The greatest highs I’ve ever experienced come from when I am going through periods of incredible weightlifting gains. During these times, it’s like I can look in the mirror after every workout, and realize that I’m going to pack on pounds of thick, dense muscle within weeks. I feel unstoppable when undergoing these stretches of unbelievable muscle growth, and begin contemplating dreams of stepping onto the Mr. Olympia stage someday.
But as is with life, every high is always followed by a low. And in the case of my muscle gains, the lows come in the form of weightlifting workout plateaus. When I’m in the midst of a workout plateau, it seems as if I am beating my head against the wall, and lifting weights is a waste of time. In some cases, it feels like I’m taking a step back while bodybuilding. Obviously, this is a horrible feeling to me – or any bodybuilder – and it is one that I’d like to avoid feeling altogether. Fortunately, I’ve found ways over the years to minimize my workout plateaus, and continue on to incredible muscle growth. And I definitely want to share my methods for overcoming training and weightlifting plateaus later.
Finding when I cut the amount of sets and exercises back, and focused more on the basics while going heavy with lower reps, I seemed to put on some extra thickness. I also combined this with adding some extra calories in my diet. It helped me to actually grow though PCT.
This method of cutting sets while concentrating on form and increased weight is certainly one good way to switch things up, and rip through a lifting peak. Ease off the heavy lifting and lighten it up to keep slow form under control. Concentrate on really squeezing the muscle.
For those who are primarily concerned with weightlifting. When I’m stuck at a certain weight with something (let’s say bench for example), I’ll go to dumbbells for about 1 month, and not touch a barbell for any press. I get way stronger with dumbbells. Then, when I go back to barbell exercises like bench, I’m usually a little weaker at first. But I’ll get my strength back in about 2-3 weeks, and than I’ll break my record shortly after that. So pretty much, switch it up.
If all else fails, you can always go with the advice for blowing past a lifting peak is simple: Eat and lift till you feel like puking! Here are some methods I use for breaking through plateaus that don’t involve puking.
Change Lifting Techniques
While getting back to the basics and concentrating on form can certainly be one good way to get back on track, I like to go the opposite ways sometimes in changing my lifting technique. Now I’m not advising that you do anything crazy like attempting to do bench presses with boxing gloves on, but a few changes here or there can be very beneficial.
For instance, if you were doing military presses, you could pause halfway in the repetition for a second, and then continue with the motion. Likewise, if you were doing lunges, you could pause on the way back up, and hold it there for a second. You can get pretty creative when changing your techniques, but just make sure to be safe when doing so.
Switch the Time or Days when you Work Out
Keeping on a strict training schedule is definitely a good way to keep you in the gym day after day. However, this may not be the best idea when you’re struggling to make gains. So changing the time and/or days when you work out can have a revitalizing effect on your bodybuilding.
If you go to the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, try switching to a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday schedule. Also, if you work out in the daytime, consider doing your workouts in the evenings.
Change Volume and/or Weight
One great way to overcome a plateau is by change your volume and/or weight. Some people just don’t gain as much muscle masswith high volume workouts because they’re over training. So an excellent solution to this problem is to drop the amount of sets and/or reps you’re performing while increasing the weight.
For example, if you’re doing 4 sets of 12 reps on each exercise, you would cut back to 3 sets of 8 reps while increasing the weight. On the other hand, if you’ve plateaued on 3 sets of 6 reps, you would increase the volume and lighten the weight to get a breakthrough.
Manipulate your Diet
Another thing I like to do when working past a training plateau is change my diet up. One key to remember with this is that your protein intake should remain the same (mine is normally around 1.5 grams per pound) while carbs and fat can be manipulated.
For an example, let’s say I was coming off a period where I was trying to lose fat by cutting down on my fat and carbs intake. Since I would be stuck at a plateau, I’d increase my carbs by 25% and my fat intake by 5%. By doing this, I would be giving myself the extra carbohydrates I needed to build more muscle, and experience a breakthrough.
Since no two people are alike, genetics in bodybuilders differ greatly! Some bodybuilders may be able to lift and train for years before ever hitting a peak, while others might hit their plateau after two or three years of training hard. But the important thing to remember is that you can eventually overcome any plateau provided you make changes and are patient with future results. As long as you don’t ever let a plateau defeat you mentally, you’ll always find a way to experience gains physically!