Monday, July 6, 2015


One of the biggest issues plaguing beginner trainees is that of stalling.  The dreaded stall is an inevitability, akin to death and taxes, looming around every corner and ready to strike without warning.  It is in fact such a facet of reality that many beginner trainees even come with instruction explicitly detailing what to do WHEN, not if, you stall, along with HOW MANY stalls is considered a problem.

This is insanity.  Telling a beginner with no athletic background whatsoever that they are going to stall becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Most of these kids have never actually exerted themselves in their lives, and once they get under the bar, they’re going to start doubting everything.  This breeds “stalls” that aren’t anything close to stalling, and is responsible for so many trainees spending YEARS following beginner programs with no discernible progress whatsoever.

I honestly can't even come up with a caption

Let’s break down what happens; a new trainee with no athletic background goes on the internet and decides to do a trendy “beginner routine”.  Regardless of if it’s Starting Strength, Stronglifts, Greyskull, etc, they all tend to have the same approach: start very light and increase the weight every session.  This is a fantastic idea for someone with a background in lifting, because it allows them to “build momentum” toward a high number, but with a beginner it causes psychological issues. 

This beginner becomes accustomed to not having to strain, for the training begins very light and the reps and sets are easy to accomplish.  Once they finally work up to a weight that is actually a challenge, they freak out.  When they feel their form slightly deviate, that the weight is heavy on their back, that they are sore in their joints, that they have EXERTED, they assume that THIS must be the dreaded stall that everyone told them they were going to encounter.  This must be what stalling FEELS like, for before this very moment training was easy and “gains” were acquired without effort, but now things have changed.  They assume that struggle is a sign of failure, NOT an indication that one is now finally working toward success.

Does this look like someone in the process of failing?

Once these beginners reach this “stall”, they of course turn to the internet for advice, wherein other beginners who are also not making progress dutifully inform them that the only solution is to strip weight off and start over.  This just breeds a continuous cycle of insanity wherein a trainee works back up to the exact weight where things felt heavy again, considers this a stall, and resets the weight.  But thankfully there is a solution in the land of the internet, because once someone stalls 3 times, it means they’re now an intermediate lifter! …with a 110lb squat.  Are you kidding me?

Stalls do exist, this is true, but the majority of trainees will not actually encounter them.  They will encounter circumstances and situations that are difficult, but rarely is it actually a stall on the development of their strength.  More often, the stall is purely psychological or circumstantial, and easily overcome.

I find the notion of stalling in training unfathomable in all honesty.  I do not understand these people who say they have stalled for 2 weeks on a movement that they train 3 times a week.  How does one, on multiple occasions, load up the same exact weight, do the same amount of reps and sets as they did in a previous workout, and then just shrug their shoulders and say “I guess that’s all I can do”?  Why not just rest for a few seconds and eek out one more rep for the sake of getting in more reps?  Or lower the weight and do a drop set at the end?  Or do another set?  Or do SOMETHING for the sake of doing more and making progress?

I mean...I guess...maybe it's ok in this one instance?

“I don’t want to mess with the routine”: the rallying cry of the weak.  Why would one hold in such high reverence a routine that is clearly not working as evidence BY the “stalling”?  Clearly this routine NEEDS messing with.  Beginners love to blame a lack of progress on external factors, such as sleep and nutrition, but many times it’s simply a question of not pushing hard enough and not allowing oneself to become uncomfortable while training.  I can assure you that most stalls can be beaten by going red in the face and letting form deviate, even with little sleep and poor nutrition.

Quit stalling and go do some work. 


  1. Great post.

    I injured my back badly squatting recently.

    A 110 pound pause squat feels amazing to me at the moment after the brutal physio treatments I endured and subsequent snooker ball rolling to get back under the bar (hahaha).

    In the interim i am doing single legged leg press and training a pistol squat while i progress weight on the bar.

    The madness of the SS culture.

    If you are not doing SS you are a wimp. If you are not progressing it is your fault Because you are not sleeping or eating. If you change sets reps and or add accessories you are not doing the program. No different from the diet dogma. All problems with a program are the fault of the person.

    1. You've got it man. It terrifies zealots to see someone else using a plan different than the one they have adopted, as it creates the possibility of fear and doubt. The only way to combat this is with aggression and making that person an outcast.

      Somehow, we forgot that the goal was PROGRESS, not conformity.

      Heal up dude!

  2. Awesome post man. Yo, quick question i go to the gym 6 days a week, and pretty much bench 5 days, squat 4, curl everyday and triceps, and play basketball everyday. I'll be adding deadlifts and overhead press this week. I don't follow any program except lift heavy stuff, add weight when i can, and eat good/sleep good. This is fine right? I dont have to follow anything to continue adding muscle right?

    1. Thanks for the feedback. As for your question, as long as you are meeting your goals, your routine is the right one.

    2. You're right Emevas. Too much information and complexity out there on what to do. I'll just keep lifting and slow progress and hit my goals. Thanks