Pain When Pushing Strength Goals

Current stats:
Age 33
198lbs/12% body fat
Lifting 6 years+

Bench - 110kg 1RM
OHP - 70kg 1RM
Deadlift - 220kg 1RM
Squat - 170kg 1RM
Previous cut 182lbs/8% body fat
Recent lean bulk 198lbs/12% body fat

Currently (and similar to past scenarios) I hit a plateau during a hypertrophy phase. I get to a point where my lift’s stagnate. I can’t put any more weight on that bar working at 8-12’s despite deload’s and additional rest/sleep/calories. So. I keep the calories slightly above maintenance, reduce the volume and increase the intensity. My reps go down, my numbers go up week after week.

For a period.

The reason for that. It Hurts. A Lot!

Working in 8-12’s my pain is manageable, pain free most days, pain level 4 or 5 on training days, pain level of 1 or 2 the day after, but eventually my results stagnate so I need to switch to a strength phase.

Strength phase begins. Working in 3-6’s. Week upon week my numbers are going up but my pain gets increasingly worse. It goes from a slight shoulder twinge and patella pain in the knees to having severe problems with knees and shoulder on training days, having to cut workouts short, problems with elbows/forearms/wrists and being in varying degrees of pain most days.

How can I keep encouraging growth and progress when my body keeps saying no?

A few years back I was struggling with addiction and severe depression, the gym got me back on track. I’d been obese and inactive through my younger years and turned anorexic in my mid twenties. The gym gave me self worth, I could look in the mirror and say ‘not bad!’. We’re all trying to push forward though and right now though i’m like 'Is this all I’m going to be able to do? Is my body gonna let me go any further? It doesn’t seem far enough.

Maybe try 5/3/1
Choose some new main lifts such as:
Bench → Bridge press or incline press
OHP → Push press
Deads → Trapbar, Deads off blocks, GMs
Squat → Front squat, box squat

Or both 5/3/1 and new exercises

Just don’t start the “I’m already 31 years old” shit.
I’m 53 and still a determined bastard.


It sounds like something may be wrong technically. It’s normal to feel beat up when you peak, but that’s a significantly higher intensity than you use with three to six reps. From what you’re saying, lifting always hurts but it gets worse as the load increases. That’s a worry, because it shouldn’t.

If it is isolated to the knees and shoulders as you say, I’m guessing that you may be moving in way that puts undue stress in those joints. That is often down to incorrect technique. Would need video to be sure though. The issue with elbows, forearms and wrists is caused by squats? If it is that points to a couple of possibilities, also mostly technical.

How tall are you? I ask because most guys I know at 198 lbs and 12 per cent are generally speaking really rather muscular and significantly stronger (like around 50 kilos more on everything except press), but they are mostly in the 170 to 185 cm range. If you’re much taller than that it could also explain the pain and difficulty progressing at least in part, because that’s muscle spread much more thinly across your frame.

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It really does sound like the majority of your issues stem from technique. Without videos it isn’t possible to be sure, but what you describe is failure to execute the lifts in a manner that keeps your joints from hurting.

To fix it you’ll most likely need to go back to square one and learn how to squat, bench and probably deadlift properly. You’ll also need to spend time doing the right assistance work to get the component parts brought up to speed.

I’m confused. Are you @lee_gallagher or @el_gee33?

I’m going to blow your mind with a simple statement. You don’t have to squat, bench, deadlift, and OHP.

Why force yourself to do things that hurt? Are you competing? Technique could be an issue but those barbell movements aren’t the only options. Bench is not the best movement for building the pecs. Squats are cool but your leverages might make it a bad lift for you.

This is normal. If we could continue adding weight to the bar every month then we’d all bench 500 and squat 1000.

You build until you can’t build anymore and then you reset. That means you drop the weight and start again hoping to move more weight by the time you stall. And then you do it all again.

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