T Nation

Not Sure How Get Stronger and Bigger


Dead lift-385
body weight 180 height 5"10', probably about or less than 15% BF

I'm not really sure what to do, in order to keep getting stronger as well as putting on mass. Iv tired 5x5 before but i always stall out on squats, and then i tired 5/3/1 boring but big three month challenge with little to show for it in either size or strength.

I tried 5/3/1 because i wasn't sure if my lifts constituted being a beginner or what, plus i was curious. Any advice on what to do for a program that would allow me to get stronger and put on size would be appreciated.


What does your diet/nutrition look like? IME the first place to look when a beginner or intermediate lifter hits a plateau (in all of their lifts) is their diet.

In regards to the program, both 5/3/1 and 5x5 should be able to get you considerably bigger and stronger than you are if paired with an effective nutritional plan.

Perhaps a better question for you in terms of choosing a program would, be what are your goals? Are you looking to get bigger and stronger to hopefully improve performance in a sport? Are you looking to get as big, proportional, and muscular as humanly possible/look like a bodybuilder? Are you looking to just be as strong as possible/powerlift and want to max out your leverages and absolute strength? Do you just want to "look good naked"? Etc...

Then choose a program that has a proven track record for getting people to that goal (and again, pair it with a nutritional plan that is designed to also help someone reach that goal).

Hope this helps.


Ditto that.

Diet, Diet, Diet. That's the problem, it's not the program.


If you havn't been gaining size, and like PLing type routines. A nice crossover program is Max OT, Pling / BBing type crossover has you training body part a day with lower reps and stresses compound lifts, based on % and deloads every 8 weeks. I always start my kids off on 5x5 or 531 and after a year or so some want to do more BBing type routine, I've found this to be a nice transition rather than going to a pure BBing pump type program, and after 6mth-to a year if they want to come back to PLing they haven't lost any strength, just filled out they're shoulders, arms, and such.

I'm not pushing one way or another because we don't know your goals, I just know after 20yrs of training kids, they somtimes want to do more body part training as a break from the basics, and this seems to work well without loosing they're base strength, that they work so hard for. There is lots of other choices as well, when your burnt out on the basics, WS4LB is one some like as well, it's just the same type of format as 5x5 and 531.

Hope this gives some ideas, some times when you start off on a basic program you get burnt out and board, I've seen it lots. It's important that you enjoy your training as well as get gains, and a change can do this, just make sure you don't loose what you've gained. Goodluck 1


As above, diet.

Also, actually follow the program. If you have been to SL5x5 web site, it would tell you what to do if you stalled.

No progress after the 12 week challenge? You did it wrong. That thing left me on the floor. I was actually glad it was over and went back to 5/3/1 with BBB with a slight deload.

So yeah, don't blame the program.


Just to reiterate, it's your diet.

Whether you're lifting or not, if you don't eat enough, you won't get bigger. If you're following a time-tested lifting routine like 5x5 or 5/3/1 and you're progressing in strength each week but you're still not getting bigger, you're either not taking in enough total calories or you're not taking in enough quality protein, or both.

Having your bench almost equal your squat usually means you're either slacking in lower body training or you're over-prioritizing the bench. Fixing that would definitely be a good thing.

More detail would help (weight you started at, weight when it started to "stall", a general timeframe). The rest of your stats seem solid, so figure out your exact goals, choose a program that points you in that direction, and attack it while paying as much attention to the kitchen as the squat rack.


Why is getting stronger without getting bigger perceived as a problem? I don't get it.


There r a millions opinions and books. I do 5/3/1 and if you do not have I suggest getting Jim wendlers book(s) and read it from cover to cover. I started on a linear progression workout to get my strength up before I switched to 5/3/1.

When I switched I started doing BBB. When u do BBB u have to EAT! Shoot for 1-2g of protein of ur body weight. If you ask Jom how to get stronger I would put money on it that he would say EAT. And it's true. When I started 5/3/1 I was 6"0 200. After I switched to a regular 5/3/1 template I weighed again and I was 225 within 7-9 months and my strength gains were out the roof!

Don't be or contous on what u eat. Jus shoot for 1-2g's of protein and try to get ur protein through hole foods. What I've found to work real well for me as well, right when I wake up slam a protein shake and eat a lil bit of oat meal and some kind of fruit. Then after ur workout I make 4-6 eggs, waffles or toast and sausage or bacon. That's my $0.2 worth.


Same reason getting a promotion at work without getting a pay raise is a problem.


Ah, gotcha. Hey, do you remember on MAP when every newbie always used to ask how to get stronger without getting bigger? How times change...


Yep, but it's more like how the audience/target demographic changed.

Nothing at all wrong with a martial artist, or a powerlifter, strongman, or Olympic weightlifter wanting to get stronger without getting bigger. There's nothing even necessarily "wrong" with the average dude being like, "I don't really want to weigh more than 190." But when someone starts off by saying, "I'm not sure how to get stronger and bigger", then it's fair game to be addressed.


