No matter what your goals are in the gym or with your workout routine, everyone can encounter workout plateaus. This is especially true for individuals focusing on strength conditioning and muscle growth. When you’re no longer seeing progress, it becomes very frustrating and can sometimes lead to a loss of motivation to keep pushing on.
To overcome this very common phase of strength conditioning training, it’s important to understand what a workout plateau is, why they occur and what you can do moving forward to break through the plateau and achieve your fitness goals.
What is a workout plateau?
A plateau occurs when you’ve been consistently working out but are no longer seeing or experiencing new results. In other words, you’ve reached a stage where nothing seems to be changing or improving. Essentially, your body is remaining the same and no obvious progress is being made.
Why plateaus occur?
A workout plateau most often occurs when your body is so used to a particular routine that it’s no longer being challenged. Both the human body and mind are designed to grow accustomed to routines, so they become more automatic. As far as weight training is concerned, once your body has become accustomed to your routine, things will just stay the same.
This is fine if your goal is merely to remain in shape, but when you want to see muscle growth and an increase in strength, you need to take proactive steps to change up your routine and break through that plateau. You need to regularly alter things to stimulate the body so further progress can be made.
Top tips to break through strength training plateaus
Now that we know what workout plateaus are and why they occur, let’s cover some tips to avoid a workout plateau, and also learn what can be done to smash through that plateau to experience growth and progress on the other side.
Add variation to your workout routine
One of the most common reasons anyone can experience a plateau period is simply sticking to the same old routine and exercise program. It was mentioned earlier that the body needs regular stimuli to improve and grow. Once a routine has become constant and stale, results stagnate due to a lack of stimulus.
This can be overcome by varying your routine. For example, rather than performing the same exercises every time you hit the gym, drop some exercises and replace them with something different. Alternatively, you could try performing the same exercises differently. An example would be to switch out the barbell for a bench press and perform the exercise using two dumbbells instead. In this example, the body is stimulated because an extra degree of balance and coordination is required to perform the bench press when each hand is holding an individual weight.
You could also switch over to the machines instead of always using free weights and vice versa.
Raise your intensity and change the tempo
One of the best ways to smash your way through a plateau is to increase the amount of weight you are lifting while also slowing down the tempo of your repetitions. Some people choose the opposite route, by reducing the weight and increasing reps. However, when you’re experiencing a plateau, doing this can often have adverse results, leading to over-train and actually exacerbating the plateau problem.
It’s far better to load up with more weight and focus on slow repetitions to overload those muscles and stimulate strength and muscle growth.
Change the order
As people are creatures of habit, it’s easy to slip into a routine and stick with what’s familiar. One simple tip to add some variation and help you bust through your plateau is to change the order of your exercises. Rather than always commencing a session with bicep curls, for example, start with a different exercise and keep varying the order every week or so. Try modifying the number of reps you perform too. Keep your body constantly stimulated by regularly doing something new. This will also keep your gym sessions more interesting as well.
Don’t just work out harder, train smarter
It’s not all about working out more, it’s about taking full advantage of your time in the gym. Rather than increasing your frequency of workouts or their duration, start working out with heavier weights. Perform heavier sets and you’ll see results far more rapidly. Extending your session times or adding more routines could lead to over-train and burnout.
Take some time out
Sometimes the body needs a break. Have you ever even taken a break from training? If you’ve tried everything to bust through a plateau and nothing is working, it could simply be your body telling you that it needs some rest and time to recover. Try taking a week off and then return to the gym reinvigorated and see what happens.
Need help breaking through your workout plateau?
If you’re struggling to overcome a strength conditioning plateau, it might be time to seek the assistance of a fitness professional, someone who understands what you’re going through and can offer practical solutions. 1Vigor is a strength training gym in Copley with programs for strength training that will help you break through the plateau, so you’re once again advancing towards your strength and fitness goals.