T Nation

Hit a Strength Plateau


I'm somewhat of a late bloomer and started working out in May. I've improved quite a bit but I've reached a plateau.

Dumbbell Bench press - 3 sets, 6 reps - 80 pounds
Dumbbell Seated Arm Curl - 5 sets, 5 reps - 45 pounds
Dumbbell shoulder press? - 5 sets, 8 reps - 50 pounds
(Overheads? - the weights go over your head)

I'd love to continue increasing in weight but I've pretty much leveled off. I was wondering if you guys had any tips.

Oh, before I started, I was doing 20 pound curls, 30 pound overheads and a 30 pound bench press. I've been working out since May but my work outs have been sporadic because I've been sailing on ships.

If you guys could give me some advice, I'd greatly appreciate it. My goal is to get up to 50 pound curls and 100 pound bench press - assuming my physique can handle it.


Change exercises. Change sets and reps. Vary your routine. Tweak your diet. Take Surge for recovery purposes. Get plenty of sleep. Take ZMA before bed.


Legs? Back?

If you've hit a plateau, then take a back off week or two and then get back in the gym, but try to follow a decent program this time around. There are lots of examples on this site alone.

Good training,



What's ZMA? Sorry, I'm really new to this stuff. I was on a ship so I've done nothing for legs or back. Is that necessary for upper body?


No, legs aren't necessary for upper body. But, leg exercises generally have the most effect on the muscularity of the body as a whole. Deadlifts and squat variations will put more mass on your frame than any other single exercises. Not to mention that someone with a lot of upper body muscle and very little leg muscle will look pretty silly.

As far as back exercises, yes they are essential (that is unless you want to wind up with serious muscle imbalances, postural problems, and possibly injuries) for upper body.


I know this is kind of unrelated, but what is considered "strong" and what would be an adequate weight for me right now. Currently I'm 20 years old, 5'10" and weigh 166 pounds.


Using heavy weights and lower rep ranges will help improve your strength. For example, instead of doing 3 sets of 6 reps for your dumbbell press, do 6 sets of 3 reps with a weight that you could do for a 5 rep max. Take 3-5 minutes rest between sets so you can make your reps each time.

Use this set and rep scheme with compound exercise like presses, rows, deadlifts and squats, and you should notice some considerable strength gains.


are the presses per arm? like... 160lbs total?


squats will stimulate your body to produce growth hormones, as will deadlifts. back exercises are crucial and will definitely increase your bench, you should be able to row what you bench in more situations, unless your are pressing like 500lbs with a shirt


Yes, per arm. I've tried to 85 pounds, but my muscles just can't do it. I'm pretty much stuck. As for back exercises, there's so many on T-Nation, how do you know which ones to do?

As of now, my only access to weights is a bench and some free weights.

I stated before that I'm a late bloomer and I've been working out and noticed I have a lot of chest acne. Is this normal as well?


One arm rows, DB deads, DB pull overs (some consider this a chest exercise, but it does involve the lats as well), Reverse flys, Farmers Walks, all of those require nothing more than DB's and in some cases a bench.

I'd honestly suggest you also throw in some lunges, step-ups, DB RDL's, and maybe DB squats (not as good as BB squats, but better than nothing) or pistols (one legged squats).

Good training,