Your body is so powerful that it has the ability to adapt with your workout routine. However, there are cases in which your body burns out, and progression is stagnated due to numerous reasons.
It’s normal for individuals who are novices in training to experience an accelerated speed of strength, hypertrophy, and the ability to handle the brand new intensity. More advanced lifters tend to experience a slower pace of muscle and strength development. The mind and body work together synergistically, if you allow it, which can be a powerful tool.
Keep in mind that your brain is a machine, the most indestructible computer on the planet. It’s important to realize the boredom your mind encounters when it pertains to weight lifting. It feeds off of newness, challenges, and getting out of your comfort zone. The more you feed it, the bigger and stronger it will get. Sounds familiar? Let’s dive in and get you strong again.
1. Using Your FEARLESS MIND
Yes, this isn’t something you probably have read before about plateaus. Many people make the assumption of sufficient sleep, nutrition, and staying consistent will help break your plateaus. Those make a huge difference, and we will go deeper into each of those, on the contrary, your mind is the asset that you need to train in order to conquer any challenges coming your way. Whether it is plateaus, life, relationships, school, business, etc.
Your most powerful asset is your mind. Investing in this belief will take you to higher levels and farther distances. It is the answer to all of your problems. This attitude will be a common theme on this blog. It changed my life, and I know it will change yours. It is truly an underrated discussion.
When you’re attempting a personal record, you either think or know you’re going to accomplish that extra rep or increase the weight in order to execute accordingly to your goal. Your mind will try to take control either way, and in many cases, it’s going to work against you.
For example, you’re aiming for a 5th rep on incline bench press, and as soon as you start the 4th rep, your mind instantaneously puts an overload of doubt into your head because it knows what’s next. It wants you to lose, that’s why it is between happiness and misery on whether you decide to control your mind or not. It’s more than just fitness we’re talking about. Moreover, training your mind in the gym will transition to your personal/professional life too.
Invest in a new way of thinking. People never really give 100 percent in everything they do. Business, commitments, or relationships. The problem is people fear failure.
You thought you hit a plateau, but maybe you want to look at your mental focus and clarity during your workout. Pay attention to the self-doubt your mind is making you feel. Fear and doubt is a choice. Deciding to give absolutely 100 percent of your energy, mind, and strength towards overcoming your plateau might be your answer. Take action on that by saying “FRLS MND” right before you begin pushing those 100lbs dumbbells or hitting 300lbs squats for 4 reps.
In the article by Graf, Science-Backed Ways to Push Through Workout Fatigue, he brain then responds, adjusting muscle contraction demands accordingly, says Markus Amann, Ph.D., a professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah. "If we can train our brain to respond to muscle signals in a certain way, we can actually push harder and for longer," Amann says.
"Tell yourself powerfully positive statements, like, "You will definitely make it up this hill," Marcora says. Next, make your brain associate exercise with something that feels good. (The "fake it till you make it" approach totally applies; positive thinking really does work). "The muscles that contract to make a frown are actually a reflection of how hard your body feels it's working," he says. "Try to smile during tough stretches of your workout so that the muscles that trigger thoughts of exhaustion are less active." Just as with your muscles, when you lighten your mental load, you can go longer and stronger.
This controls any negative or doubtful thoughts you have in yourself. You can overcome your plateau by really channeling your mind, and letting it know who calls the shots around here. You need to focus and use your mind and body to not only overcome your plateau, but life’s battles. Don’t succumb to the thoughts of your mind.
As a result, you will move farther and farther away from reaching your dreams and aspirations in life. Don’t let your mind trick you! The choices you make will shape your future and willpower.
2. Switching your exercises
Rotating your exercises is the second most effective way to break your plateaus. Remember, you are extremely smart. No future technology will ever have the same unstoppable processor as your brain. It adapts to a specific exercise, which is why you need to switch your exercises after a 6-12 week range.
Examples of exercise rotation:
- Incline Bench Press to Incline Dumbbell Press
- Chins Ups to Pull Ups
- Squats to Bulgarian Split Squats
- Hanging Leg Raises to Side-to-Side Knee Ups
- Lateral Raises to Dumbbell Upright Rows, etc.
Keep updating your routines, and never stop challenging your body and mind. Both feed off of that positive resistance, and overcoming new challenges. You will notice a dramatic increase in strength and endurance when you return to an exercise after you reached a plateau.
3. Sufficient Physical and Mental Rest
Minimalist training is the way to go, however, everyone has their own unique way in fitness. Some train 5-7 days a week, and others train 3-4 days a week. Despite your training habits, obtaining a proper amount of sleep and rest for proper neural and muscle recovery is more important than the training itself.
