Stuck @ the same weights? Learn to Break Plateau and keep
Our body is excellent in adapting to conditions and that’s one reason humans have evolved incredibly well compared to any other living being on the planet. Its ultimate goal is to maintain an equilibrium state meaning by adapting to external stimulus it tries to keep things more or less same within the body, this phenomena is called Homeostasis ex: in extreme cold conditions or in extreme hot conditions the body always tries to maintain its normal 98.6 deg cel. This is absolutely critical for survival but not so good for strength and muscle development. Once your newbie gains are behind you, your body gets better and better in adapting to the loads, the movements and the overall training and stops responding to it, this is why many people hit a roadblock after seeing good results in the first couple of years and get frustrated and sometimes quit!
You need to force your body and work harder to super-compensate and force your muscles to continue growing stronger and bigger. During this process several changes occur in the body, the muscle fibers, bones, tendons, ligaments will become bigger and stronger. The driving factor for a Super-compensation is always progressive overload.
Note that, people who always lift the same weights and do the same rep ranges month on month, years on years, look the same month on month and years on years. They fail to change because they fail to change weights, sets and reps..this is what we call Plateau. If you want a better physique and improve performance and overall fitness you need to break through the plateaus.
A thoughtfully designed workout program and diet and nutrition plan will take you far in the game.
Based on my own experience and working with several people over the last few years, I highlight a few reasons for a hitting a plateau and techniques to super-compensate and breaking plateaus.
Be sure, unless you are new to weightlifting you will never be able to add weights to the bar every workout. If you can squat 200 lbs for 4 reps last week your goal will be to get 5 reps this week. And if you are able to do that while keeping the rest of your workout same then you made progress. This slight increase in the load will induce supercompensation, that sounds easy but hell ya it is not for an intermediate to advance trainee. You don’t see improvements in all the big lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press) in the same week. As you become more and more advance there will be times when you need to focus on a particular lift to progress for a couple of weeks.
Form and technique:
No matter how many sets or reps we lift, if the technique of the lift is incorrect it will kill progress. If you load the barbell with heavy weights and the technique is off then there is probability you might get hurt yourself through the lift. The right technique will not only prevent you from getting injured but also help you push more weights and break through the plateau. If you are not sure of your technique ask a friend to make a video of you doing the lift and compare analyze where you are going wrong. I generally reduce the weights, restart with the right technique and hit the full range of motion (especially in the bigger core lifts), honestly it has worked wonders for me so far.
Although overtraining is a critical factor to be considered as it can stun progress, it is still the most ignored one. I am sure most of us had this experience in the gym on days everything feels super heavy, weights you pull lift easily for 6 reps feel even difficult to lift for 3-4 reps. Reason? Very likely it is due to overtraining, when you are over trained, the first thing that falters is strength. A well designed work out protocol will always focus on the training stimulus i.e the intensity (load), volume (sets/reps) and recovery (rest days) this should be properly balanced. The stimulus should be just enough to trigger progress, anything more will cause overtraining and anything less will hamper growth. Its always good to take a deload week, refuel your system every 4-5 weeks to avoid overtraining.
Lack of good sleep raises cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone which prevents growth hormone release and increases fat deposition. Reason some people struggle to lose weight ..well they might not be sleeping well. Bare minimum 7 hours of sleep is required to keep your mind and muscles in optimal state.
Most of the advanced trainees would know how difficult it is to keep increasing weights (overload). Even a 2.5 pound increase on the compound lifts is going to be tough on a certain phase of your training program. If you are unable to increase weights or reps with a particular weight for consecutively 4-6 training sessions that means you have hit a plateau. One of the things I like to do when I hit plateau on a particular lift (after looking at all of the above factors) is I back off completely and avoid the particular lift for 2-3 sessions. I rather focus on a supplementary lift that assists in the core lift. Example, I hit plateau on deadlift @ 500 lbs, I completely avoided deadlifts for two consecutive weeks, infact I was focusing more on barbell rows and rackpulls, worked on my grip strength by doing fat grip pull-ups. After two weeks I tried my luck on deadlift and I was able to pull 510 lbs. I applied the same strategy week on week and my best deadlift is now 550 lbs. This trick will mostly work on all lifts, but this is not the only way, you can try various other ways to change the routine and break the plateau. Another method I like very much is the rest and pause technique..amazingly effective.
Easily the most the most important factor that impacts training. Remember, the stronger and bigger you get the more lean muscle mass you carry, the more calories your body needs to maintain the strength and muscle. If you compromise on the quality and quantity of calories (macro nutrients) you will have to compromise on the quality and quantity of muscle as well. So keep a slight energy surplus while trying to break plateaus..because nobody has ever won a war empty stomach J
Happy Lifting ..
By Partho Choudhary