T Nation

Using Only 45, 25, 10 Pound Plates


A few of us got into a discussion at the gym today about whether 2.5, 5, 15, 35 pound plates were even necessary for most people that go to the gym.

To get to 405 on a lift this would be the progression over time:
95 / 115 / 135 / 155 / 185 / 205 / 225 / 245 / 275 / 295 / 315 / 335 / 365 / 385 / 405

Guy 1 at gym : Thinks this is stupid
Guy 2 at gym: Thinks this will force people to go for it instead of going up 5lb at a time
Guy 3 at gym: Thinks people have been doing this forever, because back in the day weights were more fixed or limited
Guy 4 at gym: Thinks if only using 45/25/10s that double progression should be the method used to increase weights since it forces you to increase reps first.
Me: I currently doing this, and I find it great to only use 45/25/10’s. It forces me to use volume and more reps to build my strength up, but also allows me to take some bigger jumps and face my fear of being under a heavier weight.

If any of you were doing this, how would you program this?

How many reps or sets or total volume would you get to on a particular lift before making the jump?

Just wanting to see how the rest of you would setup, alter, or adjust to only having to use 45, 25, 10lb plates.

EDIT: I know plenty of you are very strong and 45/25 are probably all you really need. I’m just wondering for people that are weaker (for example under a 405 squat) how would you pound the reps before making a jump?


I think if you are reasonably strong you can get by quite well with just 45’s and 25’s for most of your big lifts. Most times I squat or deadlift nothing else goes on the bar.

When I wasn’t following 5/3/1 progression, I still just worked up to one top set for reps, then maybe some drop sets for reps. Some days that would be 495 for 7-10 reps on the deadlift, 545 for 3-5 or even 585 for 1-3. I didn’t really lift with a plan at the time, my partner and I just agreed on a top set weight for the day, and then hit it. It was still pretty close to 5/3/1 with a top set pushed for reps (5/3/1 set) and drop sets pushed for reps (FSL) and the occasional heavy single (Joker). Just not as rigid with the progression scheme.

I think as long as you are adding weight to the bar or reps to your set you are doing fine. When you make the jump up probably depends on the rep range you want to be working in. Maybe you make the jump when you can hit 5 reps at the next weight, maybe 3, maybe 8, maybe 20. Whatever you think gets you where you want to go.

For me the advantage was simplicity and no real need to plan. I just started loading the bar, working up, and deciding what my top set would be based on how I felt that day.


Sounds great man! That’s exactly what I’m doing right now basically. Dealing with the percentages for me personally is a pain in the ass. But the principles of the program I believe in 100%, so I’ve adjusted to better suit me. So happy I got away from a 3x a week 3x5 lol.


I think if you do most of your training for sets of 8 or more reps I think this approach is fine…if you are going for high-end strength using almost exclusively reps of 5 or less this probably isn’t going to work so well.


Dan John has written about this some, and while I like a lot of things from the man, my feelings on the matter are somewhat mixed.

I think that it can be a good idea in the sense that it kinda cuts the bullshit and keeps people from worrying too much about micro-jumps when there’s little difference in the training stimulus between squatting 275 pounds versus 280 pounds, but I also feel that, in my personal strength journey, several times it has been valuable to take some smaller incremental PR’s, if for no other reason than the mental boost of hitting a “PR” on a given day.

My deadlift PR over time has gone as follows:


There’s something to be said for Dan John’s school of thought, which is that after hitting a milestone like 455, you shouldn’t re-test your max until you’ve built a reserve amount of strength such that you’re ready to hit 495, so it would be fine to do all of your training with 365/405 (or even occasionally 455) until you are ready to go at 495.

My brother has started lifting with me on Saturdays after a long (>5 years) layoff from barbell lifting. Right now, hitting a new “PR” every week seems to be fun and keep him engaged, so I like having the small plates around for that purpose. He’ll hit a 5 or 10 pound PR almost every week for the next month or two, I am guessing. Once he’s squatting 315 for a couple reps, then maybe we’ll settle into something a little different.


I’ve been doing something really different but it’s lead to some PRs lately. I try to not know the weight on the bar until after my top sets. I go out of my way to repeat, “No math, no math” in my head. For example, I’ll start with 25’s and start adding 15’s or 10’s or 35’s (less 45’s because the math is too reflexive) based on bar speed and feel.

