The worst training problem I have EVER encountered…
The plateau problem! If you’ve been training for a while, sooner or later you will experience a plateau in size and strength gains. The same can be said of trying to lose weight. When you are trying every possible thing for the sake of shedding the extra pounds and you want to add to your muscles, it can be extremely frustrating and demotivating. There’s hope.
I’ve been through this personally many times in my life and I put together this post to help steer you out plateau purgatory and back into making gains and shaping up.
Some of the common things I am often asked are:
- After steadily losing weight for nearly a month; the last couple weeks, there has been absolutely no drop in weight. I am following the same workout plan and simple diet plan. What happened?
- My muscles were increasing at such an impressive rate; but my strength increases seem to have hit a wall.
This is exactly what we mean by the plateau problem. What is a plateau? I work out? What am I doing wrong? How do I break through? Take a deep breath and relax because you’re in the right place.
What Is A Plateau?
A plateau basically refers to a condition wherein your progress in weight loss or muscle building declines or stagnates despite the fact that you continue with everything which you have been doing so far. You still eat right and you are also exercising profusely as well; however, despite putting in the right efforts, nothing changes and you are unable to move forward.
Whenever you hit the weight plateau, it’s completely normal to be discouraged, but there’s more to the issue.
Time and time again, I tell people that the most effective way to conquer plateau, is to keep your body guessing. Try new and interesting workouts you never thought of or tried because this is how your muscles are forced to adapt and thus continue to improve.
What A Plateau IS NOT and Diet Plateau
Nothing that I see often is people who think they’ve reached a plateau, but have actually been continuing to improve, even if their weight has not changed. This is about body composition. Weight is just a number, how you carry your weight and your muscular shape will define your physique. Remembering to consider body fat percentage, not just the scale should shed some light. Also, using progress photos can help show you improvement that some numbers won’t.
Here’s what you need to know about diet plateau.
If your diet alone seems to be the issue, you may need to take a closer look at what you’re eating—even if you’re keeping track and counting calories, are you being completely honest with yourself?
Journaling helps but you must commit to being authentic.
- Plan Meals Ahead: be mindful, count calories if you must. Personally, it’s not my favorite. I like to stick to general guidelines and REALLY stick to them. Portion size and high-value foods are key, balancing some protein, complex carbohydrate, and natural fatty acids in every meal.
- Workout Intensity: Are you cheating yourself by phoning in your workouts? This is another symptom of following the same routine for too long. Change it up to keep yourself inspired.
- Recovery is King: If you’re not allowing your body ample time to sleep, you simply will not improve or grow. No discussion necessary.
Pretty much always, one of these 3 concepts is always out of sync with plateaus. Now, before we discuss more about the plateau, there are a few things you need to know.
You cannot rely on linear progress to give you results all the time. You need to be sure that you are putting in the right kind of efforts and pushing yourself. You have to break your comfort zone to get the results you have been waiting for.
When you are learning how to squat and you start with the barbells, it is common to find people adding nearly 5lbs per week. Now obviously, do not expect this ratio to continue forever because your body too comes with some kind of an upper limit.
When you’re trying to lose weight, you may start with an initial loss rate of 3 pounds a week, do not expect to keep losing at the same rate. As your body approaches its efficient operating weight and composition, change will come slower and at a higher demand.
The consistent progress which you have been making is sure to fall down at some point, it’s ok. This is when you begin to feel like you have hit a plateau. So, you need to know how to adjust your expectations and consider your changes in body composition to get the fuller picture. Linear weight loss does not continue for the vast majority of people.
As long as you are finding some kind of change; regardless of how miniscule it may be; it signifies that your body is reacting to your diet and exercises. If you keep your body guessing with new workouts and high-intensity interval training, you’ll train your muscles and cardiovascular system simultaneously.
Weight Plateau And The Dip
It is not uncommon to find people hitting a plateau or a low mark in different aspects of their lives. Routines can get stale in every aspect of our day. So, the real question is how do you respond?
Whenever you start something new, the kind of energy you will have and the amount of effort you are going to invest, will be extremely high. This is the reason; you are most likely to see some phenomenal changes right off the bat. However, after a few months itself, your excitement is likely to wear off—hence why so many January 1st gym memberships go to waste by March.
When you begin to get bored, there is just no way you can force yourself to work as hard as when you are inspired. Inspiration also comes with continued progress, reinforcing your goals. One of the best ways you can do this is to constantly try new workouts.
Set Your Own Record Every Day
When you want to get over the plateau, you need to focus on yourself and derive positive reinforcement from every small victory. One way to track these is to keep a journal that will record all your details and even minor gains in strength.
Try and beat your own personal records and every time you better your own feat, even if your max goes up on an exercise by 5 pounds, this is improvement. When you are continually encouraged by your own achievement, it will give you the inspiration to keep moving forward.
Track all details
You should ideally track the details of your workout. Do not miss out any weights or repetitions and jot them down in your notebook diligently. Just take the few minutes, you’ll thank yourself later. Every day when you set out to exercise, your first aim should be to improve the records of yesterday. This step can go a long way in propelling you past a plateau.
Enjoy small wins
Even if it is a very tiny achievement, be happy about it; celebrate your wins. This spirit is extremely important when you have hit a plateau. The reason is that when you do so, it will help you stay strong and give you the strength to face this stage.
It is easier said than done, but you need to be sure that you keep this spirit alive.
Don’t just concentrate on the scale
I can’t say this enough, scales lie. There is more to you and your progress than a weight.. Take specific measurements of your different body parts if you must. Calculate your body fat percentage. Use progress photos. Many times your plateau is perceived and not a reflection of your real progress towards a fitter, healthier you.
Workout Plan for Busting Past Plateaus
Phase 1: Aerobic Capacity
- high volume, low intensity
- increasing number of minutes per week
Phase 2: Aerobic Strength
- high volume, low to moderate intensity
- tempo workouts: 15–20 minutes @ 80%–85% maximum heart rate (HRmax)
Phase 3: Aerobic Power
- moderate volume, high intensity
- interval training: 4–5 reps of 3–5 minutes @ ≥90% HRmax with 3 minutes of recovery
Phase 4: Anaerobic Capacity
- low volume/very high intensity
- interval training: 8–10 reps of 60 seconds fast with 2–3 minutes of recovery
Phase 1: Muscular Endurance
- high volume, low intensity
- 4–6 sets of 15–20 reps with body weight or @ 70%–75% 1-rep max with 30 seconds of rest
Phase 2: Hypertorophy
- high volume, low to moderate intensity
- 3–5 sets of 10–12 reps @ 75%–80% 1-rep max with 2 minutes of rest
Phase 3: Muscular Strength
- low to moderate volume, high intensity
- 3–5 sets of 4–6 reps @ ≥85%–90% 1-rep max with 3–5 minutes of rest
Phase 4: Power
- low volume,very high intensity
- 3–5 sets of 2–3 reps @ ≥ 95% 1-rep max with 3–5 minutes of rest and/or plyometrics
Courtesy of ideafit
With these tips, you should be able to overcome the trouble of diet plateau and training plateaus. First and foremost, evaluate your progress from a different perspective. Second, remember to constantly change up your routine. Also keep an eye on your rest and recovery, without these you can’t expect to improve. Lastly, be authentic with tracking your diet and training progress—the truth will set you free.
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