Monday, November 28, 2011

So You’re About To Hit A Plateau, Now What?

Greg is about to hit a plateau on his 9th week of StrongLifts 5x5, and wonders whether that's normal. Please read the email he sent me...

Hi Mehdi,

During your suggested 12 week "trial" of StrongLifts 5x5 should I stall on any of the lifts? What is the statistics for people that make it through all twelve weeks without stalling? I only ask because I am certain I will stall soon (I start week 9 on Monday).

I know you outline the order for which one can expect lifts to stall so I guess the more general question is at what week should most lifters begin to stall (on any lift) in the 5x5 program?


How can you be "certain" that you will plateau? You have no idea of what you're capable of until you try. More than once I've coached guys, swearing they were about to hit a brick wall, and who then (to their surprise but not mine) achieved 5x5 MORE EASILY than last workout... even though they lifted 5lb more.

To answer your question: there are guys hitting a plateau their very first week on StrongLifts 5x5 because they ignored my advice and started too heavy. There are also guys hitting plateaus in the fifth week because they ignored my advice and tried to run 27 miles a week on top of StrongLifts 5x5. And there are other guys like StrongLifts Member Norman (44y, Texas) still adding weight every workout 21 months in on StrongLifts 5x5, with a 560lb Squat.

As you can guess, some guys never hit a plateau at all the first 12 weeks, just like others stall all over the place. The majority of guys will hit a plateau on the Overhead Press and Bench the first 12 weeks but not everyone will stall on the Squat and Deadlift during that same period. I have not bothered collecting statistics (and will most likely never do so) about this, because...

Hitting plateaus is not the end of the world, it's part of the game. And if you read George Leonard's MASTERY you know it's where the real fun is.Some would say it's looking for excuses to be mediocre instead of asking the right question - what can you do in order not to hit a plateau?

After all, doesn't it make more sense to look at the things you can do in order not to hit plateaus, instead of worrying about how many guys are stalling? If it does, here are 5 things you should look at...

Eat - no way you're going to achieve a 225lb Squat in 12 weeks if you're eating 1300 calories a day. Eat 3000kcal minimum.Sleep - chronic lack of sleep impairs recovery, kills motivation and will make you feel weak. Sleep 8h a night on average.Prioritize - running 4 times a week plus StrongLifts 5x5 is too much, too soon. Do StrongLifts 5x5 for 12 weeks, then add stuff.Accelerate - lifting slow just doesn't work for strength gains. Accelerate the bar as fast as you can, especially on your warm-up sets.Tape - tricks like using your hips properly can easily boost your Squat by 30lb almost overnight. Tape yourself, best way to master technique.

Obviously, a POSITIVE MINDSET is crucial. Because if you don't even believe that you can do it, if you actually expect to fail, then what do you think will happen? I'm sure some guys will share in the comments how they thought they wouldn't make it, but then blew themselves away by doing it. So could you.

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