Now, I know what the bar weight is. I can’t block out basic math. However, really trying to dissociate myself from the weight on the bar has made a huge difference.


The first time I deadlifted 300lbs was due to this. My partner at the time just loaded up the bar. And then afterwards I realized the math and was like oh shit that 300lbs lol.


I uses to do this and it worked well. I didn’t even include 10lbs plates except for every 6 weeks. It worked well then but now I’m weak it would leave me with hardly any volume haha

I used to take the approach that adding 2.5% to the bar will knock off a rep to work out when to jump yo the next plate.

Like everything, this works well until it stops working haha It can be hard work to progress one rep and at that point things get complicated in how you play with volume/intensity/frequency/etc (and you run into the same issues as linear progression).

In the end you find something like 5/3/1 works jusr as well without as much mental gymnastics.


I read that same article years ago and have followed this for my squat and DL. If the next jump feels iffy, then I’ll just hit some volume at the lower increment. It worked well for me to get to my best lifts… I’m sure it’ll still work at my old age. :wink:

OHP is a tad different. I mostly only use 45s, 25s and 10s though.


@flipcollar has said he only uses 45’s and 25’s unless he wants to train a specific weight he will have to do in a competition


Except for some of the sub 135 bar weights you can get every 10lb increment on the bar, For example you said 365/385/405 but you can still do 375 and 395.

Really this kind of thing effects weaker people or lifts that use less bar weight because the % jumps are so big. Like a girl doing bench press there is a big difference between 65lb and 85lb if 10lb was the lowest increment, standing OHP even more so.


I’m currently working up to sets of 8-10 before I consider adding weight for my squat. Based on my current experience, adding 20lb instead of my usual 10lb would bury me.

I would imagine that this makes sense if you’re pretty strong to being with. However, attempting stuff like this when your squat is realistically only around the mid-200s/bench in the low-100/vice versa would be unproductive.

I mean… you’re adding ~9% more to the bar when you go from 225lb to 245lb. You’re adding ~5% more to the bar when you go from 405lb to 425lb.

I think these ratios probably do matter, especially if you got into weight-lifting well into adulthood and have led a largely sedentary life/haven’t dealt to moving heavy weights beforehand.


375 would require 3 tens per side and I don’t think anyone wants that


testing maxes/hitting PR’s definitely falls into a different category from training reps. I’m with you on this.

My general outlook on this is centered around higher rep sets than a single. And the point is, as others have mentioned, almost entirely mental. The people I see in the gym who tend to be the least successful are very often the ones who get bogged down in minutia. So that’s why I give this as general advice.

So the first sentence of the opening post was ‘are smaller plates even necessary’. And the answer is no, they are not necessary. Like all things, they have a place in training, particularly for weaker lifters, but nothing is actually necessary outside of hard work.


I do that all the time especially if I’m making a few 20lb jumps. No point in taking off 2x 10s only to add a 25 and 5lb if that is your last set, just add a 3rd 10.


Only using “big” plates can be cool. Double Progression is cool too. But if you’re not careful, your workout could easily degrade back to, boring, grindy, “3 sets of 5.”

Check out Ditillo and Hepburn, THE Double Progression dudes.

Ditillo did multiple weights in the same workout, like a few sets heavy, a few sets medium, and a few sets lighter. Or the regular lift, then some heavy partials or something crazy in the rack. He progressed gradually, and lifted the same weights for awhile before moving up, but he trained in different “intensity ranges” or used multiple weights while he did it.

According to this article, Hepburn did “power work” heavy and “pump work” slightly less heavy in the same workout.

Don’t let limited tools limit your workouts!


Similarly, why put on 2 10s when you could just put on a 25?


This morning I had two 10s and two 5s on each side for my last set (I only have four 10s at home).

I also started to approach my workout with only 45s and 25s but I prefer to make 30 lb jumps on snatch grip deads. I like generating a little volume on the way to my heavy single.


Mostly because I do % based training and if that is what I’m supposed to do for the day I don’t increase it. For example if it said to do 155, 175 and 195, your saying to do 155, 185 and 195. If I have enough 10s I’m just going to do what the program says. More plate switching simply for the sake of being against using 3 10s per side is pointless.


Oh man, my eye would start twitching if I had a bunch of 10s on the bar haha