So you’ve been working out for a couple months now and initially everything was going great. You were losing weight, and starting to feel healthy, but the progress has slowed and you’re beginning to feel discouraged. We call this slowing or halt of progress a plateau.
First off, take a deep breath and realize that the progress you’ve already made isn’t for nothing. If you have made some progress then take a minute to congratulate yourself and be happy at the steps you’ve made. Maybe you made going to the gym a habit, maybe you started focusing on your diet, or maybe you started playing a new sport. Whatever you’ve been doing, be proud of it! Now, let’s talk about a couple possibilities for why your progress has slowed and what you can do to move past this plateau.
Reasons Why You May Have Reached a Plateau
You’re Experiencing Higher Levels of Stress
When we experience stress our body increases our level of cortisol which makes it increasingly tough to lose weight. Many people associate cortisol as the stress hormone, due to it being released into our body whenever we experience any type of stress or hardship. However, cortisol does much more than just affect us when we’re stressed. Most of the cells in our bodies have cortisol receptors meaning almost all of our cells can be affected by this hormone. So why do I care? – You may be asking. Well in english, that means that cortisol has the ability to effect everything from blood pressure, to blood sugar, to memory, to inflammation, and you guessed it… even weight gain.
You’re Not Resting Enough/Resting Too Much
When we workout or do a training session it’s important to capitalize on our bodies ability to adapt. If we train too often with insufficient rest, we may begin to overtrain. This can lead us to suffer injuries or mental anguish which is the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish when we workout! On the other side of the spectrum, if you go too long between training sessions you may suffer from undertraining leading to diminished results, or lack of results all together.
There’s three types of training cycles that are important to understand:
Optimal – optimal recovery means that you are allowing your body proper time to recover and then doing an additional training session before we begin to revert back to our previous fitness level.
Overtraining – This occurs when we have done an additional training session before we have given our body sufficient rest to adapt to our previous training session. Although you may be able to sustain this in the short term, in the long term you’re putting yourself at a significant risk for some type of injury.
Undertraining – This occurs when we simply do not train often enough. In this type of training, it means we have completed a training session but don’t train again until our body has already lost the positive adaptations from the previous session. This can be prevented by trying to workout at least 2-4 times per week.
Your Body Has Adapted To Your Current Training
If you’ve been doing the same workouts, with the same number of reps, with the same amount of weight for a couple weeks/months now, and you’re beginning to realize that you’re not progressing as you would like, there is a good chance that your body has gotten used to your current training methods. This is a fairly common problem and one that can be overcome with proper planning. There’s a couple different ways you can overcome this challenge.
The first way of overcoming this problem is to change things up. No one likes to be doing the same thing for months on end, so consider changing up the exercises in your workout. If you’ve been doing bench press on the flat bench, consider doing incline bench press instead. If you’ve been doing bicep curls for a while, try doing hammer curls. These are small suggestions that shouldn’t alter your workout too much but are things that can result in using completely different parts of your muscles as well as recruit different muscles that you may have been neglecting. Also considering which exercises you’re doing fairly often as well. You want to give yourself enough time to be able to advance your performance doing the exercise, but not so much time that you’re no longer improving on it.
Another thing you can do is to change your rep range, if you’ve been doing all your exercises for 10 reps, try upping the weight and decreasing the reps to 6-8 for a little while. This method will help stimulate strength gains rather then hypertrophy (growth of muscles), and you may find that when you go back to your higher rep range that you’re able to do more weight.
You’re Doing The Wrong Things
During the first couple weeks you started working out, you may have realized that no matter what you did, you were constantly improving. This is due to the fact that when people first start exercising, a majority of the improvements are due to our brain learning how to better utilize our muscles. This is followed up by body adaptations that can be stimulated by simply going to the gym and exercising (with or without a plan). However, this doesn’t last forever, and eventually it’s going to be essential that you get yourself a plan to follow while at the gym. Eventually your body adapts to what you’re doing and needs to be doing the proper exercises at the proper weight, and rep range, in order to continue progressing. You simply cannot do that when you’re doing random exercises, at random weights, with no way of tracking progress.
If you believe you’ve reached a plateau and are not sure how to overcome it, try getting a trainer! Hiring a trainer is a great way of overcoming a plateau when working with a qualified, experienced trainer, they can provide you with many things that you may need. Maybe you haven’t been able to workout enough and are simply looking for someone to keep you accountable, or maybe you need someone to create a custom plan for you, whatever it is you’re looking for, hiring a trainer can bring your workout to the next level!
Written by Owner & Head Trainer Andrew Blakey
For more information regarding getting past plateaus, feel free to send us a message on our facebook or instagram page @Yourfuturefitnesstraining. We hope this article has given you some useful information in order to continue your journey with greater results.