Bored or stalled. Either or, it’s time to push the envelope and get you back to making gains.
1. Get to Class
No, I’m not talking about school, even though classes have recently began. One way that you can take your training to the next level if you find yourself at a plateau is to switch it up. You may always hit the gym and lift weights, or jump on the treadmill, maybe a combination of both. So why not take a break from that regimen and jump into a class where you don’t have to think for an hour? Almost all gyms offer classes from spinning to bootcamps and everything in between. Take a moment and switch up your routine, it will likely give your body a type of exercise that you aren’t used to and can ultimately help you get over that plateau you may be experiencing.
2. Train Your Weaknesses
We all have them – those exercises we don’t like doing, or that we talk ourselves out of doing every week. You may not even know that you have a weakness until you go through an evaluation either by yourself or by someone else. The problem with this is that the majority of workouts will tend to focus on similar movements of similar body parts, creating strength and mobility imbalances. These imbalances can lead to injuries and more than necessary plateaus. Is a shoulder, triceps or even a back weakness holding your bench back? Does your hip mobility hold back your squat? The primary functions of our muscles are to work together move the skeleton, and the skeleton doesn’t only move in one plane. Take a look at your training schedule and notes or ask an educated and certified professional to find out what may be holding you back. When you determine your weaknesses, start adding them into your log and working on them. As you strengthen those weaknesses, you’ll soon find your strengths become stronger.
3. Quality, not Quantity
Exercising is all about progressive overload on your muscles for them to repair themselves, increasing in size to be able to endure the next stressor they will be put up against. A typical gym session should never really last much more than an hour for the average individual. If you find yourself in the gym 2 hours at a time, 6 or 7 days a week, there’s a problem with the quality of your workout. You don’t need 4 different exercises for each muscle group every time you hit the weights. You want to be able to strive through the workout and not just survive. This is where quality is much more important that quantity. Of course with fitness, there are 4 variables – Frequency, Intensity, Time (Duration) and Type. All of these are important and a change in one will have an effect on the other. When the quality of your workout decreases, so will other things – your form, your drive, your progress. Maintain your form, focus on making the most out of each repetition, each set and each day. You will find yourself making more gains (or losses) than before.
4. Add an External Stimuli
We’re not talking about BOSU Balls or “stability training” per se. Adding an external stimulus to your normal routines can cause a change in momentum, movement, tension to add variation to a simple exercise. These stimuli can include chains, resistance bands, wide grips, etc. When you add chains to an exercise, as the weights are lowered to the ground, the resistance is decreased, and as they are raised, the weight increases. This added stimulus will also cause the bar to move differently than without it, causing stabilizers, neutralizers, agonists and antagonists to work in a different way that has proven benefits. Resistance bands can help maintain the eccentric or downward movement of the exercise because the movement needs to be stabilized throughout the motion being executed. These additions have helped powerlifters increase their maximal lifts and also athletes increase power production, overcoming previous plateaus.
Rest, as always is one of the most important keys to taking your training to the next level. Most high-level athletes will have a “de-load week” incorporated into their training. When you exercise, you are breaking down your body, if you continue to break down your body without giving it the proper time to recover and heal, you will never truly reach your maximum potential and you can put yourself at a higher risk for injury. This rest should not only be included during the week of normal and high intensity exercise, but should also be included as an entire week of low intensity exercise to allow your body to reset and begin the next phase of your gains. Not only do you have to train hard, but it’s even more important to train smart.