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Tuesday December 12, 2017

The Dreaded Plateau


Written by Kerry Dulin

Adaptation - Avoiding the Dreaded Bodybuilding Plateau!

Ok, so you've been hitting the weights pretty hard for awhile now. At first you made some significant gains but results seem to be coming harder now. In fact, you may have come to a complete stand still. No increase in bodyweight, no increase in max lifts, no increase in repetitions. You eat right and train regularly but nothing much more seems to be happening. What gives? This is usually the point where people begin to seriously consider steroids or at least the latest supplement craze. Save your money and your health. You have reached the dreaded plateau. The mysterious dimension that most bodybuilders fall into at one time or another. The good news is that you don't have to stay there. The pioneers in our sport have already blazed the trails and left road maps on how to either escape the plateau or avoid it all together. Read on!

Let's first discuss what the plateau is and why it occurs. When you begin a weight training program you introduce new levels of stress to your body and muscles. Weight training actually damages muscle tissue. To compensate for this, our bodies initiate a healing process to not only repair the damaged tissue but to create new muscle fiber as well. This is how the body compensates for the increased demands that are being placed upon it. It's like when you were a kid and you came home for lunch with a few friends. Your mom probably wasn't expecting company and so there wasn't enough food to go around. The next time however she made a little extra just incase. This is exactly what the body does when we train properly. That's great, but it's also the root of the plateau. Here's the scenario. You begin a routine. At first it's difficult. You feel challenged and more than a little sore. After a few weeks however the initial pain subsides and you are beginning to see some progress. The routine is working for you and you continue to ride the wave as far as it will take you. During this time your body is constantly repairing old muscle fibers and building new ones. Your strength and size are increasing accordingly. Now the problem slowly begins to creep in. Your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. The problem is however that as your body continually compensates for the work load it is also ADAPTING to the work load. In other words, the routine that was once so difficult and such a shock to your system is now exactly that, ROUTINE! You have reached a plateau because your workout is no longer a big deal. Sure, it may still seem difficult, you may actually break a sweat or even yell for a rep or two but it's just not the same. Your body has adapted. It's used to the stress. Been there, done that. So how do you escape this fate? First let me say that I'm a firm believer in these two rules. The first rule is that if it's not broken, don't fix it. In other words, if your routine is working and you are making continual progress, don't try to fix it. The second rule is, as soon as your workout is beginning to show signs of wear, give it a tune up. Change it. If you want to break through the plateau or avoid it all together you must add variety to your routine. The same old thing will NOT continually offer the same results. It's the old law of diminishing returns. The longer that you stay with the same routine, the less physically rewarding it will be. Many advanced lifters will completely overhaul their workout program every 4 to 6 weeks. This keeps the workouts fresh, challenging, and most important of all, productive. For me, I'm constantly shifting between light days and heavy days. High reps and low reps. Variety is not only the spice of life, it's also the key to keeping your body in a constant state of alertness. Below are a few rules to keep you out of the plateau zone.

1. Change is good. Your workout must remain fresh if it is to stay productive.

2. When your progress begins to slow down, don't just wait around to see if it picks back up again.

3. Plan your workouts in advance. Don't wait until you get to the gym to see what you "feel" like doing. Know what you are going to do before you even walk through the door.

4. As soon as you begin to get comfortable with your new routine, begin planning your next routine.

5. Don't try to max out on weight every week. Constantly trying to max out is the fast lane to the plateau zone.

6. Work on variation on a theme. Don't just flat bench every week. Alternate between flat, decline, incline, bumbell, etc.

7. Introduce burnout sets occasionally to shock your muscles.

8. Go with heavy weight and low reps one week followed with moderate weight and high reps the next.

9. Alternate muscle groups. Never work the same muscle two days in a row. A good example to follow is

a. Day One: Back & Biceps

b. Day Two: Legs

c. Day Three: Chest & Triceps

d. Day Four: Rest

10. Don't forget to eat according to your goal or to get adequate rest.

Train Hard

Kerry Dulin

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