T Nation

Can't Regain Lost Strength


#1

I feel like I am really spinning my wheels and would appreciate any help I can get. About a year ago I lost a bunch of weight, down from 210lb to 163lb or so (I am 6'1). I lost a lot of fat (waist went from 44'' to 33''), but quite a bit of strength too. Actually, I lost a shitload of strength.

Through my weight loss, my lifts dropped as follows (belt & chalk):
Bench: 245lbx2 to 205x5
Back Squat: 315x3 to 245x5
Deadlift: 375lbx5 to 345x2

Yeah, something went seriously wrong there. I was obviously an idiot and probably dropped weight too fast. I also got injured midway through dieting. The real problem is that for the past year, yes a whole YEAR, I've been trying to the regain strength but simply can't. Like I can't really make ANY gains. At all. I am still stuck at almost exactly the same numbers as right after the cut. I have no idea why.

I eat enough to gain weight: I have gained 20lb the last year - and it feel like pretty much 100% of it has been fat. I eat 220plus grams of protein a day which should be enough given my bodyweight of less than 200lb. My diet is comprised of 90% clean foods: meat, eggs, cottage cheese, oats, rice cakes, natural peanut butter, low fat mozzarella, olive oil, plus vegetables like broccoli & tomatoes & cabbage. I try to keep my carbs low (only at breakfast and pre&post workout). I sleep 6-8hrs a night (pretty much try and sleep as much as I can).

As far as training, I gained the most strength (and was at my strongest) training Westside/conjugate periodization, upper & lower 3-4 days a week. I trained the same way for a while, with the same intensity and volume (as I figure why not train this way if it worked well in the past, right?) but it just didn't work. I couldnt gain any strength and actually ended up pulling a pec.

I then tried more higher rep upper/lower work, and then Push/Pull/Legs bodybuilding style routine, but neither of these really worked. I tried doing more volume, less volume, more failure work (quickly kicked my ass), no failure work. I felt better with no failure work but didn't make any actual real gains from it. I deloaded and worked back up multiple times, though I always run into the same wall.

I want to make my situation as clear as possible. What usually happens is that I make progress for about 2-3 weeks, then I stall, and my lifts end up slowly going backwards. If I push on, I get sick or injured (e.g. the pulled pec, also tweaked my hip badly on Back Squats).

If I deload, I either come back weaker and have to spend the next 1-2 months building back up only to stall at roughly the same place, or I come back a bit stronger but quickly stall and regress. I also have periods were my strength is wildly inconsistent, and I seem to fight to even keep strength gains from the week before (then I'll get a random strength burst, only to somehow lose it two weeks later).

I am incredibly frustrated and demotivated. I am at a total and complete fucking loss as to not only what's wrong with me, but how to fix it. I have gotten my testosterone checked and the doctor said it was fine (it was 19.1nmol iirc). I don't believe the problem is due to a lack of work ethic, 'training like a pussy' or not having a clue about nutrition as I gained strength and size before. I had dreams of entering my first meet and starting powerlifting seriously, but now I feel like I'm going nowhere. Please help.


#2

Hey buddy.

I’m reading your post but I’m getting somewhat stumped. The only thing I can think of applies to the section I quoted. Just from reading, it seems like your body can’t recover fast enough right at the point where you start losing gains. Think of it like this. Your body IS getting a stimulus and it wants to overcompensate (leading to new gains) but you keep training really hard and t just can’t recover. Does that sound like what might be happening? Maybe try giving yourself a couple more rest days every week? Personally whenever I start losing strength it’s because I’m not recovering.


#3

In the past year, have you followed a specific program that was written by a knowledgable coach?


#4

[quote]chochky1 wrote:
I feel like I am really spinning my wheels and would appreciate any help I can get. About a year ago I lost a bunch of weight, down from 210lb to 163lb or so (I am 6’1). I lost a lot of fat (waist went from 44’’ to 33’’), but quite a bit of strength too. Actually, I lost a shitload of strength.

Through my weight loss, my lifts dropped as follows (belt & chalk):
Bench: 245lbx2 to 205x5
Back Squat: 315x3 to 245x5
Deadlift: 375lbx5 to 345x2

[/quote]

For a 50lbs weight loss and at 163lbs the numbers don’t look that bad. What is your Bench 2RM? If your hitting 205x5 you’ve gotta be able to hit 225x2 right?

What is your Squat 3RM?

The deadlift drop off is the only one that stands out to me.

[quote]
Yeah, something went seriously wrong there. I was obviously an idiot and probably dropped weight too fast. I also got injured midway through dieting. The real problem is that for the past year, yes a whole YEAR, I’ve been trying to the regain strength but simply can’t. Like I can’t really make ANY gains. At all. I am still stuck at almost exactly the same numbers as right after the cut. I have no idea why. [/quote]

Have you tried different eating and recovery strategies?

[quote]
I eat enough to gain weight: I have gained 20lb the last year - and it feel like pretty much 100% of it has been fat. I eat 220plus grams of protein a day which should be enough given my bodyweight of less than 200lb. My diet is comprised of 90% clean foods: meat, eggs, cottage cheese, oats, rice cakes, natural peanut butter, low fat mozzarella, olive oil, plus vegetables like broccoli & tomatoes & cabbage. I try to keep my carbs low (only at breakfast and pre&post workout). I sleep 6-8hrs a night (pretty much try and sleep as much as I can). [/quote]

How much fat are you eating? How low exactly are you keeping carbs?

