To anyone who has been training for an extended period, there will always come a point where progress stops or slows down. If you are in a position where you are feeling frustrated at the lack of progress you are making, don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Breaking plateaus is simple, but requires some effort.
Let’s take a look at a few areas that you can examine to help you break through this stagnation.
Your body functions like a factory, the results depend on the input. In a factory, the workers change, the technology gets upgraded, thus you have to change the input to get the same output. Your body does the same thing. Your metabolism, your insulin resistance, your strength levels, and many other factors change. The result is that sometimes you need to try something new to keep seeing results.
Change Your Training
The old school bodybuilding mentality is to “shock” the muscle into growth. This can go for your entire training approach. While you should not be changing your program every 3 or 4 weeks, it can have a great effect to mix things up slightly when you are plateauing.
This however is not a free for all to completely change training styles whenever you are stalling in your progress. Every good training routine is centered around the major lifts, the squat, deadlift, heavy pressing and rowing. When you are reevaluating your training, throwing out these lifts is never the right answer.
Changing rep schemes, loads, or rest times can have a huge effect on your plateau. So think less about a complete program overhaul, and think more about working the same big movements in different ways.
During the start of a program, you will see huge progress. This is mainly due to the fact that your body is learning new movements, new ways of doing things, and is getting better at it quickly. After a few weeks, your body has adapted to the changes, and it seems easier. This doesn’t mean that you have plateaued.
When your nervous system has adapted to a new program, this is the time to work harder. The progress you have been experiencing is to do with neural adaption and less to do with muscle growth.
So the takeaway point is that sometimes, the cure is to keep training, accepting slower growth but still progressing.
Frequency, Volume, and Intensity
Three things you can manipulate to jump start your results is your training frequency, volume and intensity.
There are ways that you can dial these up and down. If you are training 6 days per week, perhaps pulling back to 3 days could allow for more recovery and a more disciplined approach.
Increasing or decreasing volume can also stimulate change in the body. Taking a week or two to deload how much volume you are using can be useful. On the flip side, upping your training volume can also bring you out of a plateau. Review how you are training now, if you are using very high volume, dial it back for a week and see how you react.
The same process applies to intensity. Increasing or decreasing intensity can help to break training plateaus.
The take home point is that you know how you are training, and as such you must experiment with it. There are many variables you can change, so figure it out and reap the rewards.
This process for tweaking your diet is similar to exercise. You need to find the variables, play with them, and find what works.
The variables in your diet are calories, macronutrients and micronutrients. Changing these can break a plateau.
As lifters, we all eat more protein that the average person. However, sometimes your protein consumption can be increased to good effect.
Carbs are often vilified, and many people go for long periods of time on a very low carb diet. Whilst these diets to work well, trying a carb cycle or higher carb diet can sometimes be just what your body needs.
If your goal is fat loss, then reducing the calories a little more can be a good way to burst through a plateau. Be careful that you are not in a huge calorie deficit, as you will start getting diminishing returns.
Increasing calories if you are hoping to build mass is another way to get out of a plateau. The principle again is to experiment until you find what works.
If you aren’t focusing on the quality of your food, you can be selling yourself short. Using an IIFYM approach can deprive you of essential vitamins and minerals. Overhauling your diet to include more wholefoods, more veg and healthier choices can have a huge effect on your gym progress.
The last pillar to consider is your recovery. Your progress can be hindered by neglecting your recovery.
Recovery is quite simple;
- Drink plenty of water
- Sleep 8 hours
- Take rest days
If you are neglecting any of the above points, then you could be hindering your progress. Adequate recovery is needed to achieve any physical goal.
The plateau busting strategy that is right for you will be the result of experiments and strategy. Making sure that your diet, training, and recovery are all looked at. Tweak them when necessary to ensure you destroy your plateaus and keep you fitness progress ticking along.