Whether you’re new to strength training or have been doing it for years you’ll likely experience a weightlifting plateau at some point or another. This typically occurs if you’ve been doing the same program for an extended period of time and muscle growth has stopped. A weightlifting plateau tends to occur because your body has adapted to the volume and intensity of your workouts and is no longer being challenged. They may also occur if you’ve made adaptations to your exercise, which may signify you need to make additional adjustments. One final reason may simply be that you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.
If you find that even after increasing the weight or number of reps isn’t creating progress you may have hit a plateau which can be very frustrating. Here’s what to do to help overcome a weightlifting plateau:
One of the easiest ways to overcome a weightlifting plateau is to make your muscles work harder not longer. Look to begin a program that has high weights and low reps rather than one with low weight and high reps.
For example, if you have previously been doing three sets of 10-12 reps, try decreasing to three sets of 6-8 reps using a heavier weight. The higher weight should be challenging but not disrupt proper form.
If you can maintain correct form but start to struggle by the end of a set, this is a good sign that you’ve chosen the right weight.
It may surprise you how quickly your body can adjust to certain exercises. In addition to varying the intensity of your workouts, it’s also important to vary the actual exercises you do as well.
Varying your workouts or incorporating cross-training into a workout plan can stimulate your body in new ways. For example, do push-ups or planks if your typical chest workout is bench pressing. Or try using free weights instead of weightlifting machines or vice-versa.
Another simple way to overcome a weightlifting plateau is to change the order of the exercises you’re doing. If you always do it in the same order, your muscles will fatigue the same way every time, and eventually you’ll plateau. Changing up the order will fatigue your muscles a bit differently and may even make your workouts more challenging.
It’s possible that there are some exercises in your routine that you’ve outgrown or have become redundant. Take a closer look at your exercise routine and wherever possible, replace outdated exercises with ones that are more suited to your current fitness level. You should also look for redundancies where workouts are targeting the sample muscles and find new exercises that target those muscles a bit differently.
One of the easiest ways to hit a plateau is by foregoing your rest days. Having adequate time for recovery is essential for growth, especially in weight training. If you feel burnt out try taking a couple of days off and just doing some light exercises like walking or yoga. It’s also important to program de-loads in your routine which helps prevent over-training.
The right nutrition will help your muscles grow and fuel your workouts. However, if you don’t get the carbohydrates, protein, fats, and nutrients you could undermine your training efforts regardless of how hard you work out.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source and should not be avoided if you want to build muscles. Additionally, you want to make sure you are getting enough protein.