One of the most common and most frustrating things that happens to a trainee is hitting a sticking point.
They come out of nowhere.
You've been doing great, and making great gains -- and then BAM! -- a sticking point jumps up out of nowhere and knocks you flat on your rear.
And the harder you try to push through it, the harder and more impossible it seems to be.
So let's talk about sticking points and how to get past them.
Don't fight them head on. Toe to toe doesn't work.
Here's how you do it.
To break a sticking point, change your sets and reps. Your body gets used to doing one particular thing all the time, and sometimes that leads to slow (or zero) progress. When that happens, you can start making progress again by switching to a different set/rep scheme.
Of course, changing your sets and reps does NOT mean you can drop something sensible (like 5 x 5 or 5/4/3/2/1) and go off on an orgy of bombing, blasting and blitzing.
So don't switch from Dino style [abbreviated] training to mainstream muscle silliness. Instead, switch from on Dino-approved set/rep scheme to another.
You have lots to choose from -- for example:
1) 5 x 5 with one working set.
Note: this sounds too simple to work, but it's the very best program for many trainees, particularly many older trainees. I've had great success with this over the years.
2) 5 x 5 with two working sets.
Note: another good program for most trainees.
3) 5 x 5 with three working sets.
Note: this was Reg Park's favorite version of the 5 x 5 system -- and it's hard to argue with a three-time Mr. Universe winner who also happens to be the second man in history to bench press 500 pounds.
4) 5 x 6 or 6 x 6 (one, two or three working sets).
Note: this was very popular in the 1960's. Peary Rader thought it built a good balance of strength and muscle mass, and much preferred it to any pumping programs for bodybuilders.
5) 5 x 3 (one, two or three working sets).
Note: this was a favorite program of Bob Hoffman and the York champions. it build plenty of strength and power back in the day.
6) A few warmup sets, and then 10/8/6.
Note: this was very popular in the 1950's. Vince Gironda liked it, and so did Arthur Jones of Nautilus machine fame. It works well for all basic compound exercises, but not for Olympic lifting. You need to keep the reps low for Olympic lifting because you need to perform each rep in perfect form.
7) A few warmup sets, and then 10/8/6/4.
Note: this lets you train heavier on your final set, which is always a good thing.
8) A few warmup sets, and then 10/8/6/4/2.
Note: this was a favorite program of Chuck Sipes, who was one of the strongest bodybuilders of all time.
9) A few warmup sets and then 8 x 2.
Note: this was the favorite program of John Davis, who used it to win six World Championships and two Olympic Gold medals.
See "Black Iron: The John Davis Story" for John Davis' EXACT training program -- which I learned from his training partner, a man now in his 90's.
10) A few warmup sets and then 5 x 3.
Note: this was another favorite program of Bob Hoffman and the York lifters. I use it sometimes for front squats, although I prefer 5 x 2.
11) Warmup sets as needed, and heavy singles (doing anywhere from one to 10 singles).
Note: in this program you do heavy singles but NOT maximum effort singles. Anthony Ditillo suggested 10 singles at 90% of max. You want a weight that works you, but you want to be able to hit every single in perfect form -- with no misses.
12) A few warmup sets and then 5/4/3/2/1.
Note: this was another favorite of the York champions. I like it for trap bar deadlifts, and use it on other exercises from time to time.
14) A few warmup sets and then 5 x 2.
Note: this works better for me than 8 x 2. I like it for front squats.
15) Use any of the systems outlined above but work up in weight and then work back down.
Note: this is a very tiring and exhausting program. It works best with an ulta-abbreviated training program. And it usually works best for younger trainees.
As I said, there are lots of different options. There's no reason to look for exotic alternative. Keep it sane, keep it simple, and keep it Dino -- but don't be afraid to make some changes if a sticking point has you beating your head against the wall.
You now have some very important weapons to add to your arsenal of sticking point busters. Use them whenever you need them, and SMASH through each and every sticking point that you encounter.
Lots of readers can handle a particular weight for a given number of reps -- let's say 200 pounds for 5 in the bench press -- but when they add five or 10 pounds to the bar they can only do two or three reps.
Or they can do a single with a given weight -- say 400 pounds in the Trap bar deadlift -- but when they load the bar to 405 they can't budge it.
It's a problem that's easy to fix. You simply have to do more work at your current weight to truly MASTER the weight before you try to go heavier.
If you do four progressively heavier warmup sets in the bench press and finish with 200 pounds for 5 reps, don't try to jump to 205 or 210 pounds the next time you do benches.
Instead, do four progressively heavier warmup sets followed by 200 x 5 and then 200 x 3.
In the next bench workout, do 4 x 5 progressively heavier warmup sets followed by 200 x 5 and then 200 x 4.
Next bench press workout, do the 4 x 5 warmups, then do 2 sets of 5 with 200 pounds.
In the next bench workout, do the 4 x 5 warmups, and then do 2 x 5 with 200 pounds, and then do 200 x 3.
Same thing in the next bench workout, but do 200 x 4 for your final set.
Next bench workout -- do 4 x 5 warmups followed by 3 x 5 with 200 pounds.
In your next bench press workout, add 5 pounds to all sets (including the warmups) and do 205 x 5 for your working set.
From there, build up to 205 for 3 x 5, following the same ONE REP PER WORKOUT SYSTEM outlined above.
In other words, don't try to go up in weight too soon or too often. That only leads to staleness, missed lifts and burnout. Instead, take your time and train progressively. EARN the next poundage increase, don't try to hurry it.
It's very simple, but very effective. Try it and see!
Note; Doug Hepburn build incredible size, strength and power by following a unique system similar to the one outlined above.
Another way to smash through a sticking point is to change your exercises.
But once again -- do NOT change from a basic, compound exercise to a bunny pumper isolation exercise. Switching from squats to leg extensions, or presses to lateral raises is a great way to go nowhere fast.
But changing from one GOOD exercise to a different GOOD exercise can be a very effective way to break through a sticking point.
1) Switch from back squats to front squats.
2) Switch from deadlifts to trap bar deadlifts.
3) Switch from power cleans to clean grip high pulls.
4) Switch from barbell shrugs to the Hise shrug -- or to dumbbell shrugs -- or to one hand dumbbell shrugs.
5) Switch from military presses to alternate dumbbell presses.
6) Switch from the barbell clean & press to the two hand dumbbell clean & press.
7) Barbell bentover row to inverted row, pullups or one hand DB row.
8) Power snatch with a barbell to one hand dumbbell swing-- or to the two hand dumbbell clean with a pair of dumbbells.
9) Barbell curl to dumbbell curl or sandbag curl.
10) Grip work with grippers to pinch grip lifting, thick bar overhead deadlifts, or the farmer's walk.
11) Regular pullups to the more demanding variations such a towel, rope or baseball pullups.
12) Bench presses to dumbbell bench presses, bottom position bench presses in the power rack, incline presses, incline dumbbell presses or the advanced pushup variations.
There are plenty of great exercises out there, and sometimes, making some intelligent changes in your exercise selection is the best thing you can do.