Break through training plateaus
When you first start lifting, it almost seems too easy. Your frame fills out with muscle faster than you can keep up, and it feels like you’re adding more weight to the bar every time you hit the gym. But there comes the point in every lifter’s life where you stop adding pounds to the bar or the scale- the dreaded training plateau.
Once your body becomes used to the stress you put it under, it’s harder to adapt. That means that while you might find it easy to pack on muscle for the first year of training, you’ll eventually reach a point where it feels like you’re making no progress at all.
But that doesn’t mean you have to stop altogether; just change up your approach. Here are some of the most powerful ways to break through your muscle-building plateau.
1. Lift Heavier
You might not want to admit it, but maybe you’re just not pushing yourself hard enough. A lot of amateur lifters make their first gains with the resistance machines and light dumbbells in their gym. But if you want to keep putting on muscle, you need to up the ante.
Lifting heavy is essential for continued muscle growth. If you’ve hit a plateau, then try taking on a no-nonsense, heavy-lifting workout. Most experts recommend sticking to the tried and tested compound exercises- bench press, squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, and pull-ups. Add more weight each time and focus on doing five sets of five.
Related: Top 10 reasons for muscle loss
Squats are a scientifically proven plateau-breaker. Research has shown that performing heavy squats causes considerable increases in testosterone and human growth hormone, leading to more muscle growth.
2. Fix Your Diet
If you’re not making progress in the gym, your diet should be the number one suspect. It might just be that you’re not taking in enough calories, or maybe you’re overeating junk and not getting enough high-quality protein and carbs.
With apps and websites like MyFitnessPal freely available today, there’s no excuse not to track what you’re eating if you want to take your training seriously. As well as making sure you’re eating enough calories to gain muscle, make sure you’re getting enough of each macronutrient.
Protein is the most critical macronutrient for gaining mass. If there isn’t enough in your diet, try eating more chicken, tuna, nuts, milk or even start drinking protein shakes.
3. Shock Your Muscles Into Growth
There are many different ways to train and doing it the same way all the time can lead to a stagnation in muscle growth. But lifting heavier isn’t the only way to force your muscles into growing, merely changing up your training methods can have a massive impact.
A lot of studies have shown that you can shock your muscles into growing more. There are many ways to do this. For instance, if you’ve been training with the typical 8-12 reps for the past few months, try taking on lower weights and lifting for 20 repetitions, or until failure.
You could also try supersets- alternating between two different exercises for further growth. If you’re accustomed to lifting fast, maybe try focusing on slow, controlled movements.
Changing up your training techniques every few months can help you break through a plateau and keep growing. When things get old, try something new.
4. Track Your Progress
Experiencing a plateau in your training is a legitimate phenomenon that can happen to anyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the case. Maybe you just haven’t noticed the growth in your muscles. Perhaps you’re just not paying enough attention to how much you’re lifting, or how much you’re eating.
It’s important to track everything when you’re training. Use a nutrition app to keep track of your diet and figure out if you’re getting enough calories and macronutrients.
Start logging your workouts, keeping a record of how much weight you’re lifting and for how many reps. That way, you can focus on doing more reps or more weight next time to keep on progressing.
Related: Why you need a training journal
Weighing yourself once a week and even measuring your muscles can also help. Sometimes you’re making progress too slowly to notice any significant differences but give it a few months and compare where you are then to now!
5. Take A Rest
It might sound counterproductive, but sometimes the best way to keep making progress in your training is to rest up and stop training.
Overtraining is real. Training hard for a long time can slow down your body’s recovery and make it hard to achieve your optimal performance. What’s worse is it can result in your muscles breaking down more and, in worse cases, can even cause illness, injury, and hormonal imbalances.
It’s helpful to take a few days off or even a week off from the gym every few months or so. If you’re feeling the effects of overtraining, you may also want to take a few weeks off. While you might miss lifting, it’s important to let yourself recover so you can get back into training with a healthy mind, renewed focus, and muscles that are refreshed and ready to grow.
Even when it seems like you’ve stopped making gains in the gym and your muscles have stopped growing, don’t stress out. Sometimes it’s merely a case of your body becoming acclimated to the work to which you’re subjecting it.
Changing the way you train by lifting heavier or for more reps can make all the difference. Sometimes all you need is a couple of weeks off.
These methods will help you break through your plateau and get back to peak performance. Good luck with your goals and keep up the good work!