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  1. #1
    Registered User bjorn8320's Avatar
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    Progress stalling after 3-4 months

    Hi guys,

    I've been working out quite intensely for the past 3-4 months after a long break. My goal is to build muscle, I'm on a beginner program, 2 days on, 1 day off, which has about 10 heavy sets for each muscle per week. The first 2-3 months I progressed rapidly, adding weight in every exercise almost every week. However, the last month I've been struggling -- I haven't been able to add any weight at all in most lifts(!) However, my body weight is going up as I'm currently bulking. Over the past 5-6 weeks, I've added about 2 kg in body weight. Judging by the mirror, the additional weight is not all fat. So it seems I'm building muscle, yet my lifts are stalling.

    Is it common to hit a plateau so soon in the beginning? I was expecting something like this to happen maybe after a year of heavy training. Also, it is worth noting that I'm stalling after hitting some of my previous personal bests in lifts. So it seems those levels I've reached years ago are tough to break through.

    I've been worrying about possible overtraining/fatigue. About a month ago, I took one week off from weights and it did help with my sleep and overall evergy levels.

    Here are some additional observations:
    - My sleep is ok, not the best I've had, but I'm getting about 8 hours of quite good sleep every night.
    - My diet is good, I'm getting plenty of nutrients and quality food, also taking vitamins. Gaining weight at about 0.5kg per week.
    - Overall energy levels are fine, I feel energetic throughout workouts.
    - I have some additional stress in life right now. Not so much that it would affect my sleep much, but definitely a lot in my mind right now.
    - My sex drive has gone down. This might be because of the stress though, I have other things occupying my mind right now. I don't have other symptoms like depression, and overall, my general mood is very good most of the time.

    Any thoughts or similar experiences are appreciated!
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  2. #2
    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Probably issues with your "intense beginner" program which I assume you created yourself, but you didn't give enough detail on it, yourself or your lifts to give feedback.
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  3. #3
    Registered User bjorn8320's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    Probably issues with your "intense beginner" program which I assume you created yourself, but you didn't give enough detail on it, yourself or your lifts to give feedback.
    Interesting. Could it be the program? It worked very well for the first 2-3 months, so I've sticked to it. I'm ready to try alternatives.

    Here's the short version of the program. I realize this is probably not optimal, but it shouldn't be too bad either.

    Day 1:
    Chest, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Back, 2 exercises, 3 sets each

    Day 2:
    Shoulders, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Traps
    Abs

    Day 3 -- Off

    Day 4:
    Quads, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Hamstrings, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Calves

    Day 5 -- Chest/back again

    Day 6 -- Off

    Repeat...

    I aim for 8-10 reps for most exercises. I vary the exercises every other week (for example, I do DB bench or dips instead of regular bench press).
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    Fatter than last time ezra76's Avatar
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    Most likely time for deload, rest if you've been going at it for 3 months straight. I've been back at for about 8weeks now and can't keep up with my old schedule from 10yrs. ago. I have to take more rest and improvise in some areas.

    I've also found it useful to switch up some exercises and go into a higher rep range for a few workouts. For instance instead of 5x5 flat bench I might go to 10 rep sets incline then deficit (deep) pushups to failure for 3-4 sets. Show the muscles something different.

    I'm sitting here itching as my preworkout is kicking in. Supposed to be leg day but my shoulder, knee and lower back are not feeling great. Going to go on the bike for the hill program and pump the crap out my quads for 20minutes, save the squats for Sat. fresh.
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  5. #5
    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    Interesting. Could it be the program? It worked very well for the first 2-3 months, so I've sticked to it. I'm ready to try alternatives.

    Here's the short version of the program. I realize this is probably not optimal, but it shouldn't be too bad either.

    Day 1:
    Chest, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Back, 2 exercises, 3 sets each

    Day 2:
    Shoulders, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Traps
    Abs

    Day 3 -- Off

    Day 4:
    Quads, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Hamstrings, 2 exercises, 3 sets each
    Calves

    Day 5 -- Chest/back again

    Day 6 -- Off

    Repeat...

