I started doing the 5x5 workout halfway through last summer, and have significantly increased my squat, bench, overhead press, row, and deadlifting weight. I weigh around 160 lbs., and it seems as though I've hit some sort of peak squatting 190. Is this a sign that the workout has become ineffective because I have been doing it for so long?


  • Please describe "some sort of peak", and what you've done in response to that trouble? Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 15:22
  • Typically with the workout I have been progressing by 5 lbs about every 2 sessions ( I workout 3 times per week), and yesterday was my fifth session since I started squatting 190 and I still feel myself struggling with finishing 5 sets of 5. I honestly have not done anything in response to it yet because the workout recommends that if you move up in weight and cannot finish that you remain at the weight below until you can comfortably finish the 5x5. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 15:33
  • There are a lot of "5x5" workouts out there. Can you describe and link to the specific one you're doing? Also, how much weight have you lost or gained, and how much protein do you eat on a daily basis?
    – Eric
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 15:52
  • Could you explain what you mean by "struggling"? Like, did you finish all 5 sets? Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 16:00
  • 1
    @DaveLiepmann By struggling I am referring to the fact that I barely finish my fifth set. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 16:11

2 Answers 2


Each 5x5 (or 3x5) program has its own protocol for when you start stalling like you are doing. One of the more common ones, StrongLifts 5x5, suggests the following protocol for when you stall:

  • Attempt the same weight up to 3 times
  • After the 3rd time, take 10% off the bar and work back up
  • If you hit the wall 3x like this, switch to 3x5 and work your way up

The fact you've been pushing a beginner's 5x5 program for just over a year attests to your fortitude. So please understand that beginner programs are designed for just one thing: to take advantage of your beginner gains.

What's happening is that you are increasing the weight faster than your body can recover. It's inevitable that you will reach that point on a beginner 5x5 program.

My suggestion to you is:

  • Take 10% off the bar and switch to a weekly progression for a while until you hit the same barrier (which will be higher)
  • Then switch to a monthly progression

A common weekly progression would be Texas Method, or something similar. The bottom line is that for squats you'll be doing one volume day, one light recovery day, and one heavy day. The heavy day you are going for a higher weight than you used on the volume day.

The bottom line is you are 160 lbs and you are squatting more than your body weight. You can add muscle mass, or just try to make the most of your body weight. It really depends on your goals. If your beginner program isn't working anymore after 3 months, it's time to switch things up. If it's still working, then keep at it.


You have not stalled. The workout program has not become ineffective. Your struggle is normal. Barely finishing your last set is normal. It is okay. It is expected. Most of the time, it still means you should add weight to the bar the next time. Because you'll be able to lift it.

The weight you're at is never going to feel light. It's always going to feel heavy. You'll just be able to lift it. That's a big transition right around 200 pounds--190 for someone your size, 210 or 220 for someone my size. It's where most people go from "oh this is hard I suppose, but...grrr...OK there it goes" to "WHAT IS THIS ON MY BACK I'LL NEVER STAND UP GARRRHAGGAGGGAGHHHH". You're in the transition from the weight feeling doable to the weight feeling heavy. Ignore this feeling. Lift it anyway. I bet you can. It will never get easier if you keep lifting 190 or less.

This is actually the stage when the program becomes most effective. But you must push yourself, not just physically but mentally. You must attack the bar. Keep in mind good form and proper depth and so forth, but first and foremost YOU MUST LIFT THE BAR.

  • 1
    @DaveLiepmann, I run a lifting forum so my limited sample set is based off my members. Based on the OP's mass and squat numbers, he's pretty much toward the end of the effectiveness of SL5x5. He might be able to squeeze out a few more pounds (particularly if he drops to 3x5), but there comes a time where you have to balance personal drive and personal sanity. I know of one person who took the SL5x5 program all the way to a 600+ lb squat, and his chief regret is pushing the program so long. Granted, he's a genetic outlier, but I find weekly progression seems to work longer. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 16:03
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    @BerinLoritsch I actually prefer a weekly progression as well, but in this situation we haven't even seen a deload yet. I prefer switching to 3x5 and giving it a deload or two before switching to a weekly progression. But to each their own. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 19:49

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