Let’s clear the air.
No one in their right mind enjoys the feeling of running face first into a brick wall that doesn’t budge, over and over again for weeks on end, but most lifters struggle with training plateaus.
Sometimes they last for a few weeks, other times they last for a few months.
But, I’ve seen cases where people have struggled and continue to struggle for decades, and I know you’ve seen it too.
Next time you’re in the gym just look around. Chances are you can pinpoint a few people who do the same exact thing week in week out and haven’t changed one bit.
In fact, these people do the same thing every single time you see them in the gym. The same half-assed warm up, lackluster exercises, non-challenging weights, excessive water breaks, and countless mirror glances.
There’s nothing worse than hitting a plateau, and this article will give out five different ways for you to bust through that plateau as soon as possible.
#1. Invest In Yourself
The first step is admitting that you don’t know everything.
I know, sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’ve been working out for years, or in some cases are a ‘personal trainer.’
For some reason, a lot of lifters think they’re too good to have a coach.
Which is absurd when you think about it since every single sports team, and professional athlete has a coach. In most cases, they have multiple coaches. Coaches challenge them, see things from a different angle and use their experiences to guide, push, and make you excel further than you can on your own.
It’s not because you don’t know what you’re doing.
Maybe you already have a trainer or don’t want to hire a coach right now which I understand so here are a few ways to get access to more knowledge and get similar benefits:
- Join an online group
- Get a good training partner
- Join a training group or club
These few things allow you to get out of your head and have someone take a fair look at what you’re doing and knows how to help you improve because we are all aware it’s hard to take an unbiased look at what we should be doing and keep you accountable.
Most of the time we end up being stuck because we avoid doing things we don’t like or think we don’t need and a lot of the time having a coach come in and tell us to do these things is not only an excellent refresher but an eye-opening wake up call.
Simple stuff. But it’s a game changer.
#2. Add Intensity Techniques
Add intensity techniques like the ones listed here can do a world of wonders for your training.
First, they work, and they work extremely well for breaking through a training plateau.
Second, they add a new and exciting twist to your training, which most people need. When you become bored with mundane exercise, you start going through the motions, and without intensity, your progress comes to a screeching halt.
Third, they’re ideal for getting stronger, adding muscle and making a simple exercise harder but without adding more weight onto the bar. This means your tendons, joints, and ligaments don’t take such a beating which is important for lifters with aches and pains.
- Pauses: They teach you to keep your core tight and stay braced throughout the entire movement. I recommend anywhere from 2-5 second pauses.
- Eccentric focused: Slow down the part of the exercise when the muscle is lengthening, for example, the lowering in the squat, bench press, deadlift, etc. Eccentric focused training increases the time under tensions and makes your muscles work longer.
- 1.5 rep: Do this by adding a half rep/ pulse after the eccentric phase of the exercise, return to the bottom and then come all the way up. For example, squat all the way down, come up halfway, go back to the bottom under control, THEN come all the way up. That’s one complete rep.
There are loads of other intensity techniques you can use in your training to break through plateaus like forced reps, drop sets, giant sets, and so on.
These 3 are excellent starting points and will keep you feeling energized instead of beating yourself to the ground.
Pick 1-2 and try them in your next workout but don’t go crazy because you’ll be more sore than normal.
#3. Get Your Diet On Point
Walk into any Barnes and Nobles, and you’ll see the hundreds of diet books that ALL claim to work.
How can that be?
Well, some work for some people and others don’t, but when breaking through your training plateau we can’t just focus on training, and we can’t just focus on diet.
We need to focus on diet and training!
The combination of the two is healthy and results prove the method to lose fat, add muscle, and look better.
Chicken or fish?
Apple cider vinegar?
White or brown rice?
Cleanses, what about cleanses?
I understand diets can be pretty confusing, especially since there are so many and most of them are telling you something different, but I have nothing to sell you so let’s stick to the key factors we KNOW work.
- Eat some fruit
- Eat lots of veggies
- Drinks lots of water
- Eat whole foods (unprocessed)
- Eat carbohydrates around your workouts
- Moderate protein (.8-1.2 grams per pound of body weight)
While the ratio and amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat will differ from person to person based on their genetics, activity, etc. — we KNOW the things above work, so do them.
The best plan for you is going to be one that is smart, attainable and going to be the easiest for you to stick to.
You can get into a more detailed approach later if need be, but after coaching people for ~ten years, most don’t do those key things consistently every single day which is why their bodies aren’t functioning at 100%.
4. Emphasize Rest And Recovery
I know you sleep enough already, right?
Or you’re one of the special ones that don’t need sleep because you’re a superhuman 😉
The average person spends 1/3 of their lives sleeping (or trying to sleep), but most of the time it isn’t quality sleep which is a problem because this is when your body and mind rebuild itself.
Sleep can give you more energy, focus, make you more productive, and help your muscles grow and recover while a lack of sleep increases your chances of brain fog, depression, low self-esteem, decreased productivity, and lackluster recovery.
Here a few simple tips to get better sleep and improve your recovery so you can train harder and recover better:
- Create a quiet and peaceful environment.
- Turn off electronics 30 minutes before going to sleep
- Make the room as dark as possible and invest in a good mattress.
- Set your room to a comfortable temperate (around 67 degrees for most people)
Other than these simple sleep hacks you can look into different recovery methods like active stretching, yoga, float therapy, cryotherapy, self-myofascial release, acupuncture, and more.
Most of the time, getting rest or taking advantage of some of these recovery methods clear your body from things that are holding it back from performing your best.
Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night and put some time and energy into recovering. Your body will thank you for it.
5. Track And Measure
You won’t lose strength and go back ten steps because you took a day off because you weren’t feeling well.
What will keep you going backward is training so hard or doing too much too fast and getting yourself injured.
The best results come with time and with slow and steady progress. One of the most frustrating things about making progress is how much it varies. There’s no steady line and constant growth. Instead, there are ups and downs, just like in life.
Tracking and measuring your progress is extremely important in breaking through your training plateaus because you have to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Here are relevant variables you can track depending on your goals:
- Food journal
- Steps walked
- Exercise technique
- Resting heart rate in the morning
- Body weight, measurements, pictures, body fat
- Workouts with sets, reps, weight lifted, time, feeling, etc.
You don’t have to get crazy here and track EVERYTHING in your life but keep an eye on things that are closely related to your goal is going to push the needle in the right direction.
Plus, you’ll be able to see where you need to make improvements and adjustments without having to randomly guess all the time which can knock you off your game big time.
Every time you hit a training plateau it feels like the end of the world, and every time you bust through that plateau, your mindset quickly switches to, and you’re fueling with more fire again.
The hardest part is not getting down on yourself. Instead, focus on these five things to bust through those barriers and keep making gains.
Bookmark this page to refer back to when things start to slow down, and you need an extra boost.
You’ll be glad you did.
Joey Percia is a coach at a training studio in New York City and also runs a successful online training business. He is a competitive powerlifter in the 181 division and has totaled 1400lbs. Joey has a Masters degree in Exercise Science, is a CPPS coach, Westside Barbell Coach and CSCS. Follow him on Facebook, you will be glad you did.