Five Strategies to Avoid Training Plateaus

Avoid Training Plateaus

The body adapts very quickly to any exercises that you perform and this is the main reason why you need to mix your training up.

It is a simply analogy if you don’t stimulate your body with different training methods and techniques then at some point you will hit plateaus in your strength and muscle gains.

You need to be continuously pushing your training parameters further and this can be achieved by using these simple tweaks to your training plan. Remember that progress stands still for no man! Are you ready for the next step in your training regime? If so, please read on……

Use a Timer and the Correct Weight

Before we discuss the importance of using a timer; having a clear vision in terms of your training goals is the initial that should always be undertaken.

This process is fundamental to your training plan and how much weight that you pump and the rest intervals in between sets are very crucial to these goals. Your goal orientated weight training program should follow similar as these:

  1. Strength endurance – high reps (12+) with between 35-55% of your 1 rep max (1RM) and 10-20 seconds rest between sets
  2. Increase Muscle Size & Strength – medium rep range (8-12) with between 70% of your 1RM and 45-60 seconds rest intervals between sets
  3. Increase Power – medium to low rep range (4-6) with between 80-100% of your 1RM and 2-5 minutes rest intervals between sets

From the above training program outline it can easily be identified ‘why’ using a timer and the correct weight is important in achieving your training goals.

Just a simple tweak with a timer will ensure that you are training with the correct rest intervals in between, as these are will give your muscles enough time to recovery in relation to your goals.

The higher that you lift the more time that you need for your muscles to recover properly and for them to be actively ready for the next set. Conversely, the shorter rest periods for increasing hypertrophy and strength can cause micro-tears in the muscle and this allows the body to adapt the resistance load of the weight.

In terms of the weight being pumped out, if you are lifting weight that is either too light or too heavy then your body is not being driven to its full physiological potential. Therefore your gains in muscle hypertrophy, strength and power will be stunted and your goals will become unrealistic.

To remedy this scenario, it is always best to work out your 1 rep max and then find the corresponding % to meet your goals. Then a common sense approach should prevail; and you either increase or decrease the weight load on your barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells etc.

Bear in mind that training with weight that is too light will not stress or overload your muscles or joints enough to determine any progress. Plus, training with a too heavier lifting load could lead to stress injuries because of poor technique, the muscles/joints being imbalanced when performing the mechanics of the lift due to the body being unable to deal with the work load.

In addition, you could scrap the rep number and try to pump out more reps in the set within a given time limit. However, both strategies do work i.e. rep number in set Versus number of rep pumped in an allocated timeframe. Why not try both and see which strategy works best for you!

Add Some New Exercises to Your Regime

There are a huge amount of different types of exercises that are never used by many lifters or bodybuilders. For example Monday is traditionally chest day at the gym and many bodybuilders after the weekend try to pump out pump five sets of heavy bench presses, incline dumbbell and end with some dumbbell flys.

They have been performing the same routine without any changes for years because they have some muscle gains – to a point.

Like any muscle the chest needs constant stimulation in different ways for it to grow effectively and to stop it from plateauing. Although the chest has two main muscles, the work out plan should be further broken down into three area- top, middle and bottom.

Although bench pressing does increase your muscle size and strength; many lifters tend to neglect compound bodyweight exercises such as push ups, pull ups and chin up.

These multi-joint exercises also stabilise the shoulders, increase muscle fibre recruitment in the chest and this turn can increase the weight lifted when bench pressing.

There are lots of variations for push ups e.g. wide arm and pull ups e.g. archer pull ups and these will target the chest muscles, stimulate muscle growth and stop you from being bored. Plus, all of these compound exercises engage the core and again a strong core equates to increased lifting potential and this can be turned into strength/muscle gains.

Change the Equipment Used

Using a Swiss Ball instead of a bench allows you to further engage your core and stabilise the ankle, hip and shoulder joints. You do have to adjust your body position instead of the incline/decline of the bench and it’s the mechanics of performing this change in your body angle that further strengthen your core.

KettlebellsA key point to remember is that this increase in your core strength and joint stability; will definitely improve the pathway to your training goals.

In addition, switch the dumbbell and use kettlebells.

Kettlebells can be used for swings, squats and lunges. These 3 compounds movements can help to build the core and all other muscles within the body because they increase muscle blood flow and testosterone levels.

There are lot of variations of squats e.g. goblet, sumo & pistol and lunges e.g. reverse, skater and clock work that can all be used with a kettlebell/s. Research has indicated that kettlebell incline/decline/flat presses recruit more muscle fibres to counteract them falling below palm level!

Change Your Training Strategies

This section of the article will discuss two training strategies that could be incorporated into your work out regime because when used correctly they are an excellent additional muscle and strength builder.

Drops Sets

The main rational behind using drop sets is to shock the muscle and to cause mirco-tears. This is an excellent strategy to enhance muscle growth and strength because it recruits larger amounts of muscle fibres including the deep muscle fibres which improve your body’s symmetry.

The technique of drop setting allows you to perform some additional sets beyond the point of exhaustion and when you would normally stop/your training session. It involves two additional sets both executing to failure with no rest intervals and without 10-20% of the weight taken off the bar.

Superset

Another is training strategy is to perform a superset technique and this involves performing two exercises in rapid succession of one another.

There are two ways of performing supersets and first method is all about exercising the same muscle groups after each other e.g. the flat bench press immediately followed by wide arm push ups to exhaustion.

This will improve muscle hypertrophy and strength and the stronger that you get the more times that you will able to perform this style of super setting.

The second method is all about exercising muscle groups that are antagonists to one another e.g. triceps and biceps, quads and hamstrings etc. This strategy allows you to target one muscle group whilst the other one recovers and this enables a significant load to be placed on both muscle groups.

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