By The Viking
In exercise terms, a plateau is a sticking point. A point at which, despite all your efforts, you just aren’t getting the results you wanted. Plateaus occurs in all types of training and with all types of goals. Whether you’re trying to gain muscle, loose fat, increase your aerobic or anaerobic capacity or simply trying to get better at whatever it is you like to do, chances are if you train long enough, you’ll hit a plateau. Why plateaus happen vary from person to person. Regardless of when and how it affects you, the solution is usually relatively simple so don’t get scared. Here are some points and tips to consider when breaking through those plateaus.
#1: REST, RELAX AND RECOVER
If you’re experiencing a plateau it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to increase the amount of time you spend at the gym. On the contrary, it probably means the exact opposite. Your body doesn’t get stronger, faster or leaner in the gym. All of the benefits of exercise happen when the body is at rest. If you give it the time it takes to repair and replenish itself, chances are you’ll see much better results for your efforts.
Take a close look at exactly how much exercise you get on a daily and weekly basis. If you’re spending more than 5-7 hours a week working out at a fairly vigorous pace, the plateau may be a cry for rest from your body. Try taking an extra day or two of rest during the week and see what happens.
#2: KEEP YOUR BODY GUESSING
The body is an amazing machine. It adapts to physical stresses very quickly and gets stronger as a result. It’s constantly learning. It also doesn’t want to work harder than it has to. If you’re doing the same exercises with the same weights in the same manner for more than a few weeks, you’re body has probably already figured out the game and is doing what it can to conserve its out. That’s when a plateau sets in.
By keeping the body guessing, you can maximize the effectiveness of your training. Try the following changes in your routine:
- change up the exercises
- increase the weight you use
- switch the order of what you do
- alter the frequency (days per week)
- change the time of day you work out
By following simple suggestions such as these, you constantly give your body new physical stresses to deal with. If it doesn’t know what’s coming, it can’t take the easy way out.
#3 INCREASE YOUR MEALS BUT NOT YOUR CALORIES
Diet plays an enormous role when it comes to heath and fitness. Your dietary habits can mean the difference between seeing the results you want and simply wasting your efforts. In addition to making good dietary choices, which are detailed elsewhere on the Hybrid Fitness site, consider increasing the number of times per day that you eat (without increasing your overall calories). Have you ever eaten a big meal and noticed yourself start to get warm or perhaps even sweat? There is a metabolic response to eating. As you intake calories, your body has to find a way to digest, process and assimilate everything you’ve eaten. Everything your body does, every function it performs takes calories and believe it or not, it takes a lot of calories to chew and process the food you intake. Your metabolic level stays elevated during this process, which may last well over an hour or two depending on what you eat. When the food is digested, the metabolism slows and your body goes back to its pre-digestive state. By eating 6-7 smaller meals per day, you’re able to elevate and sustain your metabolic rate, effectively burning more calories than you would eating “3 square meals” per day.
Here’s a couple simple graphs to help explain. The red line is used to roughly demonstrate the average metabolic rate over a day’s period.
#4 EXERCISE TRIFECTA
Regardless of your goals, be they health, aesthetic, strength, skill or performance, you will benefit most by incorporating the Exercise Trifecta. The trifecta is a combination of aerobic conditioning, resistance training and proper diet. For example, let’s say you’re a runner and your main goal is to increase your full or half marathon time. Most of your time is likely spent logging miles on a treadmill or outside on the pavement. Sooner or later, your body will get used to the same old training day in and day out. Try mixing in solely strength training or anaerobic circuit training of a couple of your training days. Not only will you be throwing your body a necessary curve ball, but you’ll be forced to use different energy pathways to perform the activity. You’ll get stronger as a result, which will likely result in a lower overall distance time. If you’re a body builder and not quite getting the results you want, try looking at your diet. Chances are that small changes in your diet will create a big change in your results. These rules apply for everyone. There is no sport I can think of where strength is a detriment. Don’t ever be afraid to lift weights and don’t ever be afraid to get stronger. It will only benefit you.
Your results are completely in your hands. With all of the information available in this world, you have no excuses. Take these tips apply them to your current routine. Even if you haven’t hit a plateau, chances are you will eventually. It’s best to avoid one then to try and get past one. Either way, it’s never a lost cause. Keep training hard and listen to what the experts have to say.