There comes a point in all of our fitness journeys when we start to plateau. It becomes harder to get stronger, or to add size, or to drop a little more weight. This is the moment when we've gotten the most out of our baby gains.
The baby gains stage is when you throw up new maxes every week or you're able to make drastic changes in your body composition in a short amount of time. It's in the early stages of training, when we've exposed our muscle to such drastically new stimuli that it has to adapt super fast. The more we go on and on in our fitness journey, the harder these changes become. Why you ask? Because it becomes harder and harder to introduce new stimuli to our muscles. Your muscles have already been through this and seen that, they're used to it, they have memory now.
Here are three ways to help break out of your plateaus:
1) Change Things Up
First thing's first, DON'T GIVE UP!
One of the most common reasons for a plateau is that you've been doing the same thing for too long. Our bodies are incredible and can adapt very quickly. If you have a fairly regular exercise, and you do the same routines on a regular basis your body is going to get used to it.
The cycles I give myself for sticking with a set routine is about 12-16 weeks before changing something about it.
Muscle confusion is a real thing, take advantage of it. And it's actually not the hard to utilize it. Here's an example: say you work your legs once a week, and you're having a hard time getting them stronger/bigger/whatever you're trying to get them to do. A very easy way to "confuse" your legs is to start working them twice a week. Simply add frequency. Your body will get pretty mad at you for it, and you'll definitely feel it the next day, but trust me it will be so worth it.
There are countless examples of ways you can confuse your muscles. If you like to experiment with exercise like I do, you'll get pretty creative. I've put my body through strong man, olympic, power lifting, body building, calisthenics, and so much more throughout the years. That is my way of confusing the body.
I change the style of my training.
Not only has it worked to break through my own barriers, but it has also expanded my knowledge of different kinds of exercise. So give it a try, change things up a bit!
2) Get Yourself a Training Partner that Pushes You
Going off of our previous article, a training partner can make the world of a difference. You get a spotter that can help you push past that one rep max, someone to critique your form, and more importantly, someone to push you past your limits.
The interesting thing about training partners is that they're a form of competition. I know I know, fitness is all about the struggle between me, myself, and I. But a little friendly competition never hurt anyone.
The interesting thing about competition from a partner is that it unlocks something buried in our biological roots.
I can't say much about the biology of women, I haven't looked into it, but for men there is a certain alpha male factor involved. When another alpha figure is introduced, the body can actually produce more testosterone. And as we all know, testosterone helps to build muscle. Pretty amazing isn't it? So go get yourself a training partner!
3) Don't Underestimate Volume Training
A lot of people think that in order to get stronger they have to keep pushing those one rep maxes. Or those heavy sets of 3-5. Don't get me wrong, those can help, but what happens when they don't? Or you don't have a spotter when the weight gets a little iffy? I'm going to suggest you lower your weight and you do more reps.
Volume and hypertrophy is heavily associated with bodybuilding, Because that's how a lot of bodybuilders train. But I want to suggest you do something a little bit different. Take a week to go for all of the one rep maxes for the lifts you're trying to get stronger at. Write all of your numbers down. The following week try doing those same exercises, except this time do about 70% of your one rep max, and shoot for 4 sets of 8-10. If you can't complete it, then repeat it each week until you can. Once you've finally finished the full 4 sets, go up by five or ten pounds and try getting the 4 sets of 8-10 again. Keep repeating this cycle until you can do about 20-25 more pounds of 4 sets of 8-10 than the weight you started at. Now, go for a new max and see what happens! I'm willing to bet your strength goes up.
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