Even the best of us hit a stale point in our workout routines; our bodies eventually hit a fitness plateau, and once they do, it becomes necessary to change up your routine. Improved technique, workout variety, and diet changes can get your body back on track. Here are three ways to push past a workout plateau.
First, have you really hit a plateau?
Hitting a fitness plateau does happen, but before you change anything, take a good hard look at your routine to make sure that you’ve actually hit a plateau. There’s a good chance that you’ve only lost focus of your goals. To make sure your body is actually stuck, try tracking your meals for a few days. Are you having too many cheats? Are you eating enough? To build muscle, you’ve got to fuel it properly.
Bring scrutiny to your workout. You may not be pushing yourself as hard as you did in the beginning. Also make sure that boredom hasn’t caused you to consistently cut out the last rep or whole exercises.
If you find that you definitely have been fueling properly, getting in quality workouts, and sleeping plenty, you have probably hit a plateau. You will eventually reach a point where your body cannot continue quickly building muscle.
1. Improve technique
If you’re not posting consistent gains, take a look at your technique. Move the weight in an unhurried, controlled fashion. Taking it slow helps you isolate the muscles you want to work and keeps you from relying on momentum to lift the weight, says Mayo Clinic.
Using proper technique is not only safer, but it’s also more effective. You might be able to lift more weight just by adjusting your form. If not, you’ll at least be targeting the correct muscles, giving them the attention they need to start changing.
There is nothing more important when performing an exercise than feeling the muscle work. When it comes to form, it isn’t always a “one size fits all” deal. As long as you’re practicing safe technique, you are still getting the benefits of the exercise.
2. Add variety
Spending all of your time on one exercise isn’t good for your mind or body. You need to switch it up. If you do the exact same thing over and over, your body becomes more efficient at that activity. Your body can learn and adapt after doing the same thing enough times, which results in it burning fewer calories to carry out the process. In other words, too much of any one exercise leads to a fitness plateau.
“Alternate the amount of weight you lift — go heavy one week with fewer reps and lighter the next with more reps. Change the type of exercise you do for each muscle. One week, do push-ups, then chest flies, then chest presses. You get the point. They all work the same part of your body, but in very different ways,” recommends Jillian Michaels.
3. Tweak your diet
Surprisingly, a muscle-building plateau is commonly caused by not eating enough to keep up with continuous gains. That doesn’t mean you can eat anything you want, though. A clean, balanced diet is crucial. For building muscle, protein and carbohydrates are especially important.
Eating enough protein builds more muscle and strength, and it helps you train harder. If you aren’t eating roughly one gram per pound of bodyweight, you’re limiting muscle gains. Choose healthy sources of protein — like fish, eggs, or nuts.
Along with the protein and some healthy fat, our bodies need carbs to build muscle. Carbohydrates are important for your endurance, digestion, and stabilizing blood pressure. They’re also an important part of your recovery meal. Eating carbs post-workout helps release insulin, putting you in an anabolic, muscle-building state — which is exactly what you want after putting in a hard workout.