Dr Susan Baxter
Have You Hit A Plateau?
Updated: Feb 28
Congratulations on your new healthy workout routine! You are knocking your sessions out of the park, and you haven’t missed a beat when it comes to post-workout nutrition. But something isn’t right. All of those awesome benefits you got at the start have kind of slowed down. There are no changes and that is just downright demotivating.
So who forgot to tell your body that you are beasting the weight sessions and to keep chiseling away at your roman-god-esk body?
Have you noticed any of the following?
Being overtaxed in all of your sessions without adequate recovery can mean that
you are overtraining. This (among other physiological issues) can mean that you are a
little snappy with your friends and co-workers.
Or quite simply, you (and your body) might be bored. Your mind is a huge component to
any healthy eating and exercise regime. Why suffer through chewing the same food for
every meal if you hate it? Or mentally sighing before each exercise and expect your
body to be interested in making some gains? Don’t make an extra challenge from
monotony because exercise and nutrition jugging is challenging as it is! Challenging it to
exercise is one mission: why add to the mission by making things monotonous?
2. Inability to sleep or restlessness:
Your brain, mind, physiological and nervous system needs a break. Muscles need time to recuperate: they rebuild when you are out of the gym, not when you are destroying them in the gym. Constantly challenging muscles without allowing them to properly recover will harm your “gains” and progress in the long term. Nutritionally, the body will adapt to what you are always feeding it. Giving it something different will keep your body guessing and can even fend off food intolerances.
3. No longer getting sore after your workouts:
Perhaps your workout is no longer demanding as much from your body as it once did?
Or perhaps you need a deload week because you are no longer recruiting those
muscles in the correct way due to being over trained or fatigued? The overload principle
is responsible for this: basically, your muscles are being over stressed so much that
they cannot be overstressed any longer. They either need to be challenged in a different
way or allowed to recuperate before they will show further change.
4. Always being in a constant state of pain after your workouts:
The body rebuilds when it rests: the time between sessions is where muscle building
occurs. A lot of this happens during sleep (read more about sleep here), or simply when
you are not putting in the hours to grueling workouts. In the general law of adaptation
(from Seyle’s law of adaptation), the body responds to stress by resisting it, it adapts to
reduce the impact and soreness of the workout.
However, in the state of exhaustion, the body or organism starts to “give up” on placing
energy into making these changes. That is what happens when you are constantly
hitting sore muscles. The muscles instead do not rebuild stronger but actually start
getting weaker. Maximize your time by allowing yourself a deload from your session or a
rest day (and see the ideas at the end of this article).
5. Zero further improvements or changes to your ability or physique:
If your lifts are no longer getting heavier; your runs are no longer getting faster or the scales are no longer budging… it is time for a change! If you aren’t changing what you are doing, how can you expect to change? Of course, you need to follow a program in order to know that what you are doing is creating a change (hence why you follow a program and monitor it); but you can’t always do the same thing and expect the results to be different. There is the law of diminishing returns to think about. What that means is that a program will bring about less change over time. It is when those changes become next to nothing that it is time to mix it up.
If you answered yes to any of these questions above, it’s great news in one sense: the body has adapted to the environment you have created for it in terms of nutritional,
workout frequency, duration, intensity and type of exercise. You got fitter and the lack of results now (after a period of results) is called a plateau! Well done. Check this blog to know more about what plateau is!
Now that we know it is called a plateau, what can we do?
You may be familiar with the adage, “if you don’t change anything, nothing changes”
well that is true my friend; you will have to change something. Hitting a plateau might
sound extremely frustrating, does that mean that you will have to do more exercise and
workout for longer and eat less? All of that sounds a little too OTT so read on for our
best tips on changing it up without having to reinvent and become all Albert Einstein in
Some ideas to break through:
Browse YouTube for some free workout programs or motivation
Get out of your comfort zone and go to a class
Enlist a personal trainer for a new program
Change 1 thing in your workout:
a) Rests (reduce your rests or superset exercises by doing one exercise immediately after another)
b) Reps (Try doing more reps with less weight or fewer reps with more weight, or do drop
c) Sets where you keep doing reps until you can no longer complete a rep and then reduce
d) The weight and keep going!
e) Sets (do more of some exercises and less of others)
f) Exercise opposing muscles in the same workout, e.g. chest press with rows for a change
g) Weight (why not add weight or change the object from a DB (dumbbell) to a kettle bell?)
h) Order (start at the last exercise and do your program in reverse)
i) Tempo (add a pause at the bottom of a squat, or pulse halfway through a repetition)
j) Lift for a duration of time, not a number of reps
k) Add an exercise between sets to get the heart rate up, such as skipping or burpees
Deload for one week (do a 40% shorter session or lift only 60% what you usually do)
Nutritionally: rotate your sources of carbohydrates/protein (there are so many more carb sources than sweet potato and more protein sources than chicken).
Sleep the recommended number of hours each night, and have at least 1 rest day a week
Reassess your diet: does it have enough energy to sustain your goals?
Finally: have fun. Life is about balance, and fitness is a marathon and not a sprint. You must be able to keep it up for the long term for a consistency that adds up to
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