T Nation

When to Change Program


Hi guys. Little background so you know my situation. I'm 21 6ft 1" and roughly 185lbs. I did a year on strong lifts 5x5 when I was 19 and hit a 185kg deadlift 125kg squat and 90kg bench. Hit a sticky spot and fell out with it.
Anyway I recently started back at the gym and am about half way back to where I was on sl5x5.

My arms are quite naturally thin while my back is strong in comparison. So last time round I struggled with the bench and overhead press while still making progress on squats and dls.
So my question is when should I really change to something like the Texas method? When my presses struggle? Or do I stick it out with them until my squats and deadlift stall as well?
Any advice appreciated as not knowing where to go next was a main reason I lost motivation before.



You know the simple answer, stick with a program until it stops working. But don't be afraid to play around with a program to make it fit your needs.

I personally suck at benching. Low reps work great for me on my dl and squat, but do not help my bench much. So when I pick a program, I usually have to find a way to get more volume in for bench. I do this one of two ways, more reps or more sets.

Say its a linear progression and week one has you doing an 8rm on all three lifts, I usually make bench a 12rm or 10rm. Or if it calls for 3 sets of 8 reps, I add in another set for bench.

This is very general, but the point is, its okay to tweak a program to fit your needs as long as you know what they are, and you implement the changes intelligently.


Two stalls on your lower body lifts and it's time to move on.

You could move your upper body work to the Texas Method while leaving the lower body stuff on Stronglifts as well.


Generally you don't want to change program until your program stops working.

That being said, IMO SL5x5 isn't that good a program. Starting Strength or 5/3/1 would be much better options simply because they Re better programs (5/3/1 especially).

For the whole hard time progressing on presses: volume. I had a hard time getting my bench to go anywhere but once I upped the volume things improved. Think bench every time you train. Same would probably apply to pressing.

Also, that's one hell of a gap between your squat and DL. There's no rule set in stone that says they must be similar but I reckon it wouldn't hurt to try to get your squat a bit closer to your DL.


If it were me and I had enough free time I would do starting strength first then once I stalled twice I would switch over to the Texas method and finally I would then switch over to 5/3/1and the reason is 5/3/1 whilst a good program has the slowest progression in my opinion so you would be wasting beginner gains........but having said that I have less experience than most on this site so what do I know.


Is there a reason starting strength is considered better than sl5x5? As far as I can tell it's the same program but with power cleans instead of barbell rows. Are power cleans that superior?
So basically I need to just suck it up and keep trying to push at my presses while waiting for my squats to stall. Would going 5x3 squats and 5x5 presses work with regards to volume? If 5x3 is enough to keep my squats going up and should leave me some extra in the tank for when I get on to pressing.


First of all, long arms are a major disadvantage for benching and pressing, especially if your rib cage is not too thick. Next, it has been said that (in most cases) trying to build up both the bench and overhead press at the same time usually result in bad result in both. I do a bit of ohp or incline here and there for shoulder health, but at least 80% of my pressing is done laying on my back.

You could just do ohp once a week and bench twice, but adding more volume per session is probably a good idea as well - especially if you are not having problems recovering from your current workload. You don't need to throw the whole program out the window, but some adjustments would make sense. Also, most 5x5 programs have you doing close to double the amount of lower body work as upper body work so that can be a problem. My upper:lower volume is about 1:1, some people even do more upper body work because it's easier (for some people) to recover from.

Another tip: learn to arch.


I would assume that's due to long arms. Bad for benching, good for deadlifting.


Really appeciating the help guys. I think I'll try the extra volume first and see how that affects things. If that doesn't work I'll maybe look into different ways of doing things.
With regards to my deadlift:squat ratio, I have long arms and a naturally strong back. I do garden landscaping for a living if that affects things as well. I never actually hit a plateau with dls and they were still improving when I quit. Would it be worth laying off the deadlifts for a bit while I figure out my press problem?


My understanding is that SL5x5 is very, very limited while SS has various stages to take you through. I think SL is pretty much just the first stage, plus starting at the bar on all lifts is pretty silly for quite a few people since they're able to use a fair bit more.

I'd just do SS and follow it exactly as set out through the stages.

EDIT: I think SS focuses on presses but there's no reason you couldn't switch them for bench.


I wouldn't. Unless you really think they're holding your bench and press back, keep pulling. It's unlikely they are, though.


Good call. Learning to arch will be a huge help for bench, as will added volume. I know I said follow SS as set out but on reflection it wouldn't hurt to add more bench or press volume.


Any good program will vary intensity and volume over time. Whether you follow a program that regulates it for you or whether you figure it out and regulate what works best for you, stick with it and manipulate it over time to suit your needs at the time. Find something you believe in and go w/ it. It might not be a program; it might be a method or philosophy that you build a program around.

The simpler you go the easier it is to manipulate it w/ small changes to continue making advancement.


Here's a suggestion:

Instead of changing up the loading scheme for bench, just add another lift at the end of your workout that will help with your weak points. Since you have long arms it's most likely going to be the bottom end, so 3-5 sec. paused bench, spoto press, half board press, pin press, towel press, or anything else that will build strength off the chest is a good choice. Also some flys or dumbbell benching could help to add some muscle, but you will have to go lighter on those. For the barbell lifts, you could work up to a heavy set of 3-5 (not to failure) and either repeat for another 2-3 sets with the same weight or take off 5-10% and try to get a few more reps in.

And since this is the powerlifting forum, I'm guessing that bench is a higher priority than ohp. If it isn't, then you are unlikely to do well on either. With long arms you are never going to be a bench specialist so try to make the most of your squat and deadlift. An advantage in one lift is a handicap in another, but that's why powerlifting is about your total and not just one lift. Whatever you do, don't stop deadlifting. It's not going to help your bench, and you will just waste time where you could be making gains.


Move on to 5/3/1, especially look into some of the new templates like 'beyond' or 'Beach body' -you'll feel fresher and the volume should put on a lot of mass as well as strength