Fitness Fix : Busting Through A Plateau

Posted on 27-Jun-2016 by Kripa Jalan

Fitness Fix : Busting Through A Plateau

We’ve all been there. We’ve done the bit. “Eaten clean” and “trained dirty”. We’ve seen results initially and then, BOOM it all comes to a standstill. Whether it’s losing weight, developing a new skill, lifting heavier or even packing on muscle. We hit a point where there is no more progress, even if everything else is on track. That’s the dreaded plateau for you.

Yes, it’s a real thing.

You drop a few pounds initially, then suddenly there’s no more change. Your strength is increasing but then for a couple of weeks you just can’t seem to lift more. You’re practicing a skill diligently, but you just can’t seem to get better at it. We freak out, get disheartened and quickly hop onto a new plan, praying it will somehow work.

We’re meant to evolve; we’re meant to get better. And if we aren’t we get unhappy, especially if we’re putting in all that effort. It’s downright frustrating. It’s easier to continue working out and eating right, if you see results.

You must’ve noticed that it’s easier to lose weight when you’re at 200 pounds as compared to when you’re at 150, because there’s more to lose. We can’t continually lose weight at the same rate or we’ll disappear. The progress starts to slow down with time, which makes us think we’ve plateaued. While calling our condition a plateau may seem like the easiest and most fitting option, let’s ask ourselves if we’ve really plateaued?

  • Is our diet on track?

This is where we tend to go wrong the most. If 5 out of 6 meals are “healthy”, some dessert/ fries in the 6th meal may not hurt. After all, we’ve been good. But the problem is it doesn’t end there, our brain associates with that feeling of being rewarded and craves more instantly. We tend to overlook these minor instances of where we could be going wrong. Even eating insufficient calories, isn’t going to help our condition in terms of strength and muscle mass.

  • Is our training on track?

No, I don’t mean are you spending 3 hours at the gym or are you doing two-a-days. Neither do I mean are you following the “no more than necessary” outlook. We have to work, and work hard. I can’t stress this point enough. The effectiveness of a workout is measured by it’s intensity and not its longevity. Even then,it’s best to switch up our routine and ask ourselves if we’re pushing hard enough. Be honest to yourself, skimping on that last rep may seem easy, but it’s definitely not beneficial.

  • Are we sleeping enough?

Contrary to popular belief, when you rest you don’t rust. Infact your body begins rebuilding the previously broken down muscle. Also, when you sleep less or are subject to any kind of stress your body releases cortisol, which unfortunately contributes to weight gain.

If we can safely say that we’ve got it all covered on the sleep, exercise and diet front, then we may have plateaued.

So here’s how to get through the dreaded plateau:

  • Look for small wins: You’re not going to be able to continually load your bar with 5 lbs. as easily as when you started. If that were the case we’d all be benching a 1000 pounds.
  • Track your progress: Each set, each movement, each rep. If you’ve been squatting 200 pounds for 3 reps for weeks and fail at 210, try doing the same 200 pounds for 4 reps instead. Still progress.
  • Take your measurements: Although the weighing scale may not budge, the inches you’ve lost or gained, may tell an entirely different story. Body fat Monitor trumps the scale, any day.
  • Change your routine: By no means do I mean, enter a state of chaos. Doing the same thing over and over, makes you better at the task. But when your body adapts to it, it burns fewer calories. Nothing kills progress like routine.
  • Periodization: This is for the advanced guys. It’s a cycle where instead of lifting heavy everyday, you do a few days of heavy lifting for fewer reps and lift lighter for volume on the other days.
  • Zig-Zag your calorie intake: If you’re consuming 1800 calories thrice a week, try 2000 for two days and maybe a fewer for the remaining. This leaves room for BMR adjustments, and keeps your metabolism up and running.
  • Streamline your goals: If you just can’t seem to squat that behemoth of a weight, try switching focus to another skill for a brief period. Master it, come back refreshed, recovered and fired up and give it a go.
  • Training Partner: Not only will he/she inspire, encourage and motivate you to work harder, but will also make for a great spotter.
  • Take a deload week: All us “rats” hate time away from the gym. If you’ve been working out religiously but don’t see progress, you might be pushing too hard. Dial down the volume and intensity. A recovery week may just be what you need.
  • Accept a bad day: We all have them. We’re only human.

  You either win; or you learn.

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