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When to Stop a Set?

I’ve finally been cleared to squat, so I decided to start with 5x5 front squats. The 5x5 was hard, but not too bad to complete and I probably had at least 1 more rep in the tank. However, by the third rep of each set, I started to get a really bad hip shift ie technical breakdown. In the future, should I push through or stop?


Form breaks down your done


Why were you unable to squat?

I had a pyeloplasty done in April to correct severe hydronephrosis. They put in a jj stent to prevent scarring. Exercises that require lots of abdominal pressure or loaded hip hinging could dislodge the stent or prevent proper healing. The typical recommendation is to not lift anything heavier than 20lbs for 3-6 months, but I pressured the doctor into agreeing to let me do upper body stuff and loaded squatting “after 3 months” as long as nothing hurts. Deadlifts are still out until October though…

You had a surgery - suggest you ease into things slowly. Would rather do more reps in this case. And stop if form breaks down.


The guidelines (geared towards hypertrophy) seem to be:

  • for squatting, deadlifting, and heavy rowing: you stop when your form breaks down and you can’t hold proper positioning; the next rep would be iffy

  • for barbell compound movements: you stop when you reach failure; next rep wouldn’t happen unless you compromise form

  • for machines, isolation movements, smaller exercises: you can go beyond failure and alter your form a little bit to compensate for fatigue, or you can add partials or intensity techniques to go beyond failure (think about cheating a little bit a curl or a lateral raise or doing partials at the end of a pec deck set)

Of course this depends on your experience, strength level, goals (strength may benefit from keeping more reps in the tank), the program you’re following, and a whole host of other factors.

In the case of a 5x5 squat like you mentioned, if I was training for strength I’d probably use the first 3-4 sets to ramp up to a top set keeping one or two rep in the tank, maybe followed by a lower weight, back off set going close to failure and getting in as many good reps as possible. This, of course, unless your program specifies otherwise.

Thanks for the advice. So basically, I should stop at technical failure even if my muscles can handle more?

I’m currently not following a program because all of them have deadlifts. My goal is to get as strong as possible though

Yes, because, if you’re at technical failure, some of the muscles CAN’T handle more - now you’re compensating and increasing injury risk


Got it, thanks!

Can’t do any hinge exercises at all? I have a few ideas if you can find an alternative.

nope. no hinges. I technically can’t even arch on bench.

But you can keep the spine in the correct position for the squat?

yeah, upright torso. Front squats and high bar

Are you familiar with 5/3/1?

I tried it before and found it wasn’t enough volume. I’m getting a coach in the fall, so it’ll be fine I guess

You probably shouldn’t be too fast to judge a program. Not enough volume for what? Strength, mass? If you are down to try, I can design a 5/3/1 based routine for you and around your issues with hinging. I’m no Jim Wendler but I can probably come up with something good. You just need to trust Jim’s program as it is NOT lacking in volume, intensify or anything. If you wanna try it post over at my training log and we can keep in touch there.

I’d love the help if you’re willing.

Just a caveat, I have a hard time giving up conditioning

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Conditioning will be in your program don’t worry :wink:

I’ll post in my log later today and tag you when I’m done with designing the program.


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By the way, my gym doesn’t have lower body machines

I’m also going on a trip from July 13-20 and might not have access to a gym