T Nation

Plateau Again After Returning to the Gym


Hi all,

I'm back here after following you for almost 10 years or so :). Not to bug you with my long personal story, I'll try and keep it short. 1st time I ever made any progress in my training was when I stumbled across T-Nation site. I started taking notes in my training religiously, stuffing my face with a lot of food and I got from 80 to 90 kg bodyweight, got my Squats to almost 90kg, deadlift over 100 and powercleans also over 100. I could also do a couple of pull-ups :wink:

in 2006 I broke my knee, got 15 stitches, 2 screws which stay in there forever and was basically fuq***. In the past couple of years I bounced back and forth in and out of the gym but with no way of getting back to the old "glory dayz". This last winter I decided to do it or die. I signed up, got on the basic routines along the lines of Wichita Falls novice, Stronglifts 5x5, Mark Ripptoes routine, etc. Here I am now - "skinny fat", ling limbs and thin bones. The worst type for building serious muscle:

The problem I'm having are plateaus. I can now squat 70Kg but can't go past that so I backed off a bit. I Deadlift around 70-80, clean 40-50 and I cant press more than 40 Kg overhead for the life of me. I train 3 days a week, do free weight excercises exclusively and I prefer big, compound movements. Where do I go from here? Any tips much appreciated!



You looked exactly like me when I started (how tall are you?) and I would not qualify that as skinny-fat. I would just call that skinny. Even if you were fat-fat or skinny-fat or fat-skinny, does it matter? You still have to do the work required to change your body-composition.

As far as your training goes, how long had you been training -consistently- to reach your current plateau? When you dead-lift and squat, does the knee bother you? Is your one leg "imbalanced" compared to your other?

IMO, it sounds like you might want to continue training(consistently) for a few more months before suspecting plateaus. Personally, I wouldn't suspect plateaus until about 7-8 months of consistent training. Are you not making weekly progress AT ALL ?


Im 191 (that's six foot something, I appologize but we work in S.I. measures) and about 86,87 kilos. Yes, the wounded leg is a bit weaker and thinner than the sound one but im not feeling any discomfort. Actually, it got better as I started squatting again (I go at least to parallel or a bit below).

I've been training since Jan this year, but thats not my real issue. The problem is that I never could nreak through certain weights. For ex. I could never bench say 100Kg, or squat that much while others in my gym seem to do so quite easily.
Im suspecting that my problem is either psychological (affraid to put more weight and risk injury) or that my arms are too weak for bench/chinups.

I see no other explanation? :slight_smile:


First, you're not skinny fat, you're where I was over 10 years ago. I am now fluctuating between 85-95 lbs heavier than that (I started lighter than you).

Secondly plateau's are life. Read Dave Tate's "the Dead zone" article. It took me like 2 years to bench 225 and then something like 3 more to get to 300. It's slow work for long limbed guys. I'm over 400 now, but that's after a decade--2+ years to get to 100 kg, 3+ MORE years to get to 140 kg, another 5 years to get to 180 kg. I didn't do everything right, but that's about what it takes for long limbed guys. The ONLY people who ever get past the plateau are those too stubborn to give up. NOBODY else gets past it. That's why you have people without surgeries who have "trained regularly for 15 years" that look like they have never touched a weight.

Thirdly psychologically it might be afraid to risk injury, that is very real and one of my clients suffers from it (also post surgery), but he has almost gotten over it after a year and change of working his limits.

Physically NO it is not your arms. It is your legs and back in squats, back in chin-ups, and probably shoulders and just time spent under the bar. Arms are only usually a problem in shoulder press and bench, and even then it is often something else. Anything else is never arms. Arms should not be doing most of the work with chin-ups.

Fourthly it is probably your program or food intake.

Fifthly You need to add in single leg work for your weak leg. If it is that obviously smaller then it is holding you back strength wise. You need to make it stronger relative to your bigger leg.

Sixth--when you say you can squat 70 kg I assume that is for 5x5? If that is the case, simply increase the weight and keep it at that weight until you CAN squat it for 5x5. It may take a couple weeks or a month or more. If you can do 75 kg for 3x5, then do it and either a) drop the weight on the 4th set by 10 kg, or b) keep the weight the same and try to add a single rep every week.

EXAMPLE: Week 1--3x5, 3, 2 Week 2--3x5, 3, 3 Week 3--3x5, 4, 3, Week 4--4x5, 3, etc. etc.

Recommend Westside for Skinny Bastards version 1. You can find it on here or at Joe Defranco's website. More single leg work involved in that program and it is very good for both size and strength provided you are eating.


Guys - thanks a lot for your replies and effort!

Aragorn, I believe you are on to something. Psyche, plus long limbs (unfavorable leverages) plus barely enough food intake might be it. I think it's mostly in my post-surgery head though.

