Have you ever attended the gym for a weight training session, attempted to lift slightly more than you usually do for the said repetitions and failed miserably? The funny thing is if you drop those few additional kilograms and perform the exercise with your usual weight then it becomes an absolute breeze. This scenario can be summed up by the phrase ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ – making reference to a point which you simply cannot go past.
So how can you work through this plateau phase and continue to progress your training? Before answering the million dollar question, it’s important to note that this phenomenon should not concern you. It is by no means a failure or limitation in your training. The truth is if you’ve never experienced a training plateau then you’re either not training hard enough, or conversely, you’re lying!
Without moving too far into scientific explanations, each and every individual has a point where they simply cannot shift the weight that is placed in front of them at that particular moment in time. If you think back to the first time you attended the gym and performed weight lifting this most likely occurred on a daily to weekly basis. Gradually, over a period of time adequate stimulation of the target muscle will bring about adaptations and gains will continue to be recognised.
During the early phases of your training, overcoming these plateaus is relatively straight forward as the bar is set relatively low, giving your target muscle a large capacity for improvement. However, as you move from a novice level this room for improvement begins to diminish and although the gains you will see become more impressive, they are much more subtle and difficult to achieve.
You will be relieved to know that there are numerous methods available to assist you in breaking through these plateaus and support your body whilst it continues to develop physically. This article aims to identify a selection of these methods which can be applied directly to your training as and when you require them. Before taking a look at these, let us first consider several signs demonstrated by an individual that they have reached a plateau in their training:
It is important to note that the above signs closely resemble those demonstrated during periods of overtraining and it may be that your body is physically drained and requires a period of rest and recuperation away from the gym. Please view our article on overtraining for more information. If you don’t believe overtraining to be an issue then there are several methods, as stated above, which can assist you in breaking through these plateaus:
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but the six methods highlighted above, whether utilised in a combination or independently, have the potential to allow you to continue to make the necessary progressions during your weight lifting. They might just be worth bearing in mind next time you struggle to lift that bar.
As mentioned above, the necessary levels of carbohydrates and protein are required on a daily basis to both refuel and rebuild your body. If this does not occur optimal progressions are unlikely to result. It is also worth noting that individuals undertaking regular weight training require up to double the amounts on their protein intake compared to a sedentary individual. If you believe you may need a helping hand, below are some carbohydrate and protein loaded supplements to get you started: