Totally Stalled on Squats


I’ve been following 5/3/1 for almost a year now, and I’ve found that while I’ve made progress in general (though much less on my bench than I’d like), I’ve made almost no gains on my squats. To use the 5-rep period for an example, when I started, I could do 6 reps at 225, and for a while I could manage 5 at 235, and then I backslid again. Now at 225 once more.

Relevant data:
-I squat high-bar to parallel, which is quite comfortable for me
-5’7, 160-165lb, age 26
-I have had difficulty reliably getting more than 6h sleep during weekdays, though now that term is over and I no longer teach or attend classes, I should be able to get a bit more rest. I still have research and admin obligations that might make it difficult to get 7.5-9 hours, unless I make it a priority.

-I’m chronically underslept and this is the main reason I’m not getting anywhere, or getting very little, as the case may be.
-I’m doing 5/3/1 wrong.
-I have literally been cursed, but by someone who only dislikes me a little bit.

Your thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated, because this is bloody frustrating.

You will get a lot of feedback here - most will need more info. I just finished my masters and work full time so I can relate. I rarely sleep more than 6 - people are different so if you say it is a problem then it is. Power naps in my car right before I lift - often in the gym parking lot - has worked wonders.

Regarding 5-3-1: I have used it exclusively since 2008. When I need to kick start things, i.e. I am no longer CONSISTENTLY setting rep records, I play around with the numbers via the formula and figure out the weight I know I can set a record. That means LOWERING my training max considerably - I redial my form in with the lighter weight and reps - and work back up slowly doing things right. The bench is my achilles heal and for some reason unbeknownst to me my reps fall away quick - so where I can hit 275 11 times - which multiplies out to way more than 310, I can only get 310 5 times. But…who cares - I keep upping the reps at 275, 285, etc…and then 1 day - feeling confident, 310 goes for 8. You build underneath first - from the bottom up.

So - Your calculated max is 270 or so if my math is correct. Lower your max until you can do enough reps to set a record - beating 270 with the formula - an easier way might be to try breaking records with FSL. Sometimes you just gotta reduce to the least common denominator and work back up. The point is to get stronger using the principles of the program.

Stretch everyday , eat like hell , an stay on route…maybe take the training max down a little… Whatever you do don’t give up. It’s now becoming a goal/challenge in your training an that should fire you up to kick some ass an do the things necessary to add some weight. If you haven’t already , Jim’s 20 week program posted on here is second to none.

  1. For me…and ive seen notably by other members… 5s week for squats is a bear. Feeling heavier and performing worse than any other week of the cycle.

  2. As stated above building lower weight for higher reps w. Good form will help.

3 I started training beltless for most of my training and what a differencd. Tough at first…but as your corenn supporting muscles adjust youll be much stronger…then throw a belt on for a heavy weight/day n smash it

4 beltless pause squats. Grind em out- get stronger

What does your program look like right now? That might help us give you more specific recommendations.

Have you gained any weight over the last year? If not, therein lay your problem most likely.

Also, remember that increasing all 4 lifts at once is usually not possible. The most general answer I could give is to coast a little on the deadlift day and one upper body day, then kill it on your squat and other upper day. To increase a stubborn lift you will have to prioritize!

[quote]JoeyWaters wrote:
What does your program look like right now? That might help us give you more specific recommendations.

I’m doing ‘boring but big’. Usually I’ll intersperse pullups, bentover rows, or some not-too-heavy incline benches between sets of the main lift.

I’ve put on about 10lb (mostly lean mass), though I’ve recently lost a few due.

Sounds like you already know the answer is adequate rest/sleep - find a way.

Keep training!

Answer is staring everyone, and you, in the face.

[quote]twittgenstein wrote:
Relevant data:
-5’7, 160-165lb, age 26

-I have literally been cursed, but by someone who only dislikes me a little bit.

Your thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated, because this is bloody frustrating.[/quote]

You are 160# and you squat 225 while being sleep deprived and haunted by a demonic entity. I’ll go out on a limb and say you probably simply need to readjust your TM down so that you get in some good rep work and grow that 160# body of yours. Think long term man.

Throwing this out there as likely scenarios…

Your training max was likely set way too high…

  • use that 225 for 6 to recalculate your training max which should be approximately 265 estimated 1RM & 225lb TM (@85%). That means your 5’s week 5+ (PR) set should only be about 190lbs.
  • get under the bar and work it hard
  • do some kind of plyometric jumps: box jumps, broad jumps, frog jumps, etc
  • use FSL
  • strengthen your lower back
    You’re already know you’re not sleeping, sleep better. I find that ZMA helps with a good night’s sleep as well.
    I’m going to guess you’re probably not eating adequately, which this is self-defeating in itself. No amount of creatine or supplements will compensate for poor nutrition.
    Eat *If you’re not sure how to figure this out, go to John Meadow’s Mountain Dog site. He has a calculator for helping beginners setup their nutrition and tons of other good related information.

Right, many thanks to all for your helpful advice. I actually manage to eat fairly well, but shall prioritise getting more sleep and shall drop my training max. It seems pretty clear that I’ve been screwing up in relatively simple ways, which means that it should be relatively simple to stop screwing up. Unless my theory about the curse was right, in which case I think I need to re-evaluate a whole bunch of assumptions.

Ha, well if you’re training hard I don’t think the “iron gods” will curse you. Make sure you’re know that you’re eating well. Calculating your BMR based on your activity is never a bad thing, gives you a better idea of where you need to be to put on some muscle.

You’re doing boring but big, weight 165 at 5’7 and wonder why your stuck? Gain 20 pounds and let me know if you’re still stuck…Training for abs or lean body mass is the quickest way to be weak and pathetic. Train for performance, eat clean (and a lot) and recover; three things that are a little clique but always work.