This blog contains affiliate links for our full disclosure click here
I Hit A Plateau...Now What?
It happens to the best of us, your training hard, eating right and taking the appropriate amount of time to rest. Then one day you fail to make any gains in strength, and then the next week is the same nightmare or worse, you've LOST strength.
If your like 90% of those on the journey to the apex of your physical form, you have gone through the horror described above and if you haven't given up, you've either found a way to push past (GREAT JOB) or still looking for that answer (KEEP READING).
What Causes A Strength Training Plateau?
Your body is one of the most adaptable organisms on earth and as such, there will be times that your exercise routine will fall behind this ability. There are a lot of reasons that you could be experiencing the dreaded plateau, the chief culprits however are typically:
Also, when talking about plateaus it is important to differentiate whether were talking about building muscle or increasing performance strength. While building muscle will eventually help with performance strength, increasing performance strength will not necessarily increase muscle size.
For this article we are assuming you are looking to increase muscle size and the below tips are focused on helping you do just that. While performance strength is important, the majority of those who are lifting weights are doing so for aesthetic purposes so the most common frustration stems from building more muscle.
How Should You Adjust Your Diet?
It is imperative that you re-evaluate your diet periodically in order to ensure you are getting the results you desire. As you lose fat and gain muscle mass the amount of nutrients your body is going to require is going to increase, failure to re-adjust can easily leave you in a rut as you keep increasing demands put on your body without replenishing it with proper fuel.
The best time to reevaluate your nutritional needs is during a weigh in. This way you can base your decisions on the most current information and make gradual changes to suit your bodies needs.
The easiest way to ensure you are getting the right amount of nutrients is to measure what you eat in the first place. One of our favorite tools to do this with is My Fitness Pal by Under Armour, mainly because its database of food items is ENORMOUS and they make tracking macros and nutrients a breeze.
If you are wondering how much macros you need to consume in order to reach your goals, we turn to Bigger, Leaner, Stronger by Michael Mathews:
Lose Fat (Cutting):
1.2 Grams of protein per pound of body weight
1 Gram of carbs per pound of body weight
0.2 Grams of fat per pound of body weight
Gain Muscle (Bulking):
1 Gram of protein per pound of body weight
2 Grams of carbs per pound of body weight
0.4 grams of fat per pound of body weight
Maintain Muscle (Maintenance):
1 Gram of protein per pound of body weight
1.6 Grams of carbs per pound of body weight
0.35 Grams of fat per pound of body weight
While there is no absolute answer when it comes to diet, the staff at HTTM have personally worked with the measurements described above and we are extremely pleased with the results!
What Can You Change In Your Training?
If your diet is on point, then the answer could lie in your training. There are a couple of points that may need to be addressed in order push past this plateau. Here is a list of the main culprits and how you can fight back:
Failing to follow proper form can not only ruin your potential of getting to the next level, but continuing to push may lead to serious injury requiring a forced break from training which is never desirable.
Improper form does not always stem from a lack of knowledge, even the most well trained bodybuilders after hundreds of repetitions have to take a step back and evaluate how their technique.
If you train with a partner than every now and then ask them to take a look at your form and compare it to a video showing the proper form, or even better simply have them take a video of you and make the comparison yourself.
As the old adage goes, "to much of a good thing can be a bad thing", this is especially true when it comes to training. While going hard in the gym is imperative to achieving your dream body, there is an absolute point of "diminishing returns" and refusing to acknowledge this point will only lead you down a path of frustration and possible injury.
What is this point of diminishing return you ask? Well, if were talking in terms of sets, so far research has shown that the magic number for the maximum amount of gains is three. (1) Anything beyond that has not shown to have a significant impact in how you perform in terms of strength however further research still needs to be done.
As far as how many reps you should be doing, we personally suggest moving up in weight once your able to do six full reps. Once you hit that point, add five pounds to each side of the bar and go at it again.
Finally, if were talking in terms of days spent in the gym, rest days are an absolute must in order to allow your body to recover from the damage caused from lifting weights. We personally suggest taking two days off at least in order to get the maximum benefit from your workouts.
Failure to respect your bodies need to recover from intense training sessions will only hinder your progress in the long run, so if you want to reach your maximum potential always take the time to rest.
Good ole' h20. We know that water is important just for the sake of daily function but when it comes to performing in the gym water is absolutely essential. If you have not been actively tracking how much water you are consuming there is a very high chance you are not consuming enough, and this will absolutely put you into a plateau. Studies have shown a direct correlation between dehydration and a decrease in muscular power. (2)
How much water you should drink really depends on your body weight, as of now the leading opinion is that you should drink a half-full ounce of water per pound. If you are exerting yourself on a daily basis frankly this may need to increase to an ounce and a half per pound of body weight.
Have You Thought About Your Mindset?
Your mentality plays a huge part in determining how hard you will be able to exert your body. Studies have shown that when it comes to willpower we have a finite amount to expend each day. If you are stressed, anxious, or just having an all around bad day this can sap your energy leaving you less able to exert yourself when it comes time to hit the gym.
Your mind can also allow you to do some amazing things in terms of feats of strength. We have all heard about mothers lifting vehicles to save their children or other stories of people surviving insane tragedies without so much as a scratch on them.
While we're by no means saying to go out and try and lift a car using the "power of your mind" but there was a very interesting study conducted by a professor Hadfield using hypnotic suggestion and a dynamo meter. In their normal state even a gymnast could only exert about 100 lbs of pressure however Hadfields control group was able to exert over 150 lbs. Its an old book but if your interested in the research we recommend checking it out.
The Next Step:
Now that you have the tools you need to push past any barrier that comes our way check out this article about some of the most common misconceptions about keeping hydrated and how adhering to these can harm your health