    I aim for 8-10 reps for most exercises. I vary the exercises every other week (for example, I do DB bench or dips instead of regular bench press).
    That's quite a detailed program. Doesn't surprise me that your lifts are stalling when you change exercises every other week.
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  6. #6
    Registered User bjorn8320's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    That's quite a detailed program. Doesn't surprise me that your lifts are stalling when you change exercises every other week.
    Thanks, I'm here to learn. What would be an ideal amount of time to keep doing the same exercise without any variation? Also, how often should you expect to add weight or improve in reps? Is it common to go weeks without improvement?
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  7. #7
    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    Thanks, I'm here to learn. What would be an ideal amount of time to keep doing the same exercise without any variation? Also, how often should you expect to add weight or improve in reps? Is it common to go weeks without improvement?
    It's common to go weeks or months without improvement when a beginner chooses to make his own program rather than follow a proper novice program, which will have the answers to a lot of your Qs already built into them.
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    Registered User bjorn8320's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    It's common to go weeks or months without improvement when a beginner chooses to make his own program rather than follow a proper novice program, which will have the answers to a lot of your Qs already built into them.
    I sense hostility, though I'm not sure why. Hey man, I'm not perfect. I just like going to the gym and try to improve. Maybe my program is not optimal, but surely one can progress with anything that resembles an optimal program? What is the major problem with my current program? Point it out, loud and clear! If you can't do that, then what's the purpose of you posting here, other than saying "you suck" or "f*ck off"?
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  9. #9
    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    I sense hostility, though I'm not sure why. Hey man, I'm not perfect. I just like going to the gym and try to improve. Maybe my program is not optimal, but surely one can progress with anything that resembles an optimal program? What is the major problem with my current program? Point it out, loud and clear! If you can't do that, then what's the purpose of you posting here, other than saying "you suck" or "f*ck off"?
    You just blatantly misquoted what I said. No hostility here, but you posted a few months ago with numerous misconceptions when creating your program and everyone recommended you follow a proper program instead, but you did what you wanted and that led you to where you are now.

    You're free to do whatever you want and ignore advice as you see fit, but to order someone to give you only advice consistent with what you already want to do is just silly. Not sure why you post if that's the case. Good luck though!
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  10. #10
    Registered User safcpaul's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    I sense hostility, though I'm not sure why. Hey man, I'm not perfect. I just like going to the gym and try to improve. Maybe my program is not optimal, but surely one can progress with anything that resembles an optimal program? What is the major problem with my current program? Point it out, loud and clear! If you can't do that, then what's the purpose of you posting here, other than saying "you suck" or "f*ck off"?
    He has gave you advice. He said follow a proper beginner program which will factor in fatigue management. How else do you want him to put it?
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  11. #11
    Registered User shaneinga's Avatar
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    Try clicking this link.

    https://forum.bodybuilding.com/showt...hp?t=159678631

    That is a good novice program. It should address a lot of your issues.

    Good luck.
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  12. #12
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    Originally Posted by safcpaul View Post
    He has gave you advice. He said follow a proper beginner program which will factor in fatigue management. How else do you want him to put it?
    I'm willing to follow the advice. But please, try to help me understand the reason behind the advice. I think it is essential that I understand what I did wrong, so I can factor it in in the future. What do you guys think is the biggest problem with my program compared to an optimal beginner program?

    What do you think is the most important reason for not progressing? Am I overtraining (too much volume)? Or too little volume?
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    Registered User shaneinga's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    I'm willing to follow the advice. But please, try to help me understand the reason behind the advice. I think it is essential that I understand what I did wrong, so I can factor it in in the future. What do you guys think is the biggest problem with my program compared to an optimal beginner program?

    What do you think is the most important reason for not progressing? Am I overtraining (too much volume)? Or too little volume?
    The biggest problem is you don't have the knowledge or the experience to be writing a new program for yourself as there are a lot of factors you haven't addressed. A list of exercise and sets and reps are not a program. There is much more that goes into it. It isn't rocket science but there is some amount of thought and experience required to do it properly. It is also a lot easier to use the experience and knowledge of those before you to build on than to reinvent the wheel and make your own.

    Edit to add, this is a common issue. One that I made myself before coming here and finding a good beginners program. The good thing is once you follow a good beginner program you start to really understand "how" to program for yourself and the basics you need to try to fit into your own programming going forward.
    Last edited by shaneinga; 11-18-2020 at 02:47 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Originally Posted by shaneinga View Post
    The biggest problem is you don't have the knowledge or the experience to writing a new program for yourself as there are a lot of factors you haven't addressed. A list of exercise and sets and reps are not a program. There is much more that goes into it. It isn't rocket science but there is some amount of thought and experience required to do it properly. It is also a lot easier to use the experience and knowledge of those before you to build on than to reinvent the wheel and make your own.
    Ok, I will try the Fierce 5 program that you linked for at lest a few weeks. To be sure, it is a very low volume program, right? I think the most difficult thing for me is to go to the gym only 3 times a week (I want to go 4-5). Well maybe I could have only one weekend day off, I assume that would not be a big mistake?
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    Ok, I will try the Fierce 5 program that you linked for at lest a few weeks. To be sure, it is a very low volume program, right? I think the most difficult thing for me is to go to the gym only 3 times a week (I want to go 4-5). Well maybe I could have only one weekend day off, I assume that would not be a big mistake?
    It is low volume, but as the programs moves along the intensity goes up. It will seem easy the first month or so but once your numbers start moving up on the big lifts it is going to be very taxing.
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    Ok, I will try the Fierce 5 program that you linked for at lest a few weeks. To be sure, it is a very low volume program, right? I think the most difficult thing for me is to go to the gym only 3 times a week (I want to go 4-5). Well maybe I could have only one weekend day off, I assume that would not be a big mistake?
    Modifying a novice program before even starting it, and evaluating its effectiveness after a few weeks - this will end well. Good luck!
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    What do you guys think is the biggest problem with my program compared to an optimal beginner program?
    Hard to say since you've given so little information about your program. If you think you've given enough details so far, that's a big red flag in itself.
    I can tell time. Time cannot tell me.

