Blasting Through Training Plateaus
You go to the gym or
workout at home on a regular basis, but don't seem to be
making any progress. You perform set after set, rep after rep, but nothing
happens. Your shape
does not change, for better. You had done so well when you first started to
exercise, but now you have reached a training plateau…
Virtually everyone who works out with weights will, at one time or another,
reach a training plateau. When this happens, each trip to the gym, Infact every
workout feels like you're reliving Groundhog Day. One workout just melds into
the next and you begin to wonder if you'll ever again make any gains.
If your workout has hit a snag, don't despair. By implementing the following
strategies, you can blast through a plateau and take your
physique to new heights.
CREATE A GAME PLAN
You wouldn't embark on a road trip without mapping out your destination. If
you do, you're bound to get lost. Yet, in effect, this is often the way women
approach their workouts, either due to lack of adequate knowledge or lack of
time. It is all too common for a person to aimlessly wander around the gym
thinking, "What should I do now?" Clearly, such an approach is inefficient.
There is an old adage that states: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. With
respect to exercise, never was a saying more apropos. Without a definitive game
plan, it is only a matter of time before you hit a plateau.
The first step in creating a game plan is to clarify your fitness goals.
Determine what you want to get out of your training efforts. Is it more
Better symmetry? Enhanced definition? Each of these objectives requires specific
training protocols and, thus, a different game plan. By defining exactly where
you want to go, you'll have a much easier time getting there.
Once you have qualified your goals, you then can formulate a routine. It is
important to plan out each workout in advance. You must know precisely what you
are going to do prior to entering the gym. Decide on the exercises, sets and
reps that you will perform. Write them down, if necessary. Account for any
possible contingencies. In this way, nothing will be left to chance.
During training, avoid any interruptions or distractions that might arise.
Now is not the time to socialize or daydream. Save these activities until after
you've completed your last set. All of your energies should be focused on
carrying out your game plan. Remember, your time in the gym is precious. If you
want to make ongoing progress, make sure that every moment is spent
VARY YOUR ROUTINE
is amazing how many women go to the gym and perform the same workout from one
session to the next. Day after day, month after month, year after year, their
routines don't change. How boring! When training becomes mundane, apathy is
bound to set in. Ultimately,
motivation wanes and a plateau is sure to follow.
The best way to avoid complacency is by constantly varying your exercise
regimen. Variety is the spice of training. Not only does it help to keep your
workouts fresh, but it also fosters more complete development of your physique.
You see, the human body is a very resourceful entity and readily adapts to a
repetitive stress. When the same stimulus is applied on a regular basis, the
body doesn't respond as well to the stimulus. Only by keeping
your body off
guard will you continue to reap muscular rewards.
One way to vary your routine is by utilizing a wide array of exercises. You
should strive to perform different movements every time you train. For instance,
if you normally perform bicep curls,
cable curls and
concentration curls for
your biceps, change your
routine to include hammer
incline_bench_curl in your next session. In the following workout, you might
employ preacher curls .
There are dozens and dozens of different exercises at your disposal-make use of
as many as possible.
Another way to interject variety is by changing the composition of your routine.
If, for example, you work your
and arms on Wednesday, and
legs on Friday, switch things around so you train shoulders, chest and
triceps on Monday, legs on Wednesday, and back and biceps on
Friday. Or perhaps split your routine into four days, performing shoulders and
triceps on Monday,
hamstrings on Tuesday, chest and biceps on Thursday and
calves on Friday. You
could even employ a total
workout where each major muscle group is trained with only one
basic exercise. As you can see, by using a little ingenuity, the possibilities
for variation are endless.
GO ALL OUT
When you first start training, results tend to come rather easily. Virtually
anything you do is a new stimulus to your body and, as long as your technique is
reasonably sound, you are apt to make rapid progress. However, after a while,
your body becomes accustomed to specific load patterns and results begin to slow
down (remember the adaptive nature of the human body). Hence, in order to elicit
further gains, you need to train harder and harder. If you don't, a plateau is
To avoid this fate, your muscles must be stressed beyond their physical
capacity. By nature, the human body strives to maintain stability-a phenomenon
called homeostasis. If your training intensity doesn't sufficiently tax your
body's resources, there won't be enough of a stimulus to force your body from
its homeostatic state. Only by progressively overloading your muscles will they
be compelled to produce an adaptive response and grow beyond their normal
As a rule, you need to take each set to the point of momentary muscular
failure-the point at which you cannot perform another rep. Failure must be
achieved physically-not mentally. The extreme discomfort associated with intense
training can cause a person to give up before muscular failure actually is
reached. However, to achieve optimal results, you must push past the pain
threshold and completely
fatigue your target muscles. Anything less and results
will be compromised.
An excellent way to generate increased intensity is by the selective use of
forced repetitions. Forced reps allow you to go "beyond" failure, taking your
body as far as it can go. The only caveat is that you need the assistance of a
spotter. When you reach the point of muscular failure, have the spotter gently
help you to pump out an extra rep or two. It's important, though, to limit the
amount of forced reps to no more than two per set. Any more and your partner
will be doing the majority of work.
ALLOW FOR ADEQUATE RECOVERY
Contrary to popular belief,
training doesn't build up your muscles-it
breaks them down. Intense anaerobic exercise places tremendous demands on your
body, resulting in a catabolism of muscle tissue, depletion of glycogen
reserves, production of free-radicals and overall fatigue of your entire
neuromuscular system. Adaptations to these stresses take place during rest.
Provided that you have trained hard enough to stimulate
muscular gains, your
body will use the recovery period to repair, replenish and regenerate itself,
growing bigger and stronger in the process. If recuperation is shortchanged,
you're destined to hit a plateau or even regress in your training efforts.
Without question, rest is a critical component of exercise. It is almost as
important as training itself. All too often, women mistakenly subscribe to the
theory that if a little bit is good more must be better. They go to the gym and
pound their body on a daily basis, rarely taking a day off. Don't fall into this
trap! The accrual of muscular mass is your body's way of preparing to cope with
future high-intensity stresses. By training too frequently, your body never has
the chance to adequately recover from the extreme demands being placed on it.
Inevitably, you will become grossly over-trained and muscular growth will be
brought to a grinding halt. With respect to weight training, less can be more!
But how much is too much? Since everyone has varying recuperative abilities,
this is a difficult question to answer. However, a good rule of thumb is to
allow 48 hours between intense training sessions. This generally will be
sufficient for your body to replenish its energy stores and facilitate
neuromuscular repair. According to WF fitness experts it is best to schedule workouts on three,
non-consecutive days per week (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, etc), with
off-days reserved for light, relaxed activities. While you can experiment with
other combinations (i.e. two-on/one-off, two-on/two-off, etc), be very conscious
as to how your body recovers between sessions.
When in doubt, it is better to under train than to overstrain.