Your body-transformation routine was off to a rip-roaring start. After signing up for the gym membership and lifting weights, you see some initial gains. You’re looking better in a tight shirt. You’ve improved, yes, but somehow you’re stuck with those initial gains and can’t seem to take it to the next level.
Whether your goal is to build muscle or lose fat, that time may come when progress comes to a grinding halt. This phenomenon is known as hitting a plateau. It is when our bodies and muscles get used to a particular workout routine that they no longer respond the same way they did when we started out on a program.
After every workout, with proper rest and recuperation, our bodies become stronger. Over time it will build up resistance and get used to a given routine. Once this happens, progress will come in trickles, if at all.
Here are some tips on how to bust out of a bodybuilding plateau and once again, reset the wheels of change in motion.
Crank up the poundage
Your muscles may have gotten used to a particular set of weights and have thus adapted. They need to experience a progressive overload to once again be primed for growth—nothing too abrupt that may be impossible to lift, or cause injury. Crank it up a bit at a time. Once you feel you’re getting stronger and your muscles are too comfortable with a specific weight, increase weight in slow increments.
Try new exercises
If your barbell bench press is no longer hitting the spot, go for the dumbbell variety, or hit the Smith machine. Or if dumbbell shoulder presses no longer yield the kind of gains you want, switch to a barbell or military press. Different exercises, although hitting the same muscle groups, may stimulate the muscles from different angles and in different ways. Yes, muscles do get bored too. Entertain them a bit with new exercises, and they will reward you with more growth.
Mix up your workout methodology
“Confusing” our muscles is an effective strategy for breaking out of a plateau and promoting growth. Go heavy weights with low volume for a couple of weeks then switch it up to lighter weights with increased volume for the next two weeks. Break patterns every so often even to the extent of changing the order of the exercises that you perform. That way our muscles do not get used to a particular routine. Before they get used to a set pattern, mix things up.
Take longer breaks
Some people fail to see any more gains despite insane training sessions for the simple reason that they are overtrained. This means that they are working out too much such that muscles do not have time to recover. Remember that lifting weights causes micro-tears in muscle fibers. It is during periods of rest when they are recovering from the trauma of weight training that they are actually growing. If we do not give them enough time to recover and subject them to more trauma, chances for increased size become lower. If the gaps between your workouts are too short, chances are, you may be overtrained. Muscles subjected to intense workouts may need a few days off to be in growth mode.
If you feel you’ve hit a plateau, don’t fret, it happens to the best of us. Try breaking out of it with these simple pointers. Hope they work for you.