T Nation

Stalling on Squats


#1

Hi, I have been doing rippetoe's since the start of november, my first month on the program was mostly a waste due to being too much of a pussy to bulk and then I spent most of december wrestling so i stopped lifting for the first 3 weeks of that month. I did make some gains during that time but not much, most has come since after Christmas.

Anyway, so far my progress is as follows

at 5'11, 147lbs at 8.9%bf tested (mid december) to 167.5lbs, ~11% bf (I still see most of my abs flexed, so this is my guess)

squat: 135lbs - 225lbs

deadlift: 135lbs - 255lbs

bench: I started with bb bench, never progressed due to shoulder injuries, switched to db bench mid january. db bench has gone from 3x50sx6 - 3x60sx6

bb-row: 105lbs-130lbs (progress very slow)

shoulder press: I used to skip bb-press entirely but recently started doing it with dumbells after I realized I could, 3x40lbsx6 as well.

After each workout I do one of the following

2x6 pullups + 1x8 chinups
3x12 abs on the decline board with 25lbs on my chest
2x8 hammer curls with 30lb dumbells

So I guess my program hasn't really been true starting strength, but I did what worked for me.

On To the problem of the squats.

About two weeks ago I got it up to 245x5, some of the reps were shaky and way too slow so i brought it back down to 235, but couldn't do it too fast once again. I went down to 205 the next week, did it fine, moved on to 215, did it fine, and now I am struggling with 225, and have been doing that for a week with no progress. I do all of my squats as low as I can (ass 10-12 inches off the ground, decently below parallel). In the past few weeks I have also been getting some odd pain (sharp, doesn't hurt too bad but it feels like the muscles in my leg just south and left of my groin are being pulled too tightly), accompanied by some pain in both knees after i squat.

I used to squat more then I deadlift but now my deadlift is still going up about 5-10lbs a workout.

-So my squat has stalled
-bench and shoulder press improvement happens less than once a week
-I never know when I will be able to increase my row weight with good form (If i try and increase too soon i end up bouncing the weight up with my legs).
-so far deadlifts are still going strong for me.

Is there anything else I should try to get past my sticking point, or is it time for me to move on?

Also, should I maybe try front squats or something, or go less deep, to try and avoid the pains?


#2

i think it’s very easy to f’up squats. unless you have coach ripp as your personal trainer, you are likely to miss out on important pointers that make the difference between progress and muscle imbalance.

IME i gained a lot of mobility and muscle balance by switching from the BB squat to DB front squats.

i also worked on pistols, which pointed out my obvious R>L bias.

so, perhaps consider front squats for a nice mental change, as well as, physical improvement. mobility, for me, was much improved, but regardless it is a great squat movement.

also, 4 weeks of bulgarian split squats and DB single leg deadlifts could be of value. when is that last time you did lunges? Eric Cressey has a helpful article here on T-Nation on proper form.


#3

thank you for the reply, I have never really done weighted lunges since I haven’t done any programs besides starting strength.

I am reading the Cressey article now. When I warm up with the bar before every workout perhaps I should include a few reverse and forward lunges in there. They seem like an exercise that would go well in the legs portion of a future workout as well.

I know I pull too much with my back in my deadlifts and read up on proper form again recently. So maybe if I pull more with my glutes and legs on those results could spill over into my squats as well.


#4

If you’re dropping down into the “hole” slowly and kinda of shakey when you’re at sub-maximal weight that is challenging to you-- that is not a problem. You can’t expect to hit 95% of your max with speed, for example. So, don’t worry about that, you’re fine, keep squatting with heavy challenging weights. Search “Squat Rx” on Youtube, and watch those with regards to form, tips, and tricks for the squat. Very helpful!

As for your pains, I’m not a doctor, nor am I here examining you so-- take any injury advice with a grain salt online. With that said, more than likely your muscles are just tight at your groin-- just stretch, and perhaps throw in some foam rolling too. Make sure you warm-up properly. If you don’t know how to, search it on here or the web.

