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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pushing Past Plateaus - By Fred Fornicola

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on September 17, 1999

If you are a novice lifter, you are probably making progress by leaps and bounds, but if you are an experienced lifter, you undoubtedly encounter sticking points throughout your training. If you are progressing every workout, whether it is an extra rep or an additional pound thrown on the bar, then keep up the good work and keep doing whatever your doing, but if you find yourself "stuck" on some exercises, than something needs to be done.

*First, take an honest assessment of the situation. Have you had several workouts without any progress in ANY exercise or was it just one workout that you didn't make any progress? If it's just 1 or 2 workouts, give it some more time. Progress comes to those who are persistent. Review your training log. So many times people feel that they've hit a sticking point in their training and they people fail to realize that progress in one exercise may hinder the performance in another. If you add an extra rep or two to a set of chins, for instance and you follow it up with a set on the pullover machine, you most likely won't get as many reps as you did your previous workout because of the improvement on the chins. If you do get the same amount of reps, you're progressing on two exercises so don't think that improvement has to always be on every exercise (although that is what you are striving for), the improvement on the chins will definitely trickle down to the pullovers because your back is getting stronger. So review your log, make sure that what you consider to be a problem may very well be progress in the making and any changes WILL result in a plateau.

*Second, have you been eating and resting properly? Not consuming enough good food and getting the proper recuperation will no doubt hinder your progress. Also, take into consideration if there are any outside interferences that may be affecting your training (family, work etc) if so, realize that this will affect your progress so try to resolve the issues at hand and keep plugging away in the gym.

*Third, make sure that when you are in the gym, you are focusing on one thing and one thing only, working out. If your head is up your ass when you enter the gym, you're already defeated, mental preparation is equally important to being physically prepared.

* Fourth, re-evaluate your training. Maybe it's time to make some minor adjustments to your program. I'm not talking about anything radical here; you don't want to revamp your whole program because you're stalled on an exercise or two. Maybe it's time to drop that exercises for a while and do one that simulates it. For example, if you can't budge on the leg press, switch to the Tru-Squat or regular squat, but whatever you choose, stay with it for a while. Any time you do a new exercise, there is a muscular learning curve, (some people even feel that you can't apply enough intensity the first workout or two until the exercise is learned) so use the new exercise for a few workouts before going back to the old one. A few other options would be for you to change up the rep scheme to help break through the plateau you've hit or possibly the order in which you do it.

* Fifth, the one everyone hates to do. REST! Yes I know, the one thing that you don't want to do, but may be a must to facilitate the progress you are after. Training to failure 2x a week and doing cardio 3x a week in your THR can take its toll on you after a while and a scheduled layoff may be the boost your body and mind needs. I'm not talking about anything really long here either; just taking off 1 or 2 consecutive workouts off could do the trick.

The most important thing to do if you hit a sticking point in your training is to be intelligent about it. Take the time to evaluate what's going on and DON'T make radical changes. The saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is definitely applicable to weight training. Training hard has gotten you where you are today so don't abandon ship, keep pushing on and make subtle changes to your training regimen and your progress will continue on as planned.


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