3 Ways to Start Making Gains Again
When progress in the gym stalls, many people are quick to become frustrated and discouraged. The thing is, plateaus are inevitable! It is simply impossible to escape the stalling of progress in the world of fitness. The most important things you can do are to be patient and educate yourself on what you can do to jump-start your progress. Here are three tips to help you start making gains again!
1. Build your skill
Sometimes putting your physique goals aside and working on a particular movement or skill can help you to push through a plateau. If you look at many athletes such as sprinters, gymnasts and power lifters, they often have incredible physiques without ever focusing on how they look. As long as their nutrition is in check, they typically develop excellent physiques as a by-product of training specifically for their sport. For example, gymnasts build incredible size and definition in their backs simply by developing the skill and strength to pull themselves up onto the rings and bars in order to perform in their sport. Choosing to focus on a specific skill or movement will inevitably trigger new growth and strength in the muscles involved.
For example, if you find that your back progression has stalled, you may choose to focus your training around your pull-up performance. Don’t worry about trying to increase the size of your back muscles. Instead, try working to improve your pull-up strength by adding weight to your body, as well as increasing your total number of pull-ups performed. Your back muscles will experience new growth in size and strength as they are forced to adapt to this new stimulation. Some other examples would be bringing up lagging chest size/strength by dedicating your training to the bench press or fixing your sub-par legs with a focus on squat performance.
2. Change the intensity
When it comes to training, intensity is negatively correlated with volume. This means that the harder and more intensely you train, the less time you can keep that up for, and vice versa. An extreme example of this is 1-rep max squats vs. a 5-mile jog. Both involve the leg muscles, but the squat is obviously more intense and requires an extreme amount of force that can only be produced for a very short time, while jogging requires low force and can be sustained for a longer period of time. If your progress has stalled, it may be time to change up your intensity to jump-start your gains.
First, you must ask yourself what your current set and rep scheme looks like. Once determined, simply do the opposite! For example, if you do the bulk of your exercises in the range of 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps, switch things up and perform more sets of 8 to 10 with lower reps of 3 to 4. The opposite is true as well: if you have been focusing on lower, more intense reps, it may be time to give your joints a break and increase the volume by doing fewer sets in a higher rep range of 8 to 12. Increasing your training volume will result in longer workouts of 1 to 2 hours in length, as you will need that time for all the extra reps. When increasing your intensity, make sure to shorten your workouts to 45 minutes to an hour in order to avoid over training.
The human body is amazing at adapting to any type of training you give it – it becomes extremely efficient at performing in the manner that it is most accustomed to, which can cause progress to stall. Now, that does not mean you should start a new training program every week – no one likes a “program hopper” who never sticks with a training protocol long enough for it to work. Instead, look to alter your training intensity every 12 to 16 weeks to ensure constant progress.
3. Focus on nutrition
Nutrition is an often-overlooked key element when it comes to making progress in muscle size, strength and weight loss. If you have stalled in your progress, it may be time to take a strong look at the current state of your nutrition.
Firstly, you should begin to count the total number of macronutrients (protein/carbohydrates/fat) and calories you are consuming for the day. If you are having trouble building muscle and strength, you may need to boost your protein levels, which can be conveniently achieved by adding in a few shakes of Whey Protein Plus into your daily routine (You should aim to consume 1g of protein per lbs. of body weight daily). If you have stalled in your weight loss program, you may want to try lowering your daily caloric intake slightly and then take a supplement like Hydroxycut® to help give you an added weight loss boost.