Your knees, can be any number of problems. Thats for a doctor’s diagnosis… however, you can try a few things to “rehab” them. Wear braces on your knees when squatting heavy, not big bulky ones, but tight cloth ones you could buy at a sports store-- see if that works. You could also put a 2x4, or 45 plate under your heels, to help reduce the stress on your knees.

Also front squats are really great for people having trouble with the back squat. You could supplement all of your back squats with front squats and see how that goes. Good luck.


#5

I would echo what Evolv is saying here about stretching your hip and leg muscles to get rid of the upper thigh pain you’re experiencing.

However, the knee pain is probably a form issue. You mentioned that you go “ass to grass”, which is fine but you want to be sure you aren’t dropping into the hole loosely, or going so far down that your knees unlock.

You should feel tightest in the hole (insert joke here), work on that and keep off the balls of your feet, and I think you’ll find your knee pain magically disappear.

As for stalling on the squat, yes, get the hell away from Starting Strength. You probably have a sticking point caused by a weak muscle somewhere along the chain that needs more attention given to it.

To keep progressing on the squat you need to make sure your quads, hamstrings, glutes and lower back are all getting stronger, and you can’t do that just by squatting and deadlifting.

You don’t need to do any weird dinky exercises and you don’t need to stop back squatting, you just need more front squats, leg presses, leg curls, and stiff-leg deads in your life.


#6

[quote]Evolv wrote:
If you’re dropping down into the “hole” slowly and kinda of shakey when you’re at sub-maximal weight that is challenging to you-- that is not a problem. You can’t expect to hit 95% of your max with speed, for example. So, don’t worry about that, you’re fine, keep squatting with heavy challenging weights. Search “Squat Rx” on Youtube, and watch those with regards to form, tips, and tricks for the squat. Very helpful!

As for your pains, I’m not a doctor, nor am I here examining you so-- take any injury advice with a grain salt online. With that said, more than likely your muscles are just tight at your groin-- just stretch, and perhaps throw in some foam rolling too. Make sure you warm-up properly. If you don’t know how to, search it on here or the web.

Your knees, can be any number of problems. Thats for a doctor’s diagnosis… however, you can try a few things to “rehab” them. Wear braces on your knees when squatting heavy, not big bulky ones, but tight cloth ones you could buy at a sports store-- see if that works. You could also put a 2x4, or 45 plate under your heels, to help reduce the stress on your knees.

Also front squats are really great for people having trouble with the back squat. You could supplement all of your back squats with front squats and see how that goes. Good luck.[/quote]

ty for the help, I actually have the squat rx videos open in another tab right now :slight_smile:

I definitely do have tight muscles around the groin, I have known that from experience in martial arts, but I do stretch before I squat, perhaps I should do more.

My knees are really an after thought right now, it’s not too much pain, just a little stiffness and uncomftorability. I am using Flameout lightly now and that seems to be helping. (Even if it is placebo I really dont care lol).

If anyone has good ideas for a follow up program for me I would like to hear it. I am looking around right now, my goals being strength with hypertrophy (Who doesn’t want that?). Before I start anything like that I will continue trying to diagnose my squat problems and continue with rippetoe’s for a week or so to see what happens.


#7

[quote]mr popular wrote:
I would echo what Evolv is saying here about stretching your hip and leg muscles to get rid of the upper thigh pain you’re experiencing.

However, the knee pain is probably a form issue. You mentioned that you go “ass to grass”, which is fine but you want to be sure you aren’t dropping into the hole loosely, or going so far down that your knees unlock.

You should feel tightest in the hole (insert joke here), work on that and keep off the balls of your feet, and I think you’ll find your knee pain magically disappear.

As for stalling on the squat, yes, get the hell away from Starting Strength. You probably have a sticking point caused by a weak muscle somewhere along the chain that needs more attention given to it.

