Put on a slingshot in the bench for variety. If you use equipment/gear, switch back and forth between gear and raw.

Just learn to listen to your body. Programs will lead to disappointment when you don’t hit what’s been prescribed because most of them do not consider daily stuff. This way, if you’re feeling good you can take it up and if you’re not, put in some work you can do and call it a day.

You’ll find that you’ll make far more progress. Very very few of the top lifters follow ANY program. Everything is instinct governed by principles that work.

It’s not rocket science like I said. I train with a guy who squats over 1000, 800 bench, 800 pull in SHW. Another 275’r who squats near 800, bench near 600 and pulls near 700 - just a few pounds shy on each lift. We have a 165’r who pulls 545. We have 3 others who can total 1500 raw. These are all competition numbers and for the most part, we all train the same.

There are no secrets. Lots of food, lots of rest, lots of weight. And you don’t have to eat clean. Lots of PR’s, muscle and strength all come from high caloric food that isn’t gonna be on any nutritionists recommendations.


Nothing crazy, running a 30-40m hill 6-12 times at about 70-80% intensity or doing random combinations of 100m, 200m and 400m runs out on the rugby field at the same intensity. I really only do this because i like the feeling of being at least somewhat in shape

Hit 200g of protein a day.
-mainly from whole foods… lean beef, eggs, fresh fish etc. Can fill in the gaps with a decent whey isolate also.

One of these with breakfast/morning next day not a bad idea either…

Couldn’t agree more. Programs hindered me for waaaaay to long. Training philosophies, however, can be valuable.

Good fuckin Shake Goddammit

5’10" and 156 is WAY TOO THIN. At 5’10 a lean powerlifter would weigh between 220 and 275. You need to eat and GROW. At your age its almost impossible to “overtrain”.