Plateaus are periods where we don’t see results despite putting in the effort. In the context of training, a plateau usually refers to the lack of strength and muscle gains, despite training hard, eating well, and sleeping enough. For example, if you follow a strength program and often lift heavy, a plateau would not see strength improvements for at least two to three weeks. The 5×5 workout program is fantastic for making predictable progress, but plateaus can still occur. The problem could relate to the training itself, but it could also stem from lifestyle reasons, which we shouldn’t ignore.
List of Reasons for Plateau in the 5×5 workout:
1. Leaning too far forward while squatting.
A good squat depends on having the barbell over the center of gravity. If you feel like you’re shifting your weight on your toes, evaluate your squatting technique.
2. Not using leg drive during a bench press.
Leg drive is about digging your feet into the floor and using your quadriceps to produce whole-body tension for stronger bench pressing.
3. Having your hips too low during deadlifts.
As a rule of thumb, your hips should be higher than your knees but lower than your shoulders.
4. Gripping the bar too wide during overhead presses.
Stand in front of the barbell with your arms to your sides. Raise them straight ahead and place them on the barbell.
5. Adding extra work.
The 5×5 program works, but only when you do it as outlined. Adding extra work will shift your focus away from the main objective and lead to recovery issues.
6. Starting with a weight that is to heavy.
As a rule, you should start the 5×5 program with weights you can easily do for 5×5. If you start too heavy, you’ll run into progress issues within a few weeks.
7. Not pushing yourself.
There is no substitute for hard work (1). If you’re not making progress, the problem could relate to not putting enough effort into it.
8. It’s too much for you.
The 5×5 program is simple, but this doesn’t make it easy. If you’re not making progress, the problem could relate to overtraining, and you might want to consider a brief break from training or to try alternative exercises.
9. Adding too much weight to each workout.
You can make quick progress initially. But once you get decently strong, you should start using fraction plates (increments of 0.5 to 1 pound) to make steady progress.
10. Doing sets too quickly.
If you don’t rest enough between sets, you won’t do quality repetitions (2). As a rule, you should rest for at least 2.5 to 3 minutes between sets.
The most common reasons for plateauing with the 5×5 workout program are poor technique, recovery issues, and rushing your sets. In some cases, doing extra work, lifting too heavy, or not pushing yourself hard enough can also be the problem. It’s important to stay objective and evaluate your training to determine what the problem might be.