To keep progressing on the squat you need to make sure your quads, hamstrings, glutes and lower back are all getting stronger, and you can’t do that just by squatting and deadlifting.

You don’t need to do any weird dinky exercises and you don’t need to stop back squatting, you just need more front squats, leg presses, leg curls, and stiff-leg deads in your life.[/quote]

Interesting, I tried going deep in a squat just now with more weight in my heals and to the sides of my feet rather than on the balls of my feet and I saw a huge difference in my ability to keep my knees tracked out. That is probably something I am letting slide with heavier weight and I will pay more attention to that.

I think you are right about it being about time to end starting strength. I just didn’t want to be one of those guys who bounces from program to program, but at this point I think I should have gotten enough use from it to move on.

I’m wondering now if an upper lower or push pull split would be good for me, maybe a ws4sb program, or a 5x5 program. I partially want to move on from the every other day full body, constant low rep thing. But I want to do whatever works best.


#8

I would recommend either a 3 way Legs-Push-Pull, or a 4 way legs-chest&tri-back&bi-shoulders split. Whichever is more comfortable.


#9

[quote]tengen10 wrote:

Interesting, I tried going deep in a squat just now with more weight in my heals and to the sides of my feet rather than on the balls of my feet and I saw a huge difference in my ability to keep my knees tracked out. That is probably something I am letting slide with heavier weight and I will pay more attention to that.
[/quote]

This is a good thing to pick up on. I would suggest you really work on that because it has a tendency to slide with heavy weight for sure. You get so intent on lifting the weight anyway you can that proper form goes out the window. I would also suggest working on your tight upper thigh muscles with mobility exercises and foam rolling. You should start foam rolling your quads too.

As far as your program goes, I’m a huge fan of the upper/lower split and the WSB template. I did that for years and saw good gains so that would be something to think about. But I would also recommend the 5x5 program highly, and it might have some more volume with the squats and deadlifts that could help you out more right now.

Mr. popular’s splits could also work well.


#10

Picking a new program is turning out to be a bit confusing for me (although it probably shouldn’t be)

Basically my goals are strength and hypertrophy

Outside of the gym I do kung fu 3 or 4 days a week, depending on what we are doing it ranges from hiit (kick-boxing drills and then sparring) to moderate intensity cardio (form practice).

I also do some sort of cardio on Saturdays and Sundays (light jog + bagwork, or interval springs + bagwork)

The lifting situation is thusly

I can lift in a gym class for about 40 minutes on monday/tuesday/thursday/friday at 7:25am, with me getting up at 6:00am.

I can’t really fit a full body workout into that comftorably so I usually work out after school with the football and baseball team.

Depending on how long they stay for, which they will never tell me, I will be there for 50 minutes, or have an option to stay for an hour and a half. The downside of this is that it is crowded as hell. I run in the room to grab my squat rack with removeable bench, have a buddy nurse my spot while I get dumbells to bench, and then I run back and do my deadlifts. Using machines is not an option. I can get pullups, db’s, and usually the decline ab board.

WS4SB seems like it would last too long to comfortably do with my time restraints, and I also don’t really plan on doing the tire flips, farmers walks, box jumps, or any of that.

It would take up a lot of energy and I dont have the equiptment. I know you said wsb but i don’t know any other wsb programs geared towards mostly knew lifter (or any at all).

The 5x5 plans look good, they seem very similar to SS but with a bit added, slightly more complex, and weekly increases.

I really like the idea of a legs push pull workout, and was looking at some ideas that kept things pretty simple, with maybe two compounds and one or two isolation for each day. This would be fresh and exciting and I may be able to fit one or two of the upper days into a morning workout.

I know that one should always pick the simplest programming that will work for them. Is the push/pull/legs splits about the same complexity as the 5x5’s?

I read http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/full_body_vs_split_training but all it really told me was that both are good but different.

Maybe its a matter of just picking something and sticking with it and I am just making things to complicated.