By Mike Kubas
Anyone who’s trained for a substantial amount of time has been there. You’re busting your hump in the gym day in, day out and just can’t seem to reach that goal you set for yourself. It can be both frustrating and demoralizing. Don’t panic though; it’s very common. Your body adapts to the type of stress/demand put on it. These plateaus occur BECAUSE your body has made adaptations. That’s progress! The next step is to look at how you can continue to make progress towards your goals. Often people want to completely overhaul their training regimen to try to get through the plateau, this isn’t necessary. Here are a few tricks to get you through your plateau and continue moving forward.
1. Change Your Volume!
Your body might need a new stimulus. There are a few different ways to go about this, but one of the simplest ways is to adjust your workout volume. This can be as simple as adding a few more sets to your exercises, or just adjusting the range of motion you’re using for your exercises. Adding additional working sets can begin to tax a different energy system, burn a few extra calories, or build more muscle. You can also alter your workout volume by changing your range of motion. Doing half rep, and quarter reps of certain exercises can increase time under tension and stress the muscle in a much different way than traditional full range of motion exercises. An example being the old school 7-7-7 bicep curls. You perform 7 reps from the bottom to 90 degrees, followed by 7 from 90 degrees to fully flexed, followed by 7 full range of motion bicep curls. This extra time under tension could be the stimulus your body needs to continue building muscle. This same concept can be applied to other exercises as well, such as 1 ½ rep squats and 1 ½ rep rows where an extra half rep is added before a full rep is completed.
2. Shift Your Focus!
Other times you may need to shift your focus. If you’ve been doing the same strength training program for years and years, it could benefit you to lay off the strength training a bit and shift your focus to another area. Taking a break and working on mobility in trouble areas can improve range of motion, which allows you to work in larger ranges of motion when you return to strength training. This increase in range of motion is a new stimulus. Now you are performing the same exercises to a greater range of motion, recruiting more muscle fibers, thus putting a different stress on the muscle that it hasn’t encountered before. This new stress will help you build more muscle and burn more calories.
Perhaps, what you’re encountering isn’t so much a plateau as it is over-reaching or over-training. This is for the person who trains hard EVERY DAY. Gym rats can get carried away now and then, if you’re training too often you may not be giving your body enough time to recover. I recommend activity every day, but the intensity of the workouts need to be varied. For instance, 3 days of strength training with 3 days of spin and an off day makes for an exhausting week. That cycle repeated for months on end, is sure to run someone down. There’s simply too much stress and not enough time to recover. Now something like 3 days of strength training, 1 day of yoga, 1-day of light cardio, 1 day of spin, and an off day will allow for better recovery. The real benefit in exercise is the recovery, that is when the changes occur. If you’ve reached the over-training point, it’s best to take some time off from training to allow your body to recover fully and then adjust your overall workout volume to allow for proper recovery.