We’ve all experienced it at one time or another…
Our training programs are running smoothly, and with each week that passes we’re successfully adding more weight to the bar, more pounds to the scale and more muscle size and thickness to our bodies.
Then, all of a sudden and without warning, those gains come to a screeching halt and our muscle building and strength gaining progress is stopped dead in its tracks.
In the bodybuilding world, this is referred to as a “plateau”.
The very idea of this would send shivers up the spine of any serious trainee, as this plateau essentially means that despite our best efforts in the gym and in the kitchen, no additional progress can be made.
What does a typical lifter do in response to this?
They immediately begin haphazardly switching up their training routine in an effort to “shock” their muscles into new growth... They change their exercises and rep ranges... And they implement new “advanced techniques” such as forced reps, negatives and static holds in an effort to break through the plateau into new levels of growth.
While exercise variety can sometimes be a reasonable option here, these plateaus exist as a result of far more fundamental reasons. They usually have nothing to do with the repeated use of the same workout.
In the majority of cases, training plateaus are simply the result of overtraining.
All we have to do is review some basic physiology in order to see why this is the case…
When we train intensely in the gym, we are damaging our muscles. Each set that we perform digs a “hole” into the body’s recovery ability. When we leave the gym, the body then uses rest and nutrients in order to rebuild the damaged muscle and to fill up this hole.
Once the muscles have been remodeled back to their previous state, the body will then compensate by building additional muscle mass as an adaptive response to the stress.
So far, so good, right?
Here’s the critical factor that you need to keep in mind…
As you become stronger and add more and more weight to the bar on your exercises, the overall stress and resulting “hole” that is dug into the body’s recovery ability continually increases.
The advanced lifter who is bench pressing 300 pounds for 6 reps is placing his muscles and body under far more overall stress than the beginner who is benching 125 pounds.
What does this have to do with plateaus?
If you are consistently adding more weight to the bar and pushing your body to higher and higher levels of stress each week, you MUST compensate for the increase in stress by reducing your training volume and frequency.
If the stress from each individual set is constantly on the upward climb yet you are still performing the same number of sets and training days, your body will inevitably be pushed beyond its ability to properly recover in between workouts.
Improper recovery means that the muscle is not given an adequate amount of time to remodel and to increase its size and strength further.
This is why your gains slow down and eventually stop; it’s because every time your body is about to compensate by increasing the size and strength of the muscles, you interrupt the process by placing them under more stress and digging a new hole into recovery.
If the hole never gets filled, you never progress forward, and you keep yourself on the plateau.
How crystal clear and obvious is that?
As you become more advanced, you must train less often and with fewer sets!
Training intensity and volume are DIRECTLY related, and are part of a balanced equation that determines your progress. As one variable increases, the other MUST decrease.
So to all of you out there who are “stuck” on this weight training plateau…
Regulate your volume and frequency!
Decrease the number of sets that you perform for each muscle group slightly, and consider
inserting an additional rest day in between workouts.
If by doing this you begin coming back to the gym stronger than you were before, you'll know for sure that you were previously overtraining.
A slight reduction in volume and frequency is usually all that is needed in order to make steady, uninterrupted progress in muscle size and strength.
Instead of panicking and reaching for the latest Muscle Mag for a new "ground breaking" routine, simply understand that the body has a finite amount of recovery ability and that as you grow stronger, you use up more of it on each individual set.
Reduce the volume slightly, consider inserting an additional rest day, and that is most likely all you’ll need to blast yourself through the plateau and into a new phase of growth
If you want to "build your foundation" in the fastest and most efficient manner possible, make sure to visit www.MuscleGainTruth.com. You can gain instant access to my renowned "Muscle Gain Truth No-Fail System" and get all the tools you need to start building your dream body in record speed.
About the Author:
Once an awkward, pencil-necked "social reject", Sean Nalewanyj is now a renowned natural bodybuilding and fat loss expert, best-selling fitness author, and creator of the wildly popular online muscle building program, "The Muscle Gain Truth No-Fail System". Learn how to build muscle and gain weight in just 24 minutes a day by visiting: www.MuscleGainTruth.com.
Sean is also the owner and operator of the web's premier muscle building and fat loss support community, currently accepting new members at www.SchoolOfMuscle.com.
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