I don't think the program is the issue as in my years of training I learned that any ol program is better than no program :wink:. I recently switched from Mark Ripptoes begginner routine to this Wichita Falls novice program. I was thinking either this one or Bill Starrs... I really like short and focused training, simple, old school, compound excercises. If I could, I'd just squat and clean-and-press all the time :slight_smile:

What I mostly wish to do is in this order:

  1. increase squat, get leg back on track
  2. increase overhead press
  3. (optional) get wide pronated grip, "real" pull ups to some regular norm for someone my size (to be able to do 10, 15-ish in a set)

OK, so it's a bit more clear. Even MORE food, even MORE training, months and possibly years and basically pushing myself beyond my current limits. Also, I read this article by C. Poliquin (I think it was him who wrote it) and I can't do this (no equipment in my gym, etc.) http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/the_lost_art_of_overhead_pressing

Any other way how I can incorporate more overhead pressing into my routine?

This is what I do now (alternate every other workout):

Squat 3x5
Bench 3x5 (alternate w. Military press)
Pullup 2, 3, 4x as much as I can

Squat 3x5
Military (alternate w. Bench) 3x5
Deadlift (alternate w. Clean) 1x5

Squat 3x5
Bench (alternate w. Military) 3x5
Pull up 2, 3, 4x as much as I can


Okay, I'm 6'2, which is 188cm. I have very long arms, and I struggle with this just like you do. However, I've realized a few things that have helped me.

The biggest thing I've realized is that plateaus can be overcome by 1. Improving form 2. Identifying and strengthening the "limiting factor".

Since you say you have long limbs, you need to realize that your optimal joint alignment is going to differ heavily from the guys you see benching so easily. You need to tweak all of your exercises, especially the presses and squats, so your stance, and widths of hands is optimal for your joints/tendons/bones. This usually is accompanied by lowering the weight for each exercise by 10-25 lbs for the first couple of weeks.

As far as your squat goes, what would your limiting factor be, in your opinion? What do you feel is the problematic area when you squat? I stopped back-squatting a while back and started front-squatting instead. It feels MUCH better for my limbs than a back-squat. My limiting factor on the back-squat is my lower back.

Another thing you should DEFINITELY do, is get into Bulgarian Split Squat, or start with the Split Squat itself. This(the Bulgarian version) will really expose your legs. It's hurting my ego just thinking about having to do them tomorrow.

In reality, the actual reason for your plateau could be recovery and diet related as well. You're going to have to be honest with yourself on how you can optimize your program/diet/recovery if you want to reach the next level.

Also, here are some insta-fixes related to the squat:


If you have worked out for longer than 4-5 months, and you expect that type of volume to help you progress, you are deeply mistaken. You need a new program, badly.

Looks like you would really benefit from a PPL(Push-Pull-Legs) type of deal. There are tons of them around, so look for them, however, you DEFINITELY need to customize the leg day to address the need for unilateral exercises(i.e Bulgarian Split Squats).


I can relate to liking short and focused lifting sessions, that's fine. However if this is the current program you are on, this is not a 5x5 program. I do not think this addresses weak points for you, and I do not think it is enough volume on the deadlift. That is why I suggested either Defranco's Westside skinny bastards ver. 1 or something similar.

For bench and squat to increase you are going to need either: a) more assistance work on weak muscle groups, b) more volume, or c) do what I suggested in my previous post and stick at a weight until you can get all the reps in.

As a beginner I firmly believe you need more volume. This is my personal experience and perspective. Please write out a Monday workout for me including all warm-up sets for every exercise.


More volume, more volume, more volume. And eat. I am 187cm and for most of my life a similar build as you. What works for me is volume with a couple of times a year focus on a 1RM. In a typical week I hit the main movements bench, deads, squats and OHP between 50 and 100 reps. Squats are almost always around 100 reps a week, the rest vary on how my shoulders and back feel.

Judge yourself not week to week but month to month. If you are consistent with eating and workouts for a month and go no where then you have a plateau and should address your programming.

There is a lot of benefit in higher rep work in the 60-75% 1RM max range.

Good luck! I found the real breakthrough for me was appreciating the workout by itself and not as a yardstick for past or future workouts.


More volume, more volume, more volume. And eat. I am 187cm and for most of my life a similar build as you. What works for me is volume with a couple of times a year focus on a 1RM. In a typical week I hit the main movements bench, deads, squats and OHP between 50 and 100 reps. Squats are almost always around 100 reps a week, the rest vary on how my shoulders and back feel.

Judge yourself not week to week but month to month. If you are consistent with eating and workouts for a month and go no where then you have a plateau and should address your programming.

There is a lot of benefit in higher rep work in the 60-75% 1RM max range.

Good luck! I found the real breakthrough for me was appreciating the workout by itself and not as a yardstick for past or future workouts.


