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Plateau on Overhead Press

I have hit a plateau on over head press. I am stuck on 135 3x5. I have been on this weight for about a week and it doesn’t seem to be getting easier and the 5th rep is always a grinder. I am resting approx. 7 mins between sets.

Any recommendations?

Do you always do sets of 5, or do you use any other rep ranges?

You’re resting 7 minutes between sets. That is a SUPER long time. Do you do any conditioning training?

Always do sets of 5. I am attempting to follow the starting strength program.

I am resting that long because that is what I have heard repeatedly for strength training.

If you want to call it conditioning I ruck with a 30lb pack on the weekends. But I am strapped for time. I have an hour commute one way, my gym is in the city I commute to, so I go on my lunch break.

Would you be willing to follow a program other than Starting Strength? You may have better results.

Who repeatedly told you to rest 7 mintues for strength training? I cannot imagine such a person to be very strong or accomplished. If you are in good shape, you won’t need that much rest. Check out @Alpha 's training log for a great example.


I have heard Mark say 6-8 minutes of rest.

I am willing to try anything that will get me stronger and not injure me. Not set on SS it’s just what has worked for me for the past 7 months and continues to work for me in other areas.

I wouldn’t say I am in great shape, but I’m not in bad shape. I work in a body shop, so I am not sedentary, I am 5’11 235 and about 25%bf

He is a silly man.

Consider trying 5/3/1. The variety of rep ranges and percentages will give you an opportunity to increase your strength across a broad spectrum, and the assistance work will help bring up some weaknesses.


So what would be an example of the weight I would use for a 5/3/1?

To be clear, in the 2nd edition of the Starting Strength book (I don’t have the 3rd edition), he wrote:

"As a general rule, the time between sets should be sufficient to recover from the previous set, so that fatigue from the prior set dose not limit the one about to be done. The heavier the set, the longer the break should be. […]

The time between sets will vary with the conditioning level of the athlete, in a couple of different ways. Rank novices are not typically strong enough to fatigue themselves very much, and these people can go fairly quickly, just a minute or two, between sets, since they are not lifting much weight anyway. The first two or three sets can be done as fast as the bar can be loaded especially if two or more are training together. More advanced trainees need more time between the last warmups and the work sets, perhaps five minutes. If doing sets across, very strong lifters may need 10 minutes or more between work sets."

I’ve seen him write in other articles to basically drive that first point home - that rest should be long enough to not detract from strength. I’ve never seen him literally say “lifters should rest 6-8 minutes between sets.” The only place I saw him come close to that example was in his “First Three Questions” article, while addressing what to address to break a plateau, he wrote:

"Strength training is not conditioning, and if you do not recover from the fatigue induced by the previous set, then accumulating fatigue limits your ability to complete the sets and reps required by the program. In a novice program, fatigue is not a variable we wish to introduce, because force production is the adaptation we want, not conditioning. […]

So you do whatever you have to do to make this happen, and it’s quite obvious that if resting 7 minutes between sets alleviates the fatigue from the previous set, which is necessary to complete all three sets of 5, then you rest 7 minutes. Maybe 8. We’ll get hot, sweaty, and out of breath later – now, we’re getting big and strong."

That part from the first three questions is where I had heard it, maybe just misunderstood him. But I will say doing 135 is enough to fatigue me, I need about 5 minutes, but I am also doing squats right after I do my press, so maybe the squats are fatiguing me more?

I also don’t think I am eating enough. I recently changed my diet to start eating better and I think it has dropped my caloric intake without me realizing it because I am not eating a bunch of calorie dense junk.

Why do you say that?

Based on how my body feels. If I only wait 2-3 minutes, I can tell I’m not recovered from the last set. I know this because I have had to rush my workouts before.

Or I could just be full of it, but I like to think I am pretty self aware. I am not new to lifting, just got back in to it after a several year hiatus. I am open to try new things.

You’ve been training for 7 months and just recently started eating better. Okay, getting more of the picture now.

For context, what are your best lifts for 5 reps on the squat, bench, deadlift, power clean and/or row?

Gotcha. I took long rests when I began lifting too, but over the years I’ve made an effort to minimize that as much as possible. My gym sessions have become much more productive and efficient as a result, and I can flat out do a whole helluva lot more work.

