Bypass the Plateau
Amp up your momentum and never stop gaining.
You’re killing it in the gym, reaping the hard-fought rewards of your dedication, making constant progress, until one day you realize the workouts that used to really pay off… are no longer giving you the same return. You’ve hit the dreaded Plateau.
It deserves all the hatred heaped upon it — because it stands between you and crushing your goals. But by staying on your game and making some strategic changes, you can get your body back on track and headed over any hurdle.
A fitness plateau happens when your body gets used to your workout routine, so the same amount of work that used to yield big results suddenly doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything. While incredibly frustrating, there’s a good side to plateaus — they show you have been putting in the work — and that you are getting stronger and building endurance. It also signals that your body has figured out how to adapt to the challenges you’re throwing at it. Certified nutrition coach and personal trainer Kayla DeMarco instructs clients to get past these obstacles; she says the key is to pay attention to how your body responds to a workout, and react accordingly.
“Plateaus happen regardless of goals– weight loss, cutting, building strength, etc.,” she explains. DeMarco says you can get ahead of a plateau with progressive overload. “This means gradually increasing the weight, and duration or reps over time, which will increase your muscle mass and strength,” she recommends. She says in general, advancing training every three to four weeks allows for continued progress.
“A good rule of thumb is if your workouts start to feel easier, that’s your cue to switch it up.” ‑Kayla DeMarco, certified nutrition coach and personal trainer
7 Strategies to Avoid the Plateau
– Go harder. Go longer. Kick it up a notch. Add more weight to your workout regimen. If you’ve been running for 30 minutes, make it 35.
– Go stronger. Add strength training into your workout regimen. Not only will it build muscle, it also improves endurance and cardiovascular health.
– Change things up. Consider doing an entirely new set of exercises. Try that machine at the back corner of the gym. Go for an outdoor workout. If you’ve been going it alone, hit up your squad.
–Track it. Record your progress by keeping track of workouts — what you did, how many, and what weight. “This is a foolproof way to take a look back to reprogram when you feel you’re creeping up on a plateau,” says DeMarco.
– Pump up the protein. If you’re cutting, protein is essential to boosting your metabolism and helping you feel fuller longer. If you want to put on muscle, you need that protein more than ever to build and maintain your muscle. Add protein to your breakfast, or post-workout recovery snack.
–Take a break. Make rest and recovery a priority. By getting proper recovery time, you will optimize your progress when working out. Schedule rest days, and be sure you get enough sleep at night. Bottom line: tired muscles do not perform at their peak.
– Drink up. Speaking of recovery, staying hydrated is crucial. Water is a key component of muscle performance and recovery. Keep a water bottle with you at all times.
Bottom line: if you do hit a plateau, don’t let it get in your head. You’re in the driver’s seat, and have all the tools to power right through it. DeMarco reminds us to use the knowledge gained as a weapon against future plateaus. “Once you establish how your body adapts to your training and nutrition, you’ll be able to gauge how to avoid it altogether in the future.”