(I use forums and browse internet on my iGadgets a lot so I accidentally pressed "REPORT" on one of the posts that you guys wrote, I hope I didn't do any damage)

Thanks for all the tips! So, you all basically agree that I need more volume? What I did was start out with a 5x5 routine ("Starting strength" or something a rather, by that Belgian guy) then after two months I switched to Ripptoes program as TNation forums stated that it's a much more thought out routine. Also, to answer the question - I think that my weak point in Squats is the long torso. When I look in the side mirror it seems to me that I need to really bend at a sharp angle at my hips, which in turn results by rounding the ... whats the English word for it... tailbone? I never round my lower back though, as I breathe in deeply and hold my breath.

OK, Monday -

  1. get to the gym, spin my wrists, elbows, arms at the shoulders, my neck, hips, knees, just to get my joints lubed
  2. I do a set or two of pushups on the "bench" bench, or another surface, maintaining an incline angle as to not fatigue, just warm up a bit
  3. I do a couple of jumping jacks or some similar exercise, jump around a bit, getting my heart rate up a bit
  4. SQUAT, do 8-10 reps with just the bar, do a set of 6-8 reps with 40 Kg (alltogether, bar + 20)
  5. get up to my weight for the day, say 60-65 KG and do 3x5, 90 sec rests (I use JeFit to time my rests, count sets, etc.)

So, no Wendlers 5/3/1, you guys think I should go to directly Westside for Skinny bastards? I start tomorrow so I need to prepare today


How does this sound (push pull leg routine, one compound exrx plus 2 add.):

Standing military press 5x5
Lat delt DB raise 3x8-10
Tric dips 2xX (X=exhaustion)

Deadlift 3x5
Wide grip pullups 3xX
? (missing an exrx)

Rear foot elevated Single squat 5x5
Good morning 3x8
Hanging leg raise 2xX

I would really like to add power cleans or even clean and press somewhere but am struggling to see where to fit em?

Main goal: functional strength, explosiveness and some hypertrophy that follows naturally


For assistance, this article has progressions on assistance work to maintain shoulder health w/ increasing the OHP in mind:

This article also outlines how to tweak your squat set-up, and the author is also tall:


not sure if srs?


Am I supposed to do these exrx on the days when I press overhead, on the day's when I don't press OR should I do these alone, for some time and then start overhead pressing?

The text doesnt lay out any programming


@Claudan: What do you mean by "srs"? Serious? :slightly_smiling: Don't be affraid to tell me if I wrote something completely stupid, I always consider myself a student...


That program you made, is not good at all. It looks identical to your last program, volume-wise. Volume, was the thing we agreed on that you needed to increase, badly. Why didn't you?

If cleans is the new sexy thing you want to get into, then you need to go to a completely different routine. This is starting to hurt my brain so i'll let someone else deal with it :slight_smile:


Don't quit man :slightly_smiling: I'm getting there. I did add some volume, switched to 5x5 instead of 3x5 and upped some secondary excercises. If needed, I can up more.

Mon was supposed to be push day, wed a pull day and fri a leg day. 3 days per week fits my working life great but if it's a must I can switch to 4 day routine. Lemme hear some tips on how to fix this routine. If it's really bad I'm starting with one from Tn. site and scratching this one



Okay, first of all, what are your goals? I'm unsure by now, because you've included all the key-words. Also, please keep in mind that it is possible for you to do ALL of it, just not at one time.. The mindset here should be are spending the first 12 months mastering certain things, then working the next 12 months on mastering something else.

If the OLY lifts are still important to you, then that would work great with your 3x/week schedule, but you would definitely need to move away from the current routine. Not to mention learn form etc etc, right? Or are you already proficient in the OLY lifts?

One way or another, you have to increase your volume... so, you need to decide if you want to continue 3x/week with more sets squeezed in or if you want 4x/week.


Sorry, my mistake, I wasn't concise enough.

My primary goal is getting my strength and coordination up. I have always felt really week and I fatigue quite easily. Strength that is transferable into real life, like lifting things, moving objects, etc. Muscle size is secondary. I believe that with good training of basic compound lifts someone tall and skinny like me could improve in strength but also in size. Probably not as with a bodybuilding approach but enough for my needs.

I'd be happy if I could up my body mass to 90-95 Kg, with dropping some of the fat along the way. I understand that that last one is done in the kitchen :)) so that part I got mostly covered.

About OL - I really studied them A LOT, watched the videos and finally tried for a while the two I felt confident enough to teach myself (powerclean and clean and press). Unfortunately, there are no coaches around my place so I can't get anyone to teach me in person but what I am struggling most with is programming. I understand the theory, form, TUT, etc. but can't combine it well enough.

Many of the articles (on TNation even) go into depth about one exrx or a group of them but doesnt include it in a cycle or even a routine. For example, compounds that I love doing most and that have made me progress most:

Pull up
Good morning
Power clean
Farmers walk

(Military press)

If I could, I would only do 3 out of these, one per day, but up the volume to say 10x5. Obviously I have A LOT more to learn :wink: