Jul 17 2014

The Biggest Plateau Busters in the Gym

So, what causes a plateau in the first place? Let me give you an example; I’m getting ready for a National level figure competition which is taking place in October this year. I’ve got about 8kg to lose before I hit the stage. Now, if I were to drop my…

So, what causes a plateau in the first place? Let me give you an example; I’m getting ready for a National level figure competition which is taking place in October this year. I’ve got about 8kg to lose before I hit the stage. Now, if I were to drop my calories too quickly, I might lose weight quickly for a week or two, but this will very quickly come to a screaming halt. Why? Because a sudden and massive calorie drop is too much of a shock to my body, and it will sooner or later try to hold on to the fuel (or fat) it has. Or, even if I tried a more structured approach with a smaller calorie drop, there will reach a point where I simply cannot lose fat off the calories I am consuming.

Neural_vs_muscle

A caveat  – there is a BIG difference in losing weight (which can come from water weight, muscle and fat) to losing fat. Of course we all want to lose fat, but NOT at the expense of losing our muscle. This is a big mistake.

Change Up Your Weights

Start lifting heavy. Been stuck on lifting 3 sets of 10 of every exercise you do in the gym? You’re not forcing your muscle to grow, to adapt to the demands, because there are no demands great enough as far as your body is concerned! Strong people hold a lot of muscle, and muscle burns calories. So stop picking weights you can press all day, work on your strength instead. Make the squat, deadlift, pull-up and bench the basis of every workout, and try exercises with 5 sets of 5 reps. Give yourself longer rests (3 minutes between sets at least) and go all out.

Change Up Your Food

Don’t cut your calories – yet. Different people and body types respond to different macronutrient ratios – that’s the balance between proteins, carbs and fats in your diet. Are you eating a diet that’s high in fat, but low in carbohydrate? Then try flipping it around for a few weeks and monitor your progress, up the wholegrain carbs like brown rice and reduce the oils and fattier meats. If you are short and stocky, as a general rule you will respond better to a diet higher in fat and lower in carb. If you are very tall and tend to carry most of your weight around your middle, high carb is often the way to go, but you have to experiment and find out what works for you. If this doesn’t help, then you can think about reducing your calories but as a guideline, never drop more than 250 kcal in one hit.

Don’t Change Your Exercises

This probably goes against everything any exercise professional has ever told you  – you must change your workouts to keep your body ‘guessing’. Guessing what exactly?! Keep your exercises the same and focus on lifting more weight. Why? Because the first few weeks on a program, your body is adapting neurologically. No physical muscle adaption/ muscle building is taking place during this time. It’s only after this neurological adaption has taken place that your body has exhausted all other avenues to help you deal with the demands of the weights, and only then will you start to build muscle. Most people change their programs just when they should be keeping them and going for that muscle building element.

It comes down to this – our bodies do not like surprises. Do things slowly, steadily, gradually and you are unlikely to ever hit a plateau in the first place. Drastic changes make for short term results that are very difficult to get moving again, so stay patient, work hard for your gains and the results will come!

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Salman