What To Do If You Stalled On Squats For Starting Strength?

July 3rd 2019

As a beginner lifter, you chose to do a linear progression program because you read online that it was one of the best ways to get started in the gym. You are not wrong. Starting Strength has always been one of the most recommended novice programs for gym beginners. There are a number of reasons for that as well.

The most important one is that it gets you results… if you put in the work. You probably heard it time and time again - all programs work. However, in order to maximize the results from any of your programs, you will need to commit to finishing what you started. 

But the main question we have today is that you are stalled on your squats while running starting strength. What can you do to fix that? In fact, what this article will cover is relatable for any lifter on any program. Stalling is not specific to only Starting Strength; when your body has reached its limits, it will stall until actions are taken. So, let us dive deep into why you are stalling on squats for Starting Strength and how you can fix it.

Starting Strength Squat Stall

If you are stalled on your squats, you need to make sure you are practicing perfect form, taking care of your body outside of the gym, and learning about your program’s methodologies. To break through your Starting Strength squat stall, you need to follow your program precisely while eating at a caloric surplus. 

Why did my squats stall?

Your squats could be stalling for one or a combination of the following reasons:


  • Not being consistent in the gym
  • Not listening to your body
  • Using bad form
  • Not taking care of your body outside of the gym
  • Not actually following your program precisely


Not being consistent by going to the gym

Again, one of the biggest reasons why you are not squatting more is because you are not consistent. Be honest. If you need to go to the gym three times a week, have you maintained that frequency over the course of several months?

It is one thing to say that you want the results associated with going to the gym. But are your actions following your words? 

Luckily for us, all strength programs, including Starting Strength, have a structured schedule on how many times you go to the gym. It is literally impossible for you to not know that today would be a gym day. 

Ego-lifting (Not listening to your body)

Another reason why your squats have plateaued is that you are ego-lifting. Ego-lifting can come in many forms. For some people, they may be lifting weights too heavy for them with clear form breakdown; for others, this could be that they are doing a weight that they were not supposed to do today.

In the end, it comes down to following the program and doing what is best for your body. For some lifters, moving heavier and heavier weights is the only rate of progress they want. However, you can make progress in other ways as well - more reps/sets, decreased resting times, increased frequencies to name a few. However, if you are running Starting Strength, it is not advised for you to modify the program. You need to trust the program and let your results be dictated by the work you put in. Follow your program procedures and let the gains flow in.

Using bad form

You could be following the program but your form sucks. Get that straightened out. If you have bad form, you will not have a good time on any program.

If you need help with your squat form, this is a very concise video on what you should be doing. Jonnie Candito knows what he is talking about. He is an elite squatter and unless you are squatting more than he is right now, his advice is gold. 

For nearly all lifters, squatting should not be too difficult. If you do seriously find squatting a huge pain in the neck, it would be highly recommended to start doing some mobility work so that you can get into a better position to have an optimal squat. On the flip side, being hypermobile may also be a detriment, depending on your own goals. For Olympic lifting, you need to do deep squats. For powerlifting, your squats should be below parallel. The list can go on and on for different competitions.  

Not taking care of your body outside of the gym

How is your sleep?

How is your eating?

Did you check your hormone levels?

How is your hydration? And so many more questions to follow…

Lifting is just one part of the equation for gaining strength. You still need to fix your life outside of the gym if you want to gain strength. How you ever heard of someone gaining strength on 3-4 hours of sleep? Neither have I.

Making sure you are fed, rested and hydrated will be the keys to your success. And doing that for only short periods of time will not get you far. You will need to do this consistently, for years and years to come. It will suck and you will need to sacrifice for your strength goals, but it all depends on how badly you want it. 

For some people, they would rather put off working on their strength for other endeavors. That is perfectly okay. But do not complain about not being able to get stronger when you know that your lifestyle could not support your goals of getting stronger.

Not following Starting Strength’s protocols

Starting Strength is a general strength program that was designed for lifters to get as big and as strong as possible. There are several strategies that are listed in the book for when you do “get stuck” at a certain weight. 

But many lifters want to find another way to break through their squat stalls. Here is a newsflash: there is no other way unless you want to do a different program. For Starting Strength, your primary goal should be to get as big and as strong as possible. And how do you do this? By eating a caloric surplus and training hard. 

And what if you are doing this? Well, you just need to keep on grinding through the program. Lifting was not supposed to be “easy.” It is work and it is challenging to continuously increase your strength each workout. So, make the most of your time now and figure out how you can push your body to its limits.

How do I break my squat stall on Starting Strength?

In Starting Strength, two ways you can break your squat stall are to follow the program’s deloading protocols and to continue to eat at a caloric surplus.

You follow the deload protocols

The biggest thing to do is to stop worrying and to focus on your program’s autoregulation. You cannot get stronger if you are crippled with worry and anxiety. Negativity and doubt poison that mind and leaves us in despair.

For Starting Strength and most novice programs actually, once you failed a squat workout once (or three times), you will deload 10% and work your way back up. 

Look, it will be hard. Nobody said it would be easy to gain strength. So, be prepared to work hard and to crush your limitations. View every workout as an opportunity to challenge your beliefs and to exceed challenges you thought you could not break.

Don’t bother changing up Starting Strength unless you want to start running a different program. But even if you do, you will run into the same issues again if you choose another novice program. So, you need to do your research and know what you should do after linear progression.

Continue to eat more  

Again, the main goal of Starting Strength is to get you big and strong. Period.

If you want to workout to “show” your abs, you are on the wrong program. In this program, your main goal should be to gain strength and one of the best ways to support this mission is by eating at a caloric surplus.

By eating more food, you give your body the potential to convert all your excess fuel into energy for your body to create new and stronger muscles. 

So, be prepared to gain some bodyweight when you run Starting Strength for an extended period of time. For me, I gained around 5lbs in 5 months in my first time running Starting Strength and around 10lbs in my second time running Starting Strength. My strength improved drastically as well. You can read about my squat progression to 315lbs and my deadlift progression to 405lbs from last year.


Strength training can be enjoyable but for the most part, you are expected to work hard. In fact, you hold yourself to that standard because anything less would equate to failure. We do not want to fail in life.

Strength training has provided many lifters an outlet to help improve themselves physically, mentally and spiritually. Figuring out and conquering your stalled squats will help you become a stronger lifter. You will be more resourceful and resilient. So, stay focused and train hard. Your results await you at the end of the tunnel.

Similar Articles

How to stop getting injured?


How to stop getting injured?

Always getting injured each year? Wished you could be healthy all year round? Find out several ways to prevent injuries from taking over your life!