No kids are eating now days when they train .... They all want to lift like PLer's and eat like competative BBer's. This is a fear of loosing abs, it's ridiculous, I gave up on trying, eventualy they figure it out them selves. I asume when I see squat and bench so close that the trainee like most trained upper body (show muscles) for an extended period before comming around to balanced training. This to is all to common, and obviouly he's on the way to rectifying this situation already. It's hard to know any of this for sure till the OP gives more details, buit I've been doing this long enough to make a few educated guesses. What I have seen and asume is happening here, is after a 6-12mth period of 5x5 or 531 some kids become wore out of constant pounding and basic workouts, while even though they're not progressing they're friends are following Magazine routines and having fun.

I'v found it best to give in for awhile let them try a BBing split, and start to figure things out for them selves, they generaly come back to basic training where they made they're best gains. I made alot of assumtions in my first post, and in this one, but most kids are the same at heart. You can give/recomend the best workout diet in the world, but at the end of the day they have to be enjoying them selves or they won't stick to it. I'm in a hurry thats why the messed up spelling and grammer, check back latter


Sorry the above was jibberish I was in a hurry. So many trainers will force newbs to stay on a program for a year or more, while they're changing themselves every 6 weeks. Newbs, and especialy kids get board, and it makes no sense to force them to do somthing they're tired of, you'll just drive them out of the gym. Over the years i've tried to find substitude programs like WS4SB, or Max OT that add variety, and still focus on gaining strength in the core movements, so this way they don't loose anything strength while they're getting some variety. The OP already has some good strength for a beginer. Double body weight dead is probably more than alot of members here. He just sounds board and thats natural. No sense attacking him for somthing that happens to us all. I love how people hold beginers to standards they didn't follow them selves, I don't get it.

Anyway OP your well past the beginer phaze, if thats whats holding you back from further 531 programs. You've acomplished enough to make some educated decisions on your own. It would be nice to put some space between your squat and bench. You might just need a break from the format you've been following, lots of different programs here, some I've mentioned, also good EDT article the other day, it's a nice break from sets and reps, Charles knows his stuff. Also Dan Johns lift a day program is out side the box. Find somthing totaly different from what you've been doing, that still allows you to keep getting stronger in the basics, and use this as a break. Goodluck

By the way, for a short thread you've atracted some pretty respected posters Arogon, Chris, Sentoguy plus more, thought I'd mention it since knowlage goes along way, and you have some here


^ so true! They always go back to what works best that is "The Basic Lifts"! What r abs? Lol!!


It's not a problem, except that the OP's goals are to get both. If he's not hitting his goals, then it's a problem.


First off I want to thank all of you for your effort to help out a stranger, it means a lot to me.
abs arnt a big deal to me, I just don?t want to be a total fattass. im not trying to be a power lifter or a bodybuilder, I participate in and enjoy combat sports (although I don?t compete so weight gain/hypertrophy isn?t a problem) and mountain biking (which is also just recreational).

my goals are to get stronger but like I said im not really concerned with being a power lifter, and at the same time I would ideally like to look strong and powerful. Im not in it for purely aesthetics, iv always thought that a body should be able to move and function as well as it looks.

meal 1 5 eggs, half avocado, cup of kale and a 1-2 servings of peanut butter
meal 2 2 chicken thighs , several cups of spinach and arugula, and 1-2 servings of peanut butter
meal 3 2 chicken thighs plus several cups of assorted vegetables

on training days I add ½ cup of oatmeal with the second meal, a protein shake after the work out, some fruit ( a banana or an apple) and then a cup of white rice. I also supplement with creatine .

I agree my squat is pathetic especially when compared to my bench, but then again so are most of the other lifts. Im not bench focused in my training (iv always liked the overhead press more).

in terms of bringing up my lifts would a 5x5 variant be a viable option given that im not a total rank beginner albeit still a pretty weak lifter?

also 5/3/1 is not to blame for my lack of progress, and im sorry for that misconception. I feel that it was the fact that my lifts arnt advanced enough for the program to be effective. In retrospect i should have continued with a program that allowed for adding weight from workout to workout vs month to month.

again thank you guys for all your help


in regards to the squat stalling. i started out at 185 and tried to add 5 pounds each week and by week 11 i was stalling out at at 225 and just feeling really weak and pathetic, i wasnt completing the sets. also back when i was trying to do this my carbs were considerably lower then they are now.


I think based on your goals, a 531 template would be ideal for you, your at the perfect level, just give it time 6-12mths, I think you'll be surprised.

Also based on what I see in the gym in real life, not what people claim on the internet, your numbers are nothing to be ashamed of double body weight dead is better than most, and I think your strength in the dead will help your squat come around quickly, have paitance and goodluck !


Again, its your diet.

Add some kind of starch (potato, rice, beans, etc) AND two protein shakes, and you are looking at a good beginning.

5X5 is a very good program, but it only works if you follow it. 15lbs a week on squat is what you will be adding. Get the spreadsheet, plug numbers away and see you in 12 weeks.

But, for the love of everything, eat for your goal.


My advice is eat lots of protein and carbs and do some Olympic Lifting. Which means frequent snatches, cleans+jerks, and squats. Heavy. Check out the program on criticalbench.com. Look up "Bulgarian Weightlifting Routine" and click the criticalbench website.

When you get strong enough, you can play around with bodybuilding.