There is no worse exercise feeling than plateauing. After all: what is the point in the hours spent at the gym, the protein consumed and the sweat running down your face if you’re not getting results? Unfortunately, this experience is all too real for many fitness addicts.
Fitness coach Ben Howard found that as a new lifter progress was quick, despite a lack of knowledge or structure but as you keep continuing it gets harder. Progress slows, almost to a crawl as the same weights feel heavier, or the scales don’t move or perhaps most telling of all you don’t see any visual changes.
It’s a fairly common problem and one that is made only more confusing by the potential amount of reasons that could be causing it. It could be from training too much, or not enough, eating too much, or not enough and you get the idea. What it often comes down to is becoming accustomed to the stresses you place on your body during training.
There is, of course, the flipside explains Howard and that is changing programs and diets too quickly to avoid plateauing. Too often gym-goers fall for the traps of ‘New’ workouts that will improve muscle mass or get you shredded and don’t give their current program enough time to have the effects. There’s a reason why the programs you get from your PT or online are a minimum of six weeks, often lasting much longer. In fact, Sustainable Trainer recommends 12 weeks as a minimum if results are the true goal but many programs are between 6-10 weeks in their duration.
So how do you bust out of a plateau? A simple diagram by Instagram account Diet & Exercises suggests its as simple as eating more protein, changing your reps, training select body parts more often and never giving up. The reality is naturally a little more complicated, fitness can never just be easy, can it.
This may seem to fly in the face of your workout goals but take a break, take an entire week off. Rest, refuel and just take the time off that you need before diving back in. When you do dive right back in consider adding some variety to your workouts suggests personal trainer Joey Vailancourt who offers up a few different training techniques to get back into it.
- Post-Failure Overloading Method: Once you hit failures on your reps, place the weight down, rest for 30 seconds and then try to bang out a few more reps. It may only be a couple but it tricks the body into doing a bit more work.
- Drop Sets: Drop weights after reaching failure on your last set of exercises and continue with a few more reps.
- ‘New School Superset’: Create a superset with two different exercises of no more than 12 reps combined, either activate same muscle groups in both or chose two opposing groups
- Change your rep range: If you have been doing straight sets of say 4×12 then change it up, maybe make it more sets with fewer reps or the other way. But change up something to keep the body guessing.
Above all else, listen to your body and keep going. Don’t be dishearten when you don’t immediately see results, stick with the program and if you find yourself plateauing then switch it up.