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By George Lamb
So the dreaded plateau has finally come to surface, hindering your advancement in the fine art of ‘making gains‘. Well, don’t worry, anybody who parades around with a great physique will probably give you horror stories about the invisible walls that had been built in the weight room. Yes it is quite devastating to be investing a large portion of your life into something and see no results from your strenuous efforts, but keep in mind that it happens to even the best of us, and there is always a way out of a rut.
There could be a multitude of possibilities as to why your body feels it’s necessary to come to a halt in physical progress, but the key to breaking past the plateau lies in your ability to decipher what it is that your body needs to do to break free. And in case you’re curious as to what the specific issue you may be having is, here are a few of the most common reasons you’re unable to overcome the plateau.
#1) Lift Heavier/ Change Routine
You might feel pretty good about being able to pump out a consistent 10 reps on the dumbbell press, but if lately you’ve been wondering why you haven’t upgraded from that medium-shirt to a large, then your answer may lie either in how much you’re lifting or in your routine. Of course it is common knowledge–even by novices–that gradually increasing the weight in accordance with your progress is key to seeing growth, but many times, while people do increase the weight, they fail to add diversity to their regimen.
If you have been on the same routine your personal trainer assigned to you upon joining the gym three months ago, then, no matter how comfortable you are with that schedule, it’s time for a change. After a while, our bodies get used to the same tedious movements you execute on a daily basis, and therefore, our bodies tend to strike defenses up that make certain movements easier for you to handle, thus decreasing the workload and giving you no resistance whatsoever.
So even if you do happen to find yourself increasing the weight and still seeing no results, then look online for some new routines and exercises your body may not be used to. If you have been using dumbbell press for the past few months try exchanging that exercise for a bench press; if you have been squatting like crazy, go for a few lunges; and if you find yourself spending too much time on the triceps extension machine, try a close grip bench press or rope pull down. The goal here is to essentially shock your muscles into overload, forcing them to perform to their maximum capabilities.
#2) Eat More
Food is as important as the workout itself when looking for progress. And often times if you’re not seeing that progress then than can likely be accredited to an unmanaged diet. The best way to remedy this potential issue is to calculate your meals to make sure you’re in-taking the right amount of calories for your size, as well as the recommended amounts of macro-nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fats. Yea it seems like a daunting task, and you probably hate the idea of becoming one of those guys who interrogates waiters and waitresses about how many calories is in your dinner, but if you want to break the plateau, some things in life just have to be executed.
And even if you’re eating well past your recommended calories, the quality of the food you eat also plays a key role in dictating your bodies progress. Empty calories, simple carbohydrates and unnecessary sugars can all be your bodies’ worst enemy. Also, avoiding fast food as much as possible is suggested, as these foods are often saturated with trans fat and useless sugars that are there for no purpose greater than to make the food “taste good.”
It may be a pain at first, but doing your calculations according to your body weight to determine the amount of calories you need to consume per day might just push you over the steep hump that’s hindering your stats in the gym. A popular method that is utilized amongst the fitness community is the 40/40/20/ breakdown of macro-nutrients (i.e. proteins, carbs and fats.)
#3) Get More Sleep
The amount of rest your body gets to recover greatly determines how well muscle recovery occurs, and therefore how much gains you manage to accumulate. If lately you’ve been failing to lift heavier, reach your desired weight goal, or have been feeling uninspired to go to the gym, then back track to how many hours of sleep you’ve been managing lately.
If you have been piling up 8 or 9 hours of sleep, then sleep deprivation certainly isn’t your issue, and the aforementioned tips might be of great assistance to you; but if you’ve only been managing a few hours a night at best, then there’s your answer.
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard time and time again that sleep is extremely important when taking up a fitness lifestyle, but we all know sometimes it can be difficult to reach the recommended hours of sleep. You’ve probably got work, parties, homework, relationships and all the other things that obstruct your snooze times. Ditching a party or two on the weekends to “go to bed early” may in theory seem decidedly uncool, but while the guys in the office are sluggish, scrawny and hungover on those Monday mornings, you’ll be polished, groomed, and glistening with gains.
Have you managed to plow your way past the dreaded plateau? What was the most effective means you used to resume your gains? Share with us below in the comments section!