At the start of your bodybuilding program, you’re likely to see consistent gains in muscle size and strength. With the right nutrition and training frequency, beginners progress well, and are able to increase weight or reps with nearly every workout.
As time goes on and your body adapts to the stimuli being placed upon it, these gains will slow. You’ll find it increasingly difficult to add size and strength. At times, you may see no improvements in your workouts for weeks on end. This is known as a plateau.
Plateaus happen because you have to increase the stress being placed on your body during workouts, through increasing weight, reps or both. This is known as progressive overload,” and it’s one of the fundamental principles of fitness and muscle building. If you don’t increase the stress you’re placing on your body, you won’t grow bigger or stronger – you’ll simply maintain your current state.
What is a true plateau?
Many individuals believe a plateau occurs when weight or reps can only be increased slightly with each workout. This isn’t true – a plateau occurs when every exercise in your workout stops progressing, and you’re unable to increase either weight or reps for a period of more than three weeks If you’re seeing progress, even if it’s only one extra rep on an exercise, it’s enough to increase the stress placed upon your body.
Hitting a plateau is frustrating. You feel as if all your hard work is going to waste, and you may start skipping gym sessions and paying less attention to your diet. Luckily, there are things you can do to start gaining size and strength once more. Here are five helpful tips to overcome any plateau and start seeing rewards for your hard work again.
1. Are you getting enough calories?
If you think you may have hit a plateau, the first item to examine is your diet. A healthy metabolism will require increasing amounts of calories to cope with your regimen and an energy surplus is required to maximize muscle building. If you hit a plateau you should immediately increase your intake by 100 calories daily for a period of two weeks. Get some of these calories in pre and post-workout carbohydrates This will ensure muscles have a readily available fuel source when they need it the most. If you feel you’ve moved past the plateau at the end of the two weeks, keep your calories at this level until you feel you need to increase them again.
2. Are you getting enough rest and sleep?
Rest periods, known as deload weeks and adequate sleep are vital when you’re undertaking a bodybuilding program. With every heavy workout, your muscles are being torn down damage is caused when microscopic tears are created in your muscle fibers. It is during your time away from the gym that the tears heal and compensate by growing bigger and stronger. If you don’t take regular breaks your body won’t have time to heal. You’ll also be increasing your risk of injury and long-term problems.
Sleep is equally important for recovery. When you’re tired, you concentrate less on your workouts meaning you won’t see the best results. Sleep helps your body to flush out stress hormones which have a catabolic (muscle-degrading effect.)
3. Assess mobility and technique
Incorrect technique and limited mobility can make plateaus worse. If you’re struggling to progress, first take a look at your form. If you aren’t performing exercises correctly you may be increasing your injury risk, as well as limiting your body’s potential to build muscle. You may find it beneficial to have a friend film your workout session; you can use the video to check you’re performing each exercise correctly.
Limited mobility is more difficult to take care of. If you feel your muscles and joints aren’t flexible enough, you may benefit from hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions. They will identify areas where mobility needs improvement. There are also many online videos to help you address mobility problems. Patience is key – you may need to work on an area for two or more weeks to see an improvement.
4. Are you doing too much cardio?
Getting the right balance of cardio in your regimen is important. A certain amount of cardio is good. It causes increased insulin sensitivity, which means you’ll find it easier to lose fat. It helps you to increase muscle mass by improving your body’s ability to use nutrients for building muscle. However, too much is problematic. It contributes to over-training and uses calories needed to build muscle. If you’re struggling with a plateau, cut back cardio to two 30-minute sessions per week. If you’re finding it particularly hard to build muscle, cut cardio out altogether for two weeks.
5. Try Rest-Pause Training
If you’ve tried everything else and your workouts are still stuck, it’s worth giving rest-pause training for two weeks. This is a popular method of overcoming plateaus in the power lifting world. Rest-pause training involves performing each exercise as you usually would until you can’t complete an extra rep. Take a short break of10-15 seconds then repeat. A study conducted by the University of Western Sydney showed this method of training to be helpful in breaking through plateaus, as more muscle fibers are recruited to lift the weight, inducing a muscle-building response.
When you first start your bodybuilding program, you’ll quickly notice gains in size and strength. However, once your body has adapted to the stress you’re putting on it, you’ll have to work much harder to see the same gains A plateau is inevitable at some point, no matter how well-designed your training regimen is.
It is very frustrating when you feel like all your hard work in the gym, and the careful attention you pay to your nutrition aren’t having an effect. The keys to moving past plateaus are keeping a positive attitude and having patience. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can gently assist your body to begin the muscle building process and start seeing improvements in muscle size and strength once more.