Overcoming a Training Plateau
It’s probably worse than physically running into a wall full force with your hands at your sides. Totally worse than face-planting on scorching hot asphalt. It could be worse than never getting your take-out order right, ever, for the rest of your life-forever. Yes, we’re talking about the dreaded…..PLATEAU.
You’ve busted your bum, hit the gym, got your strength training in, your cardio in, you saw weekly progress in lost fat, muscle gains, you admired your popping veins and your newly defined calves….then….NOTHING.
Nothing happens. You do not continue to lose weight, you don’t continue to build muscle, it’s like your body turned into a bratty three year old and crossed its arms over its snotty little chest and said “nope,” while shaking its head back and forth. “Not gonna do it.”
Well, if your first reaction to your body’s plateau is to punish it, you won’t get far. Because…..science.
Progressive Loading Can Prevent Plateaus
Progressive loading is a training principle in which training ‘loads’ or weights and activities must be gradually increased to allow the body to adapt, prevent injury and to prevent a plateau. This principle also requires varied types of activity, intensity, and volume.
Essentially, this principle is 1 rule: don’t let your body get used to anything.
Because this takes time and patience, many will try to force expedited results which produces overtrained bodies that turn into that three year old with flailing arms—the bratty plateau.
It’s not the only thing that creates a plateau, though, bro.
Adapt Slowly or Plateau
Here’s the real science you need to know. Put a pin in it, save this part, copy and paste it with your little finger right meow: Muscle groups adapt to specific training in about 3 weeks and then plateau.
WHAAAT? Yep, no matter what you do, it’s gonna happen.
Variations and recovery are the only ways to keep progressing. You have to give your body a reason to grow and know it well enough to trick it into doing so.
How do you do that? Easy peasy.
Preventing a Plateau
Your workouts should alternate between light, moderate and intense. Your weights should also alternate, along with rest periods between sets.
Combine cardio and strength training.
Around week 4, DROP EVERYTHING. That’s right, cut back your training to around 25% effort and time spent.
Because when your body is adapting and you moderate, it grows bigger to avoid the stressors you put on it. But when you ease off, the adaptation eases off—meaning during that light week, you’re setting your muscles up for a new burn it will have to adapt to again. It’s like keeping your body on its toes so it can keep growing.
Then—every 6-8 weeks—take a complete week off. Yes, at this point, your body catches on. You gotta blow its mind with a little ‘NOTHIN’.
Instead of your body preparing for your mix of intensities and activities like ‘last week’—recall within 3 weeks, it ‘knows’ what you’re up to—when you get to your trimmed down 4th week, your body will relax, recover a little and forget what it was adapting to. Haha the jokes on you, body!
Now, if you just gasped “Not workout?!” –Please save some oxygen for the rest of us while you learn a lil somethin’ that’s going to help you…..The body doesn’t only grow in the gym.
Recovery and Growth
As your body is exposed to stressors associated with exercise, muscles are broken down and repaired.
Not allowing your body the time it needs to repair during recovery leads to overtraining syndrome—yeah, that’s a real thing.
The body has a process of restoring damage it must go through in order to perpetuate progress. Should you overtrain, your body will stop responding and you will create your own plateau…that’s a no no.
Many professionals believe recovery time is so important, they refer to it as ‘invisible training’.
Now, when you take rest days, consider it ‘active rest’. You don’t need to glue yourself to a couch and watch reruns of Friends. Change things up, go for a walk, get out of the house, stretch or go shopping in an IKEA for 4 hours.
Adjusting your Calorie Intake can Help, Too
As you progress, your caloric needs will change. Change up your diet and your intake to help prevent a plateau. If you’re doing everything we wrote above, but still hit that plateau, change it up in the kitchen.
So here is a quick summary to prevent plateaus.
- Vary your exercises.
- Vary your repetitions.
- Vary intensity.
- Vary rest times.
- Switch up your muscle group days each week.
- Reduce intensity on week 4 to 25%.
- Change up your diet.
- Take a week off between 6-8 weeks.
- Take a look at your progress! Whoot whoot!
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