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What is a 'plateau' in training?
The term plateau when used in fitness terms refers to a sudden drop in noticeable results. This can be found in all forms of training from strength to cardio, even in fat loss. This is caused by the body's amazing ability of adaptation. Once it gets used to a workout, you will find it harder and harder to progress. Plateau can be caused by a number of factors, like not changing up your workout enough or not altering nutritional plans.
Here are a couple of common signs that you may have hit or are hitting a plateau.
No Increase in Strength
This is where you are stuck on the same weights for a couple of weeks even though you've been training 3 times a week. It can also get as bad as you losing strength, not being able to lift weights you used to be able to. This is all normally due to too little rest—the muscles don't have enough time to recover and grow between workouts.
Lack of Motivation
A lack of motivation can be caused by many different things; other things getting in the way, personal problems, lack of progression. All of these things can lead you to be unmotivated and when this happens you start feeling tired and the body becomes fatigued. This, in turn, can lead to a plateau and is generally again caused by a lack of rest.
When you begin to plateau, you may find that you start becoming less and less hungry. If training is good and you can see the gains then usually you eat more and have an appetite all through the day because the metabolism is working hard. However, when your body fatigues, your metabolism becomes slower and this is a sign that you might be plateauing.
Common Ways to Stop Plateau
Now you know a couple of ways to spot that you are plateauing. Here are some ways to help bust out of that annoying blockade in progression!!
Make small changes.
Since plateau is caused by the body adapting you could try changing up your workout which throws the body off. Start by making a few small changes to your workout. This can be as simple as switching out 1 or 2 exercises and/or altering the order. To prevent plateauing again, have certain times where you change the workout, for example every 4 weeks. This keeps the body from getting too comfortable.
Resting is important in any workout plan and it can also fix a plateau. Take a week or so off from the gym, so that when you go back your body can feel refreshed and ready to work harder than before. Although you are resting, it's important not to be too lazy!! You want to make sure you are actively resting, so go for walks and spend time with the family. This is perfect with it being Christmas soon. Then when you go back to the gym, your body will be shocked right out of that plateau!!
Overload the muscles!
This idea works on the basis of increasing either volume or intensity and should be done over the course of a program. I personally prefer increasing intensity as increasing volume can cause super long workouts and this leads to overtraining. When increasing intensity, you want to get the weight lifted just right. A good measurement is that you should only be getting 4-6 reps out in your last set. So over the course of 3 sets for example, each time increase the weight so the muscles are stimulated for growth.
With an increased amount of work you'll have an increased amount of calories needed to fuel your body. It's likely you'll need between 5-7 meals. This will keep your metabolism high and improve your progression. If your goal is specifically building muscle then a good rule is consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight a day.
Plateauing is common and eventually happens to us all, but I hope these tips can help you get out of a plateau in your own training. If you enjoyed this article, please check out all the others I've posted and if you have any questions, contact me at [email protected]
Joshua Herbert at www.joshpt.co.uk