If you’re not resting, you won’t grow. Many people take what is known as a “Deload” Week, in which they take 1-2 weeks off from the gym in order to recuperate so they can get back in the gym fresh and ready to dominate. Before I adopted a minimalist training style (3 Day Split), I found deloading to be very effective on my body and mind. I suggest taking a week off from the gym to give your body what it needs.
Many people are afraid they will lose all their progress that they worked months and years to achieve, but this is simply a myth. If you take a break from the gym for a week or two, you will not lose muscle mass or strength. According to Ross-Hazel, “Athletes can start to lose their muscle strength in about three weeks if they’re not working out, according to a 2013 study. Athletes typically lose less overall muscle strength during a break than nonathletes. In general, you can take up to three or four weeks off without seeing a noticeable drop in your strength performance.”
Again, looking at the bigger picture is essential in fitness. Would you rather take a week or two off and not lose muscle or result in an injury that will leave you out of the gym for months? Pay yourself first with a peace of mind and sufficient rest.
In addition, putting your body under constant stress with little to no recovery will make you hit multiple plateaus for a number of exercises. Overtraining can do more harm than good. Just because you hit the gym more doesn’t equate to bigger and stronger muscles.
I highly recommend 6-8 hours of sleep every night, and you can throw in a 20-30 minute power nap each day or at least 3 days a week to recharge your willpower to keep your priorities in check and mind laser focused.
Make sure your mind gets rest as well. Unfortunately, just because we sleep at night, doesn’t necessarily mean we are completely resting. Our minds tend to stay awake at night if we don’t take the proper protocols to make sure it rests along with our bodies. When you wake up and you still feel tired, one the key reasons is the fact your mind stays awake, especially when you’re stressed, have lingering thoughts about your exam, family, and the rest of the stressors in life.
- Make sure your body temperature is nice and cool. Wear less clothes and take a cold shower before you head to bed.
- Reduce screen time. Invest in blue blocking light glasses. Blue Blocking Light Glasses are a great tool to help fight off blue light that is stealing you from a good sleep. It stops the production of what is known as Melatonin, the hormone that functions in better sleep. Another way is setting a screen limit on your phone. You can set a maximum duration of screen time for social media. Your feed can wait until tomorrow. It’s not going anywhere. Prioritize your sleep and health, not Kylie Jenner’s new post.
- Eat Carbs before bed. Approximately 3-4 hours before you sleep, indulge in some carbohydrates for a better night sleep. Eating carbs before bed will help raise blood sugar, and boost tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals involved in sleep (Hitti, 2007).
4. Track and Increase Your Calories
Are you consuming enough protein, carbs, and fats? These macronutrients are essential in building a strong, dense, and plateau breaking physique. Of course, proper nutrition will aid in the process of growth and development so you can have the energy to crush your workouts. However, you need to ensure that you are tracking your calories to build solid, lean muscle.
I use MyFitnessPal to track my calories. With their barcode feature, it’s super easy to scan and trust that you are dialing in on the right products with the supported nutrition facts. Generally, I aim to eat 40% of carbs, 30% of protein, and 30% of fat of my total calorie intake. Moreover, your total calories can be achieved by multiplying your current body weight by 12 – 16, of losing weight is your goal, the former is ideal and if you’re trying to gain weight, the latter is more suitable.
When you hit a plateau, try to increase your consumption by 300 calories. Your current body weight might not be able to support the weight you are trying to lift, especially if you’re aiming for a personal record. To minimize fat gain, make sure you are only increasing calories on your workout days.
In addition, carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, therefore, make sure to include a decent amount in your diet. Rice, pasta, bread, and basically anything that fits in your calorie window. For protein, 0.8 per pound of body weight is the goal. Correspondingly, chicken, steak, eggs, cheese, or yogurt are great protein sources.
5. Taking Creatine
If there is any supplement out there that is backed by scientific evidence of actually making an impact on strength and muscle mass, it’s Creatine. When you first start taking creatine, it takes time for your body to adjust, therefore, take 10g of creatine everyday for a week. After, 5g of creatine everyday should suffice.
Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine is for sure one of the best choices in the supplement market. It’s cheap, effective, and the only thing that is a negative is the taste. You’ll get used to it, plus when plateaus become a thing of the past, you won’t really care about the taste.
This will help break your plateaus.
We'd love to hear your thoughts about our to breakthrough strength lifting plateaus, especially our #1 tip: becoming laser focused and using 100% of your mind to fight through.
Please leave a comment below!
Ross-Hazel, Lindsay. Exercise Break: How Long Does It Take To Lose Muscle Mass. Healthline. 1 November 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-lose-muscle-mass
Ayres, Andrea. How to Put Your Mind to Sleep. BeYourself. 14 February 2014. https://byrslf.co/how-to-put-your-mind-to-sleep-79f3495c80b7
Hitti, Miranda. Carbs May Help You Fall Asleep Faster. WebMD. 14 February 2007. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20070214/carbs-may-help-you-fall-asleep-faster