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    So your goal is to build muscle and you say you're gaining still... but concerned that your lifts are stalling?

    It sounds like you do care about building strength as well and without any type of progressive overload your lifts will stall. Even if you want to stay in high rep ranges for hypertrophy you have to at least add reps to each workout as time goes on (until you're doing too many per set).
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    Originally Posted by xTeTe View Post
    So your goal is to build muscle and you say you're gaining still... but concerned that your lifts are stalling?

    It sounds like you do care about building strength as well and without any type of progressive overload your lifts will stall. Even if you want to stay in high rep ranges for hypertrophy you have to at least add reps to each workout as time goes on (until you're doing too many per set).
    Well, you are right that I care mostly about building muscle. And it seems to be working still, but I am concerned about my lifts not going up. I mean, in the long run, muscle won't really be built if lifts (or reps) are not going up, right?

    Since I have failed to add any weight in the past month or so, I have tried adding reps, but have failed in that as well. I push myself every workout, but there has been no improvement in my strength over the past month.
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    Registered User bjorn8320's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by air2fakie View Post
    Modifying a novice program before even starting it, and evaluating its effectiveness after a few weeks - this will end well. Good luck!
    I get it already, you don't like me. Just ignore me, you don't have to post stuff like that in every thread.

    Just for the record, I'm very enthusiastic about this stuff (as with other stuff in general). I want to experiment and try my own things, that's what makes it fun.
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    Originally Posted by shaneinga View Post
    It is low volume, but as the programs moves along the intensity goes up. It will seem easy the first month or so but once your numbers start moving up on the big lifts it is going to be very taxing.
    By the way, the goal of the program is to add 10 lbs every week to your lower body lifts (e.g. squats). If you start with squatting, say 150 lbs for 5 reps, at the end of 6 months you would be at 410 lbs for 5 reps. Obviously, you won't make progress like that every week, but even at half the proposed rate you would be at 280 lbs for 5 reps. That would be a gigantic improvement over 6 months...is it realistic? Or something I misunderstood?
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    Originally Posted by bjorn8320 View Post
    I get it already, you don't like me. Just ignore me, you don't have to post stuff like that in every thread.

    Just for the record, I'm very enthusiastic about this stuff (as with other stuff in general). I want to experiment and try my own things, that's what makes it fun.
    Again, blatantly misstating what I said.

    My advice is pretty clear and I'll post what and when I want to - the same way you post asking for advice saying what you're doing isn't working, and then get annoyed when people tell you to do something other than what you created for yourself. Which is literally a generic template of body parts btw.
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    I took a look at the Fierce 5 a couple times and don't care for that setup for me personally. Right off the bat it has like double the back work as chest when my back is far and away my strong point, legs and chest are my weak points. Not to mention 3 sets of 8 deadlifts but only 3x5 bench? Anyway, not for me lol.

    I've been trying to find the 5x5 workout I based my workouts off but can't find the exact one (it was a big hit on bb.com like 10yrs. ago).

    Basically it's Flat bench 5x5, Bent Rows 5x5, Standing Military Press 5x5, Squats 5x5. I can't remember what the deadlifts were supposed to be but I modified to 1x3, 1x2, 1x1, 1x1, 1x3 which took me from 275 to 425 in a year so worked for me.

    So I highly recommend a program that is using 5 sets of 5 reps for major compounds. Some workouts I may have only gotten x4, x3 on the last 2 sets but would always get it the next workout then move up. I started making my best gains when I stuck to that base workout and kept track of all weights and reps achieved or failed.
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    Maybe do back on it's own on day 2, and move shoulders to your chest day and deload for a week. Just my 2p.
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    OP the two main things I've seen here are: pick an established program and stick close to it. Your main adjustment should be listening to your body, not coming up with new stuff, and 2) deload should be built in. You had a week that gave you some energy back etc. You should have a deload every 2-3 months, even it it's just going much lighter on all lifts for a week here and there.

    As a couple others have posted, coming back after a long time away can't be approached 'just like nothing happened' - you are older and your body may need a little more 'grace' - I know I'm sticking very close to a program (TSA 9-week intermediate program) but there are days that I have to reduce the intensity or stick to accessories because my body doesn't recover like it used to!

    Love the enthusiasm, but definitely seem to be missing some of the recommendations here.
    Why NOT?

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    Thanks all for the replies!

    Yes, I think I need to deload/take another week off.

    General question: is it ok to do a deload or take a week of while cutting? Or should you do it while bulking? I'm currently nearing the end of a bulk phase (body fat percentage starting to get > 15%), and I like to throw in a couple of weeks of cutting at this point.
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