Overcoming an exercise plateau

Once you have been training regularly for a while it is not uncommon to see results occurring at a less dramatic rate. Everyone will experience the greatest amount of change when they initially start working out, that is normal. Unfortunately some of us experience this to such an extent that we find it difficult to notice any results any more because we have created an exercise plateau.

What this does not mean is that you have achieved all that you can and that it is just time to give up. So what does it mean? Well, in terms of what we actually see it either means that you have stopped losing weight or you aren’t getting stronger/bigger, depending on what you are trying to achieve. What is important is how you react to it happening. Respond in the right way and you can seriously the limit the amount of the time that you spend in a plateau.

Firstly, let’s clear up what the wrong thing to do is. A lot of people just assume that they are in some sort of a slump and react by persevering, hoping that something will change. Wasn’t it Einstein who defined insanity as performing the same task over and over again but expecting a different result?

So what should be done? Our bodies are constantly adapting to our exercise routines. For example, if your exercise routine focuses heavily on cardio work then overtime your body is going to adapt and begin conserving energy more efficiently. So what you will find is that to burn the same amount of calories from one week to the next you will have to be doing more work for a longer period of time. That is why mixing up your routine is so heavily recommended.

Mixing up a routine doesn’t mean that you have to make drastic changes though, so don’t worry if you have a weekly routine that works well for you. Smaller changes that are made on a regular basis will work much better than completely altering what you are doing every month or so.

You can make changes to weight training as well as cardio work. In fact, in many ways it is much easier to change this part of your regime. Subtly altering the your sets and reps won’t change your routine too much and can really help to avoid getting in, and getting out of, a plateau. For example, if you are used to doing lots of reps then just switch to a lower rep count and lift heavier weights. You will find that you can keep a lot of the basic movements constant by using variants of the exercises that you do every single day. So if you are used to doing squats then just consider trying front squats every now and again, for example.

Rest plays a major part in an exercise plateau too. Rest is imperative to seeing results and that means that you have to have a well thought out recovery strategy that will allow your body the time to improve, helping you to see results more often.

When people no longer see results they often think that the logical thing to do is up the workload but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you think that you might have plateaued then start monitoring your sleep more regularly and plan your rest days carefully, as well as giving yourself a week off every 6-8 weeks.

The longer you train, the more likely it is that you are going to experience an exercise plateau. Try to remember that changing too much in a short period of time can have an irreversible negative effect. You are far better off making small changes to those things that you determine. Keep your body guessing so that it stays sharp and in a position where it won’t disappoint you in terms of the results that you see.

Ollie Lawrence