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Weight Loading Strategy with Limited Plates?

Hi all!

I have moved to a new country for a few months with work and I have signed up to a gym in an international 5* hotel (there is literally nothing else here) near where I live. The gym is not very well equipped but does have kettlebells, a chin up bar with a neutral grip bit, the attachment to do face pulls and a bench press with a grand total of 110kg of plates in the whole gym along with a load of other machines I don’t use/haven’t even examined. My programme then, pretty much made itself, is the 10,000 kettlebell programme with chin-ups as the “other” exercise and then bench press every 2nd day. The problem is there are no 1.25kg plates and in about 4 sessions I won’t be able to load 5kg to the bar each time.

My question then is: how can I keep improving with progressive overload without having smaller plates? There is absolutely no way I could find any to buy here in this country either. I was thinking of maybe doing 2/5 sets on the new higher weight and the other 3/5 on the lower weight from the previous session and then the following session do all 5 sets at the new higher weight but I am not sure how effective that would be. I could also try mixing up reps and set numbers to try and achieve the same effect i.e. do 5 sets of 3 reps at the new higher weight and then 5x5 the following session. I am not sure. Any suggestions welcome!

Let me see if I understand this. Your problem is your gym only has 2.5kg plates and not 1.25kg plates?

This is no problem, just work at the weight longer, there is merit and science behind not doing tiny jumps - I don’t even bother with 5kg plates any more.

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Yeah that is the problem.

Yeah I think working on the same weight is the answer (as my poorly articulated original post vaguely alludes to) but how to programme this exactly, is my question.

You’re jumping 20kg on the overhead press and the BOR and bench press???

I use the “quarters and plates” approach ala Dan John for my squats. I don’t use plates smaller than 25s and 45s. The way it shakes out is, when I can hit 14 reps with a weight, I can move on to the next one, which typically allows me to hit 6 reps. I then build back up to 14 reps and repeat. I advance at a rate of 1 rep a week.

So, for example

Week 1: 315 for 6 reps
Week 2: 315 for 7
All the way to 315 for 14
New wave: 365 for 6
Week 2: 365 for 7
All the way to 365 for 14
New wave: 405 for 6


Interesting approach! I suppose I will be doing something like this for the bench. You have written the weight and the reps but how many sets are you doing each week?

My specific protocol is pretty nuts, and I don’t think it’s necessary to achieve the effect I’m speaking of: if you can get 14 reps for a single set, you can get 6 reps for a single set with the higher weight. That said, I do this

12 deep breaths between all sets
Max set (let’s say it’s 8 reps for this week)
Half has many as before (4 reps)
Half as many (2)
Half as many (1)
Strip off either a quarter per side if there is one. Otherwise, take off a 45 per side and put on a quarter
Match reps of topset (8)
Strip off quarter or plate, similar protocol as before
Strip off quarter or plate similar protocol as before
Widowmaker set (max reps)

I’m not sure how often this happens for you but I will ask just incase it does…

Let’s say that max set isn’t progressing at the 1 rep a week, maybe you have 2 or 3 weeks (long enough to not just be an off day) and only equal it. Besides the obvious of upping cals and resting more, would you change/add/drop anything training related?

Right away, if I don’t beat my previous PR, I make sure to STILL get more reps in at the topweight. I calculate how many reps I needed to do based off the protocol, and hit the total. So say I was supposed to move up 7-4-2-1 (I round up on the halves) to 8-4-2-1 and I only hit the 7th. I owe 1 more rep, so I’ll either do an extra single at the end or make the double a triple. And in full disclosure, due to my general psychosis, I’ll typically mash the holy hell out of body with a bunch of extra sets as a form of punishing it for displaying weakness, operating under the premise that it will learn that failure to perform on demand results in MORE work; not less.

That said, frequently, what stops this progression is injury, rather than failure to hit prescribed reps. It can get quite taxing.


Thanks, that’s pretty much the approach I’ve been taking but its not really working like it has in the past. When doing dogcrap, I would find this is what naturally happened as I pushed for progression on the total reps, so if my 1st set equalled previous session then I would tend to beat total reps by stealing a rep on the second or 3rd set. That would happen for a few weeks until I started beating that first set again, or if not switching exercise.

I seem to be stalling pretty hard at the minute but that’s due to multiple factors!

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If it’s DC you’re running, I’d say that’s a sign it’s time to switch movements.

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Not currently, I’m just getting in what I can but focusing on rep prs on certain lifts as a quantifiable measure of progress. Adding an extra set or a drop set doesn’t seem to be pushing up my first set numbers hence the interest in what your approach would be… but that’s likely due to factors outside of actually lifting weights for me atm.

I think I will be returning to dc soon though.

Thanks again.

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12 comfortable reps translates to 3 hard reps (for me). Mixed with overload exercised it works fine (probably need a decent press first). I think it was in a Q&A or maybe a blog post where someone asked Jim Wendler how they take their 290lbs bench to 315 as they were struggling for a long time and he said do 300lbs for 20 then try - paraphrasing, especially the numbers - but it is so true). Not sure what BOR is.

The point being you’ll be fine with the plates you have.

Bent over row*

Thanks for the response.

Thanks for the replies guys.

So I have made two attempts to do 80kg bench (with 75kg bodyweight) and failed each time after 3 reps. However, with 75kg I did 8 sets of 5 last night. What do I do? Keep adding more sets and periodically trying the 80kg? Start adding more reps but keeping the same sets? It is annoying as I know that 77.5kg would be the perfect weight now - 80kg is just a bit too much of a jump.

I’d absolutely work to get more reps done per set, per the original idea I posted.

Yeah sorry. I read what you said and in my head, I read “sets” but it is actually reps. I will start adding reps. Would you keep at 8 sets for the time being and move to 6 reps or go back down to 5 sets too?

I’d do neither personally, as that style of training does not work for me. I prefer having 1 big topset and filling in the rest of the work with backoff sets.

I’d increase reps frist, then sets (if necessary at all). Then add weight and start with the new weight with the original number of sets and reps and push from there.

go up to 80 and do 5 x1, each workout add 1-2reps( no more/stay short of failure) somewhere over the 5 sets until you get 5x5. While mainly getting singles can then do a backoff set of 15-20 reps at like 60kg

workouts will look say:

orrr …stay at 75kg for a while and do 2-3-5 ladders …

I’ve used the Dan John approach too. Tons of options for set up and progression. As an example:

45 x 10
95 x 10
135 x 10
185 x 10
225 x 10
275 x 6
225 x 10
275 x 4
225 x 8

If I get 10 reps, I go up in weight. If I fail to get 10 reps I go down in weight. Works great for upper body work. Too much on Deadlifts and squats for me. For deadlifts, I would switch to pull-ups after not being able to achieve the target reps. For squats, limit the number of sets after not achieving the target reps and do a couple sets of single leg work.


45 x 10
95 x 10
135 x 10
185 x 10
225 x 10
275 x 6
225 x 6
225 x 6
225 x 5

If I fail to get 10 reps, go back down in weight and finish out the sets trying to match the reps on my heaviest set. Stop the set when rep speed drops. I would usually do an AMRAP on the last set for upper body work

Weekly progression options:
1- just keep working at adding reps on the top set and/or subsequent sets
2 - drop the target rep number by 1 every week. This will gradually up the intensity (% of max)
3 - drop the target reps by 2 every week to create 4 week meso cycles. 10,8,6,4 10,8,6,4