Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to Overcome the Weight Lifting Plateau

The weight lifting "plateau" is among the most frustrating obstacles almost every weight lifter will encounter at one point or another. Sometimes, just putting your time, sweat and tears into your old gym routine isn't enough. If you're not mixing up your regular gym routine, your progress is bound to slow and you'll reach the dreaded plateau. Not to worry though - proactively changing your routine will beat the plateau before it even starts.
Plan to Mix it Up
There are countless ways to plan on changing your routine, but I'll list a few here to steer you in the right direction. Feel free to experiment with these and make adjustments as you feel necessary.
  • Have 12 different weight lifting routines, one for each month.
  • Set aside 1 week each month to do something different. Return to your regular routine for the next 3 weeks, and then do something different again for that 1 week.
  • Alternate between 2 different routines every 2 weeks.

How to Adjust your Routine
Again, these are just some suggestions and some may work better for you than others, but they should get you thinking.
  • Adjust your sets to reps ratio. If you're currently doing 3 sets of 12 reps for each exercise, switch it up and try 4 sets of 9. This simple adjustment is easy to make because you'll be using the same equipment at the same weight, but it can have a huge impact on your muscle building efforts.
  • Slow it down. Drop the weight a few notches and do the lifts extra slowly. As you start the lift, do a slow count to three (remember to breathe out). Then, when you're coming back down, do the same slow count to three. This forces your muscle fibers to work in ways they're not used to, which is important.
  • Do supersets. A superset is when you do two (or more) exercises in a row without stopping. They can work two different muscle groups or the same one - it's up to you. Be prepared to feel your heart rate jump during these!
  • Get back to basics. Weight lifters are frequently tempted to forget their good old staple exercises as they get stronger. However, the push-up, chin-up, and squat are still some of the most effective exercises you can do to get stronger and build muscle.
  • Change the weight. Obviously it will be difficult to increase the weight if you're experiencing a plateau, but this is another great way to mix up your routine before you hit that point. You can try increasing the weight and decreasing the number of reps for a set or even decreasing the weight and increasing the number of reps/sets. You can also try starting at a low weight and increasing the weight at the end of each set or you can try the opposite and start with a high weight and decrease the weight after each set.

This clearly isn't an exhaustive list of everything you can try to mix it up, but these are some good strategies that will confuse your muscles into getting bigger and stronger.