Breaking Through Training Plateaus
So, you love training and have made some decent progress up to this point. You’ve been coming into the gym and just kind of winging it. You’re not tracking anything, don’t really have a plan or a specific goal, but you’ve been putting in lots of hard work and you’re starting to get a little frustrated that your gains have stopped coming so easily. You feel like the things that were working for you before have suddenly just stopped. Welcome to the plateau. If you don’t change your approach to training this is where you will live. Forever. Luckily there is hope for you.
If this sounds like you, I’m here to help. When you get to the point in your training life that those beginner gains end and you feel stuck you usually just need a better plan, or just a plan in general. I’ve seen lots of people come out of the gate hot and make huge gains in the first few months or even years of training with really no plan at all. They just go into the gym, pick a few movements they want to do that day, and work until they want to puke and leave. Hell, this was me for a long time. I thought that all I had to do was work insanely hard, eat a crap ton of food, and repeat ad nauseum. Unfortunately, that was not the case. After a while the gains start to slow down significantly, and I started to dread going to the gym, knowing that all my work wasn’t getting me anywhere. I was stuck deep in the plateau.
I managed to drag myself out and I want to help you do the same. In order to get over this hump you need to start thinking about your training differently. You need to plan and strategize. What are your weaknesses? What are your goals? Why does everything hurt? What am I doing with my life? We need to start answering these questions and making a viable plan of action to move forward and pull us out of the plateau.
A New Direction
Moving forward will first require looking back. What has been working for you? What hasn’t? This is very important to figure out. If you have been tracking your training up this point this will be easy to figure out. Just look back through your journals and find the upward trends and look at what you were doing consistently. If you haven’t been tracking things it will be a bit harder to figure out. If this is the case, you need to be brutally honest with yourself about your weaknesses. What lifts or body parts lag behind others? What hurts? What movements do you avoid because they create a ton of suck for you? Do you have any things you do all the time because they just come natural and easy? If you have a good training partner, they will be invaluable in helping you figure these things out. It can be very hard to be objective about ourselves and our own progress. An outside opinion, from a qualified person, can be incredibly helpful. If you don’t have a training partner take some video of your lifts and find yourself a reputable coach to send them to and have them give you some feedback. Paying a qualified coach to do this will be an extremely good investment in the future of your training.
Once you have found some trends you can figure out what and where your weaknesses are. This should be what you address first when setting up your program moving forward. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so make sure you work until you don’t have any. Your program should always prioritize your weak points first. This is not to say that your strong points are completely ignored during this time, just put into more of a maintenance mode. In other words, put enough effort into the things you’re strong at to keep them where they are, and spend the majority of your effort on bringing up your weakest links. Once the weak point is no longer one, repeat the process until you have none left. Hint; you will ALWAYS have a weak point. This journey is never ending.
Sticking to a Schedule
Once you have identified the weak points you want to bring up, we must decide on a schedule that will fit into your life. Make sure that this is something you WILL NOT deviate from! Make it realistic based on all the other things you need to get done in your life. If you know that your work, family, and other obligations will realistically only allow you to prioritize getting to the gym for 2 hard sessions per week, don’t write yourself a program that forces you to go 5 days per week. This will set you up for an epic failure. You know from the get-go that you won’t be able to keep to this, but even so you will stress out every time you miss a session. This added stress is unnecessary and easily avoidable by setting a realistic schedule from the outset. You can make great gains on a 2 day per week program, so if that’s what you can commit to and give 100% focus to while in the gym, that is what you should do.
Once you commit to this schedule you must COMMIT to it. There should be nothing, outside of a true emergency, that stops you from getting to the gym. NOTHING. You may need to skip parties, dinners, get up earlier, go to bed later, hire a babysitter, whatever it is going to take to get your ass in the gym and do what needs to be done. This is not optional. You can’t half ass your way to being a strong, bad ass, MOFO. Too often nowadays people do everything in their life half assed. They never truly commit to anything and wind up floating through, never really accomplishing anything of significance. Don’t let this be you. Commit to your schedule and FOLLOW THROUGH!! Commitment without follow through is like trying to drive your car with your foot on the brakes. You don’t get anywhere fast. Decide. Commit. Follow through. Achieve.
What is the Goal?
Pure strength? Getting jacked and tan? Running a marathon? Why are you embarking on this training program? What is the end goal? Now that we have prioritized our weaknesses and committed to schedule, we need to determine what the overall goal of this training program will be. Do you have some type of athletic competition coming up? Do you just want to get shredded for beach season? Are you trying to pack on as much size and strength as humanely possible? A plan without an end goal isn’t really a plan at all. Be sure that your goal is very specific and has an end date. Start with a general question as stated above, but once you decide on a general direction, get down to something specific. For example; getting shredded for beach season breaks down to get to 10% body fat. Being too general with your goal will not lead to the outcomes you want. We need something specific and preferably measurable in order to make progress. Hitting a certain number on a lift, weight gain/loss number will be much more effective than saying I want to get stronger or lose weight.
Choosing a goal for the program will also help us narrow down which 1 or 2 weak points need to be prioritized in order to reach said goal. The schedule gives us a defined time outline in order to set up our training in the most efficient and effective way possible. The combination of these 3 factors give us everything we need to move forward successfully. We know what outcome we are looking to achieve, what things we need to work on to get there, and how long it will take.
These are the 3 biggest things you need to consider when trying to set up a program for yourself. If you can get these things right, the X’s and O’s of the program should fall into place. Be objective about your weak points, ask a training partner, or hire a coach to help you figure out where you’re lacking. Be realistic about how much time you can dedicate 100% to training. You have a life outside of the gym, make sure you continue to live it. Be 100% present and committed to your training days and let nothing keep you from your mission on those days. Also, be 100% present in your life on the days you’re not training. Set a specific and measurable goal for the training program. Start with something general and dig down into until you find something that will make you jump out of bed in the morning ready to attack that session. Work hard for the duration of the program and then repeat these 3 things until forever.
Make a TRUE commitment and you will achieve TRUE RESULTS!