When we train we are basically pushing our body to get stronger. The human body is a very efficient machine that adapts to all kinds of stressors and sooner or later the previously hard workouts become a not so hard routine for the it. This means that with time the body becomes accustomed to the stress to which it is exposed and adapts. When adaptation takes place, progress slows down since the stress on the body becomes less significant .
Most people who lift would reach a plateau after several weeks or months of training and their progress would slow down or even stop. I, myself have reached a plateau in my workouts numerous times. When this happens it is important to change something in order to provoke new stimulus for growth and adaptation. Here are some ways that I use in my routine that have proven to work well in keeping up progress and avoiding plateaus.
Change repetitions – if I’m training heavy on certain exercises and my progress slows down, I would immediately increase the number of repetitions. For example if I am doing bench press for 5-6 reps several weeks in a row my progress stops and I do not get any strength gain or muscle growth from it anymore. In my next workout I would increase the repetition to 12-15 and I get a super good pump plus several days of soreness. I realize I have made small gains from it. Repetitions are proven by science to be the first thing to which the muscle adapts, so you need to change them often.
Change Exercises – Every several months it is good to change basic exercises (squats for front squats, bench press for incline bench, deadlift for pull ups). Every several weeks it is a good idea to change secondary isolation exercises as well. This keeps the body guessing and different exercises work the muscles from different angles.
Increase Calories – Most people do not gain enough muscle simply because they don’t eat enough. If you have reached a plateau in muscle gaining and there seems to be no progress no matter what you do – then you should definitely increase your calories by 10-20%. This should take you out of the no-progress zone and put you back in “beast bulking mode”.
Rest – Some people are chronically overtrained and their nervous system is burned out. When you train very hard and have no rest, change exercises, change repetitions, increase calories and still have no progress – that means your nervous and endocrine system are most likely tired and the production of hormones is impaired. You need rest. Several days of good rest accompanied with good food should recharge your body and take you out from the plateau.
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