5 Ways to Break Through a Plateau

At some point we all experience it:  we’ve been working hard for a good length of time and, well, things stopped changing.  Welcome to a workout plateau!

This is not a fun place to be and can be quite frustrating.  It is, however, solvable using a few tactics:

  • Resting
  • Workouts and intensity
  • Nutritional adjustments
  • Sleep
  • Consistency

Is A Plateau Normal?

You needn’t get frustrated by hitting a workout plateau.  Why?  They can be normal and most people experience them at some point in their training lives.  The plateau is simply that your body has adjusted to the things you are doing to it.

Your body is an adaptive system after all.

The worst thing you can do, when hitting a plateau, is quit.  Think about it:  you spent all this time, effort, and discomfort to get where you are so why would you throw it all away for a temporary setback?  And do not get it twisted, it is temporary!

1 – Rest

When I say rest, I do not mean quit.  Resting and quitting are not the same thing.

One thing a lot of people get wrong is the “keep adding more” mentality.  Adding more and more training volume is not the solution to experiencing continued results.  You will eventually run out of time (not to mention motivation).

Your body is not dumb.  If all other inputs are the same (food quality, food intake levels, recovery quality and techniques, etc.) but you keep upping the volume of work, your body will tell you to kick rocks.

Sometimes, just sometimes, adding in a rest day or two per week is of extreme value when added to the next tactic in order to blow past a plateau.

2 – Adjust Your Workouts & Workout Intensity

If workout volume is not the key, then we have two other variables to play with:  the types of things you do and the intensity with which you do them.

What could you change IN your workout?  Move from barbells to dumbbells or vice versa?  Maybe from long slow distance training to HIIT (high intensity interval training)?  Could you adjust your rest times in your strength training routines?

What if you already do CrossFit?  How else could you change your workouts?  The answer to this is the magic word:  intensity.

One reason we see people add workout volume is because they are afraid of intensity.  And for good reason:  intensity is awful; it is uncomfortable; it can sometimes be painful.  So rather than expose themselves to more intensity, they instead add more volume (more workouts per week or per day).

Here is my challenge to you:  add some intensity to your workouts.

  • Do a few more reps beyond what you believe you can do in that set
  • Slow down the descent of each rep if you’re lifting weights
  • Run a little bit faster than what you want to, in that moment
  • In other words, make yourself more uncomfortable

Not only is this an effective way of breaking through plateaus, but you will find some mental toughness you didn’t know you had.

3 – Nutrition

Something we find startling in training newbies is the idea of ‘eat less and workout more.’

This.  Is.  Wrong.

In fact, what you will likely need is to eat more.  Don’t mistake this as an excuse to eat a bunch of garbage because “that one guy said so.”  No.  Make good food choices but eat more!

I would suggest finding a nutritional expert, whom you trust and believe in, to help you make the necessary adjustments.  Look HERE for a guide on finding a great trainer.

Would you be surprised to find out that a 39 year old, 190lbs, active man is eating about 3400 calories a day?  I would make a bet that other industry professionals would say even this is too low!

4 – Sleep

Sleep is single handedly one of the most important, yet overlooked, recovery and weight loss tactics.

How do you get better sleep?

  • Create a pitch black sleeping environment – blackout curtains and no artificial lights [yes, even that little red dot on your tv]
  • Drop the temperature – your room temperature, while sleeping, should be somewhere in the mid 60’s
  • No electronics just before bed – come up with a routine which includes reading a book or having a conversation with someone so electronics are cut out
  • Take a warm shower – this one is self-explanatory

How do you get more sleep?  This one can actually be a bigger challenge but the main thing is to create a routine and stick with it.  It will suck at first.  But is it worth it?  Hell yes! Plateau be damned.

5 – Consistency

This one is going to sting a little bit for some of you…

Maybe you are not training as consistently as you think you are.  For me, when training novice trainees, I like to see 3 to 4 times per week, on average.

So, do the math:

  • Have you trained an average of 3 times per week for the last 30 days?
  • 60 days?
  • 90 days?
  • How has your eating been at the same time?  Be honest with yourself

Take a few minutes and give yourself an honest grade for your training and your nutrition over the last 90 days.  Then ask yourself, could itIbe better?  Could I be more consistent?  I don’t mean perfect, mind you.  I mean consistent.

That, by itself, could be your answer.  If you’ve given yourself an “A” for both of those things, either you’re lying or you are really doing well and can look at the other four tactics above.

The Value of a Trainer

Rather than look for the next ‘great trend,’ what if you looked for a great trainer?  Omaha has a lot of them!

A great trainer will help you stay ahead of those plateaus.  Not that they will never happen, but with communication in [and out of] your sessions, you will likely blow right past them.

They will challenge you.  They will measure and remeasure you to help you see progress.  They will tell you why they are doing what they are doing.  They will ask questions of you (even ones you don’t want to answer because maybe that weekend went horribly with regard to your nutrition).

And, as they’ve been there before with themselves and their clients, they will talk you through the emotions associated with training, plateaus, and overcoming them.

Ready to set up a free consult with one of our amazing trainers?  Start HERE.  Can’t find a time that works for you?  Email me at [email protected]

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