hitting a plateau

Its extremely common for people to 'hit a wall', or a plateau, during their training, and some people simply quit because of it. I have seen beginners, amateurs, personal trainers and even professional athletes 'hit a wall' with their training. How do you overcome it?

In a sentence - you have to mix things up! If you carry on doing the same exercises, the same routine, the same weight, the same duration, then you will only progress so far before your body becomes accustomed to it and stops progressing. I will use two examples - weight training and cardio.

With weight training, you have to regularly mix up your workouts. Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure that one of the Men's Health magazines that focussed on Jason Statham, he spoke about never doing the same workout twice - he always mixed things up. That is obviously an extreme, but it clearly works for him as he is in tremendous shape. The human body is a wonderful machine, but it does 'easily' adapt to stimulus. So unless you change up your reps/sets, tempo, weight, exercise, then your body will become used to that specific stimulus and you will likely hit a plateau at some point.

I have read many different opinions on when you should change up your routine, and to take the average, it seems to be around 8-12 weeks. If you workout 4x per week, then you would be doing 32-48 workouts before you change up your routine, which is actually a fair amount. During that time though, you won't be lifting the same weight, you will obviously be lifting heavier, but the whole routine might not be drastically different. I remember reading a trainer saying that he likes to mix up traditional weight training with German Volume Training. He said he likes to do 8 weeks of traditional weightlifting, and then 8 weeks of GVT. He claims that this hits his muscles better, keeps them guessing and avoids hitting those annoying plateaus. That is simply one example. Weight training is different to other types of training, and you have to be patient, mixing things up too much might disturb your progress. I myself have used the traditional style for a few months this year, and after watching Nick Mitchell's video on GVT, I am now utilising that style of training, and I can really feel it! The great thing about weight training, is that there are many, many exercises, so you have a big choice of what ones to use, and that's why its so easy to mix things up because you can swap one leg exercise for another, for example. There isn't just one exercise per muscle group, there's many, so mix things up!

With cardio, I would say it's best to mix things up more regularly. Fat burning training is hard work, and the last thing you want it to be, is boring. Back in the day, fat burning used to be just 'treadmill running', but nowadays it's mostly weight training, but using lighter weights. Again, there are so many exercises that you want to mix things up during the workouts, you don't want your client or yourself to be doing the same exercises every single workout. You want to work your whole body too, so make sure you pick exercises that work your whole body every session. I have read, and been told by many trainers, that full body workouts burn a lot more calories, and I agree. It's different with weight training though, then it's best to split them. If you wanted to burn fat and 'tone up', you woudn't just want to pick leg exercises and neglect your top half. You want to keep your body guessing, so it doesn't get used to your routine. But most of all, to be honest, you want to have fun, you don't want to be bored during your workouts, as that could easily lead to quitting. I would say you would want to regularly mix up your exercises, your tempo, weight, duration - that way you will always have something different to do, you'll keep your body guessing, and you'll have fun.

That's my view on how to avoid/break plateaus. I'm sure people out there will disagree, and that's always okay. I don't just have my opinions and thoughts on things from my own mind, I love to read and learn from other people. There are a handful of trainers/nutritionists that I trust (I don't trust people that easily...) so I incorporate their ideas, opinions, styles, into my own approach to nutrition and fitness.

Lee Gregory Fitness

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