I’d encourage you to challenge yourself to bring those rest times down. Don’t watch the clock, go when you feel ready. Maybe even a bit before you feel ready.

Let me assure you, you will not become weaker if you develop your ability to do more work in less time. You’ll get a lot of different opinions and thoughts on rest times, much of it dependent on goal (top-end strength, hypertrophy, conditioning, etc).

Among those voices you won’t find many who recommend 5 minutes + between sets.

All of the programming is based off a training max, which ranges from 80-90% of your 1rm.

Let me expand a little more here for you and others.

I started out lifting at home. I live in a smalltown, semi rural area. The only gym in my current town is THE Y, which…is a room with dumbells,treadmills,and elipticals. So I started using what I had at home until I was running out of weight. I was doing curls,overhead press,skull crushers, and jump squats with a 25lb kettle bell. After about 3 months, I was to the point of either needing to buy a lot of equipment i.e. power rack, bigger plates, better bar,etc. Or try and find a gym. I found a gym in the city I work in that has a decent barbell area with benches, and squat racks, I have been going there for the past 2.5 months. This is when I started to do the major lifts,bench,press,squat. I have not started to do deadlift yet, truthfully because I am not confident in my form yet, and the so called trainers at the gym are a joke.

I recently posted about my squat form because I was having knee pain, after recovering I got my form correct but it has caused my rep weight to drop considerably so I am pretty much starting back over where I was 2 months ago with that. My bench was up to 210 x 5, went back to overhead press after some AC joint pain from bench, and have been here since. My squat is at 150x5, which is low but right now I am working to make sure my form is correct and making sure I don’t destroy my knees.

I hope this clarifies

I’m not sure if this went unnoticed?

If this is the first week where your weight hasn’t increased I really wouldn’t think much into it. Follow the protocol (I think it’s if you fail 3 workouts in a row at a weight you need to set yourself back 1-2 workouts or something…). If your others lifts are going up and the program is working, just milk it for all it’s worth.

That being said, 5/3/1 is a nice transition out of SS once you do actually plateau on your lifts.

I get stuck on certain weights for months at a time and just keep bangin’ away, I would barely call this a plateau.

I just felt this was a plateau only because this is the first time I have been on a weight that felt as hard as it did the first day I went up to it.

But if this is not a concern I will just keep on keepin on. I am going to start incorporating deadlift next week. I think fear is my biggest obstical with that lift. I am not sure why I am just so freaked out I am going to injure myself.

Nothing wrong with thinking that man. It sucks to not get stronger every week. Just know that the iron game is a long and stubborn one. I’ve gone some significant periods of time where I just couldn’t get stronger in a particular lift. Then one day, it feels really good and your crush your previous best.

Those are the days that make lifting addicting. If you’re enjoying the program you’re on, stay the course. Read the article on the program as it discusses how to deal with plateaus (if my memory serves me correctly).

A friend of mine started stalling on his squat first (because he started heavier than I told him to), he was ready to call it quits. He had to set his weight back, and then he quickly blew through the ‘plateau’ the following month. I think he ended up topping out nearly 40lbs more than his first stall.

He ended up stalling out on 3 of his lifts before we moved him to 5/3/1 (which he is still running).

Good choice. Start stupidly light and work your way up. This will help to form a good technique on the lift before much weight actually gets added to the bar. Focus on bracing HARD and keeping the bar close to your shins. If you aren’t being stupid, your chance of injury isn’t very high.

Sounds good. I will just keep on pushing, and up my caloric intake and see where that takes me.

I am by no means close to quitting. I’m too far in to get back out now, couldn’t live with myself if I did.

The gym I am at only has 2.5 lb plates. Do y’all think this is going to give me issues. I know Mark mentions 5 pound jumps can cause you to stall out quicker with press and bench press because of the smaller muscles involved.

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Not one bit man.

You’re good. Some people use 2.5lb plates. I rarely even use the 5’s unless I want to hit a nice round number that I need them for.

If you feel like the full 5lbs will be too big of a jump, then stay at the current weight and add an extra rep to your last set. Then next time add an extra rep to your last two sets. Then you can jump up the 5lbs.

If you’re going to alter the program at all (not recommended), go slower than the program. Don’t try to outrun SS. It will catch you and beat you, every time. Trust the process, it’s worked for a shit ton of people.

You seem to have a good attitude towards lifting and taking advice. That will take you far.