Are you in an exercise rut, and have your results slowed down or stopped completely? What is happening and how do you overcome it? The answers to these questions can be quite simple, and it won’t take you long to start increasing those numbers again!
You have hit an exercise plateau. Whatever you had been doing was working for a while but now your body has adapted to the work load and you are no longer seeing results. Your body has become accustomed to the exercise and it is no longer being challenged.
There are numerous types of plateaus but they all boil down to the same root cause: The training effect. Whether you have hit a weight loss plateau or have hit a training plateau, be it strength, power, size, or endurance, all plateaus can be attributed to a slowing and ultimate loss of adaptation.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different, so people will hit plateaus at different times. There are no specific timeframes that tell you as to when you are going to hit a training plateau. One week you will be still making positive gains, and the next week all of the sudden those gains might have decreased, then the next week they have decreased further, and so on.
So how do you bust through the plateau and continue seeing those results you saw in the initial few weeks or months of your training program?
As you see your gains start to taper, that is the time to mix things up. Don’t spend a month persevering with a program that has stopped providing you with positive results. The change you make to your program doesn’t need to be drastic, but you may need to alter more than one variable. Just lifting heavier weight with the same tempo and similar exercises will not cut it.
Here are some ideas to help bust those training plateaus!
Chances are you are overtrained and are not giving your body enough time to recover.
Sometimes when you stop making positive gains you think it is because you are not training hard enough, when in actual fact, you probably are training too hard. Chances are you may not be sleeping enough, and your nutrition may not be up to scratch either. Complete rest may not be ideal, so participate in some active rest. Go for a walk, hit the beach, or play a recreational sporting activity such as golf, volleyball or touch footy. Give yourself 7 days out of the gym and your body will thank you for it.
Swap the stimulus!
So there’s not much difference between a push up, a bench press, and a DB bench press right? They both target the chest and triceps, and they’re both horizontal flexion and elbow extension. Wrong! The body responds differently to each different form of exercise. Of course, you need to train on an apparatus long enough for the body to adapt and grow, but the second your body responds and says this is too easy- its time to change it up. And don’t tell me bodyweight exercises and machine weights are for beginners! These 2 forms of exercise have the ability to generate big gains!
Swap the exercise order!
Yes, it’s ideal that you train your large muscle groups before your small muscle groups. But instead of doing the same routine each and every time you can still swap the order around. So instead of doing leg press, lunges then calf raises, do lunges then leg press then calf raises. Your body is very intelligent so if you have the same routine each time, your body will find it too predictable. It will make a massive difference to whatever goal you are striving for- strength, size or endurance.
Instead of unilateral, go bilateral!
The technology is gyms these days is phenomenal. Everything is so unique and versatile and designed to get the best out of you, but to also challenge you as much as possible! If you’re still doing things with both arms or both legs no wonder you have hit a plateau. Use the left and right side of your body independently and all of a sudden things become much more difficult.
Stop being so 1 dimensional! Go 3D!
So you have progressed through bodyweight, machine weight and dumbbell exercises but still struggling for variety? Get yourself a set of kettlebells, a TRX band, a sled, incorporate Olympic lifts into your routine, even a cable machine will challenge your senses and get those results coming again. That is why Crossfit is so successful. They incorporate a variety of lifts and movements into their programs, rather than just standing on the spot. Take a seated shoulder press and do it standing, then do it with a bar, then do a push press, then do a split stance push press, then do a jerk, then do it on an unstable surface.
T.U.T (Time under tension)
Time under tension is an important variable, particularly when it comes to muscle growth. But time under tension can be increased or decreased in order to stimulate change. If you have been doing slow, controlled contractions swap them for explosive contractions, or plyometrics. Or mix them up. For example, perform your first rep with a 1:1:1 tempo, your second rep with a 2:2:2 tempo, and your third rep with a 3:1:3 tempo.
Train with a partner!
The fact is if you’re not training with someone you are always going to be limited with the exercises you can do for two reasons:
1: A training partner will be able to spot you. Exercises such as the bench press, chin up or squats can cause serious damage if you reach failure unassisted. Forced reps are an excellent training stimulus, and a partner can ensure you lift 110% of what you lifted last time.
2: A training partner will motivate you! Just like a Personal trainer, a trainer partner will see you through the tough times and ensure every rep is performed to the best of your ability!
Cardio training that burns!
Just like resistance training, if you have been doing the same type of cardio for a long period of time your body has responded and adapted to the training. People with weight loss targets often find they plateau because they persevere with the same boring cardio that got them to lose weight initially. An important consideration is that muscle is more dense than fat, so your weight loss is going to plateau anyway, but the reason you cant go from being trimmed to being ripped is because you are not challenging your body enough. If you have been doing long runs, think about intervals. If you spend all your time on the cross trainer or the bike try the treadmill. If you’re bored with the treadmill try kick boxing.