As a trainer I am often confronted with frustrated gym goers who feel they have hit a plateau and are not getting the progress they are after. I hope to share my own thoughts and opinions on this to help you smash through your plateau and take your training to new levels! This blog post is specifically looking at bodybuilding/gaining size (I’ll do one for weightloss/fatloss soon!).
There are many reasons why you may feel as though you are struggling to progress…
#1 You’re just ticking the box
This is extremely common. If you want to progress you need to push yourself, pick up heavier weights, do more reps, up the intensity. Going to the gym to lift a weight for 3 sets of 8 of the same weight with the same rest just will not cut it. If you are training to put on size and lean muscle you want to perform 5-10 maximal reps per set. Maximal is the important word here. When training for lean muscle make sure to pick a weight that challenges you and makes you need to rest before the next set. A good way to check if the weight is right for you is to make sure that you do not feel that you can do +2 reps of your rep range. I.E. if you are aiming to perform 8 reps, by the 8th rep you should not feel confident that you could perform another 2 reps without a rest.
If you feel that you can do the extra 2 reps then discount that set as a ‘warm up’ and pick a heavier weight – don’t cheat yourself!
#2 You’re training in your comfort zone
Another common reason for slow progress is that your body has become used to and adapted to your training. You need to switch things up, hit new muscles and different angles to really challenge your body and re-start the growth! This can be done by changing your split for a few weeks, adding in some new supersets/trisets or exercises. If you are aiming to gain size then you need to give your muscles sufficient rest so make sure you structure your sessions to allow this. If, for example, you are training chest and biceps and you perform 3 chest exercises in a row (Bench press 4×6, Incline Dumbbell Press 3×8, Pec-Dec 3×8) – is your chest muscle getting enough rest? Can they perform and lift heavy weights for each exercise? Probably not.
I would recommend the following split:
Day 1: Chest and Back
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Biceps and Triceps
Day 5: Shoulders and Abs
Day 6: Rest/Cardio
Day 7: Rest/Cardio
Make sure to alternate exercises during a training session as well. For example, perform a chest exercise then a back exercise before going back to chest (eg. Bench Press 4×6, Bent Over Row 4×6, Incline Dumbbell Press 3×8, Seated Row 3×8). By doing this your chest (or muscle 1) will have lots of recovery and be able to lift heavier for exercise number 2 – meaning more tears and more growth!
#3 Your Diet
As much as you may try and fight it, diet is key to progress. If you’re not fuelling yourself correctly for your sessions then you will not be able to train at a high enough intensity. Poor diet can also hinder muscle growth and increase your recovery time. Make sure to check out our other blogs to see how to get the most out of your training by making some small tweaks to your diet!
What are your own thoughts/ideas for when you or a client hits a plateau? Feel free to share below and help each other out!