T Nation

How to Break Past a Long Stall


Hi all, new user here.

I cannot, for the love of me, break past 265lbs on squats.

I have been stuck at this weight for the last 3 months. I have been using a linear progression, squatting 2x a week, on a 3x5 rep scheme. I have made it all the way to 265lbs and failed hard multiple times. I have reset the weight about 3 times, dropping the load by about 10 - 15% and working my way back up slowly, but every single time I have hit 265lbs, I can't break past it. My most recent stall had me doing:

265x5, 265x5, 265x4

followed by a next session of:

265x4 (failed on first set wtf?) - decided to come back next session to try again

followed by:

265x4 (failed on 1st set again)

What gives? I'm pushing myself really hard but the weight won't budge. I'm sticking adamantly to a linear progression because it seems that most people seem to make it all the way to at 3 plates, and I don't understand why I cannot. My stats are: 5'8, 180lbs. I am not overweight. My bench is progressing a lot better than my squats (did 248x4 today, will attempt 248x5 next week). Nutrition/rest is not an issue. I am not using a belt (perhaps I should start using one).

I do not wish to take a break from squats, because my body needs the constant neurological conditioning. Taking even a 1 week break from squats in the past has resulted in me coming back substantially weaker than before because I have lost the conditioning. I have reset my weight many times over and if I have to reset it again I will, but I need to make sure that this is the last time I do until I break the 3 plate barrier because it shouldn't be this hard for me to hit 3 plates on a linear progression - but it really is. I do not want to have to reset again after this. My progress is coming along ridiculously slowly, and resetting again would mean my progress is going backwards.

Suggestions anyone?


Mental hurdle. You hit 5/5/4 go up in weight. See if you hit it, give it 3 goes.


Agreed, mental. Take video of yourself and you might surprised at how well you are moving the weight compared to how it "feels."

The other thing you can try doing is 3x3 at 275 and trying to move up in weight from there. Then after about 3 or 4 weeks of that going back to 3x5 and moving back up from 265 again. So example:

Wk1: 3x3 at 275
Wk2: 3x3 at 280
Wk3: 3x3 at 285
Wk4: 275 x 3, 285 x 3, 295 x 3
Wk1: 3x5 at 270
Wk2: 3x5 at 275
Wk3: and so on...

EDIT: I just re-read your post and noticed you failed at 265 x 3 x 4. So you might need to adjust the weights accordingly. So, perhaps starting at 265 for your sets of 3. But hopefully you get the idea.


Last suggestion, when you reset this next time, do 2x5, 1x5+ instead of 3x5. Make that last set a rep max each workout on your way back to your previous work set bests. The increasing weight and just continuing as long as you can hit a 3x3 is also an option.


Texas method or Madcow.


^ Yep.

I switched off of Starting Strength when I got stuck at 3x5 with 265 lbs a couple times, I moved onto Madcow, was able to get up to a 290x4 reps squat after a couple months then went to 5/3/1 to get up to a 335 squat. At some point, it seems like it becomes more efficient to stop going for 3 sets of 5 and work your way up to a top set.

Also, you say nutrition is not an issue. Well, how much weight have you gained in the past 2 or so months?


Yeah, I have always thought the perfect line is when you stop seeing at least a 15 lb increase every three weeks on your working sets. If it drops below that move on to a program with some additional variables.


Change up the rep scheme. Do some doubles and triples beyond the 265 mark. It'll work. You're just doing the same workout too often. 275x3x3 285x3x3 295x3x3 then if you can't get 305x3x3 then go 305x3x2 315x3x2 etc. When you fail to get a 3x2 then drop back to 265x3x5 and see if you get it and more than likely, you will easily get it.


I was stuck at 3 plates for a long time too, for a few months I can't even add 5lb, then one day I just said fuck it and did smolov. Not that I'm saying smolov is your answer but from your post I assume you're squatting once a week, so try upping your squat frequency? From my own experience, whatever gains I got from a squat session will be "lost" if I don't squat again for another week. It doesn't have to be 2 heavy sessions, the other session can be a speed/technique/high rep/volume day.


My weight has been fairly stable over the last 2 months, but I put on 30lbs from the middle to end of last year. I try to maintain my calorie intake at about 3000-3200kcal, which, from what I gather from all the macro/TDEE calculators out there, is way above maintenance for me (I estimate, I don't actively count though). My primary goal right now is strength but I don't plan on becoming a fatass by doing something like GOMAD though


The general consensus seems to be that I should either:

  1. Switch to TM/Madcow

  2. Change the rep scheme to 3x3

For 1: which is the preferred program for most? I've read many good things about the TM programming, everyone seems to emphasize a lack of volume and lack of sustainability for Madcow due to overreaching. However, it seems to be a pretty popular choice to follow a SS-style linear progression

For 2: what would you guys think about 5x3 to get more volume in/rehearse technique? Is 3x3 2x a week enough or insufficient to elicit a response? A lot of people seem to think that volume is an integral aspect of gaining strength when it comes to squats. I never really considered doing doubles/triples because the weight I'm moving always seemed too low to be employing such a rep scheme (when I see people doing doubles/triples, it's usually with 3 plates min)


You can:

1: Do what you like and you might break your plateau.

2: Follow a proven program and actually break your plateau (if your diet and recoup is inline).

Good luck.


Which program, TM or Madcow, would give better and more sustainable progress? Also, I've heard people criticize the volume on Madcow - do you personally think the volume is insufficient and that TM is a superior program in terms of strength progression?


A constant caloric excess and building more MUSCLE will give the most sustainable progress.


This does not mean GOMAD, dirty bulk, permabulk etc.


Whatever you want. They are basicly the same.

You want to try 5/3/1 type? Go nuts.

SL and SS have slightly different philosophies. Just follow what you agree the most with.

if you think madcow is low volume, you never did the work out.

Consistency is the best strength progression work out.

You will get more out of a bad program consistently, then if you follow the best program inconsistently. Now, imagine if you follow a good program consistently. THAT will be your "superior strength progression".


There are "advanced" versions of 5x5 written as 5x5 for about 4 weeks and 3x3 for 4 week blocks. The word "Advanced" is really just taking place of "I've done 5x5 and/or Madcow and need another method to try."

As far as how much weight you are moving, it is relative to the individual. Not too many females can squat 3 plates and I personally train with some that do doubles, triples, and singles. It is more depends on how solid your form is rather than how much weight you are moving. Since safety and injury is a greater concern at higher percentages.

I've written this before in another thread-- the idea that certain training methods are reserved for certain people is bullshit. If 5x5 got you to 275, and you won't get stronger-- then if Madcow got you to 305 and won't work anymore-- then 3x3 gets you to 325 and stops working-- you move on. Those weights can be whatever they want to be, but never think a certain methodology is reserved for a certain class of lifter. Try different stuff giving it an honest run to find what works for you and what you like.