[quote]
As far as training, I gained the most strength (and was at my strongest) training Westside/conjugate periodization, upper & lower 3-4 days a week. I trained the same way for a while, with the same intensity and volume (as I figure why not train this way if it worked well in the past, right?) but it just didn’t work. I couldnt gain any strength and actually ended up pulling a pec.

I then tried more higher rep upper/lower work, and then Push/Pull/Legs bodybuilding style routine, but neither of these really worked. I tried doing more volume, less volume, more failure work (quickly kicked my ass), no failure work. I felt better with no failure work but didn’t make any actual real gains from it. I deloaded and worked back up multiple times, though I always run into the same wall. [/quote]

How long did you give these methods before you decided you’d made no gains?

[quote]
I want to make my situation as clear as possible. What usually happens is that I make progress for about 2-3 weeks, then I stall, and my lifts end up slowly going backwards. If I push on, I get sick or injured (e.g. the pulled pec, also tweaked my hip badly on Back Squats). [/quote]

What does your warm-up look like? Did a doctor diagnose the pec or did you? How many carbs are you eating on training days?

We need more specifics on your training. Sets, reps, frequency, etc…

[quote]
If I deload, I either come back weaker and have to spend the next 1-2 months building back up only to stall at roughly the same place, or I come back a bit stronger but quickly stall and regress. I also have periods were my strength is wildly inconsistent, and I seem to fight to even keep strength gains from the week before (then I’ll get a random strength burst, only to somehow lose it two weeks later). [/quote]

What do you do on your deload?

Have you had any other tests done? Your thyroid for example.


#5

Try training in cycles. Try a plan similar to that of Andy Bolten.
Sure he’s one of the strongest men in the world but he trains in cycles and it works.

Start off light and add weight each week to a powerlift. Each week you add a little more weight until you get to your set target weight.
Once you hit your set weight you then start a new cycle back at a light weight. The first week is like a deload . Just work on form but don’t push the intensity.
Each week you add weight and you will work up to a 5kg PR of your max for Squat and Deadlift and 2.5kg for Bench press.

A cycle for you could be 6 weeks or to someone advanced 8-12 weeks. To some this may seem like slow progress but to anyone who has stalled a few times this is actually progress and a great way of getting stronger.

Rep ranges change. A common approach is to start off with 5’s then work down to 3’s or 2’s.
You could also just stick to 5’s for one whole cycle then 3 's the next. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you are getting stronger.


#6

Man, I think you just lost too much muscle. Your waist is much smaller, you probably lost general thickness all over. Your leverages have probably changed so much that lifts feel totally different than they used to. Now you want mass, strength and you’re basically learning “new” technique at the same time. You are asking your body to do a lot. I suggest you just kinda slow down a little.

Come up with a simple upper/lower split. Instead of the powerlifts, use some of your best “builder lifts” for your main, important lifts. Either max effort variations, or secondary exercises. The lifts that you know carry over best to your powerlifts. Stuff like deficit deadlifts, close grip bench, saftey bar squat, partial seated overhead press from pins, whatever you like.

On week 1, work up to a hard triple on one of these lifts. We’ll say around 85-90% of what you could do. That’s like three reps. That’s your starting point. Afterwards take 10 to 15% off the bar and do a couple fast triples for back off sets. Don’t go to failure.

Then pick like 3-4 exercises for your Repetition Effort work. Tri’s, rear delts, hamstrings, lower back. You know the muscles to hit. Do like 3 easy sets for each exercise. No failure!

On week 2, you’ll use the same weights for your main lifts, but get more total reps in. Last week you went up to a heavy 3 reps. This week you could do 5 singles, or 3 sets of 2, or a couple 1,2,1,2 ladders. Whatever you like, just use the same weight, for a couple more total reps. After that, take the same 10-15% off the bar, just like last week. Do a few back off sets, and get more total reps than week 1.

Then do your Repetitionwork. Same exercises as last week, but now you do 4 sets. You’ll add volume kinda easy this way, without going to failure.

Week 3, do the same thing. Main lift, week 1 weight, for more total reps. Afterwards, drop down, and do some fast backoffs. Same weight as week 1, just more total reps. Whatever sets/reps you like, just don’t go to failure. For rep work, same exercises, just do 5 sets.

The idea is that you’ll do a lot of work in the 85% range. As you easily add to the total reps you do, you turn that 85% to more like 75%. You get stronger without crushing yourself. Every week, the weights get “easier” and technique gets better and better.

Then, after 3 or 4 weeks, you go Westside style and pick totally different moves to put into your “template” and start over at 3 reps. Louie has told us for years that progress stalls after 3 weeks. You said yourself you stall or get hurt the 3-4 week. So just switch moves. If your shoulder or elbow or something starts to hurt, pick lifts that don’t hurt! Kinda rotate the abuse around your body.

I expect a lot of people to call B.S. on this approach. But if you had good results with the conjugate method before, you know you don’t need to do the competition lifts every week to get better at them. You also know its important to control, yet increase the volume week to week. Then wave it back down every few weeks.


#7

163 at 6’1"? Jeez man, even when i was 210 at 6’1" I looked skinny.


#8

[quote]cparker wrote:
163 at 6’1"? Jeez man, even when i was 210 at 6’1" I looked skinny. [/quote]

x2
up your protein/clean food and try Plazma


#9

I dont love the waist. Im 5’10" and 185lbs and my waist is 31". You are 3" taller than me and weigh 20lbs less than me. My waist is hardly my strong suit.

I don’t think you dieted down correctly. You might have lost a little too much muscle in the process. With a lot of my clients they crash diet, after i tell them not too, and they just look like smaller versions of themselves. All the same ratios are there so it really did not fix there problems at all.