Anyone who has trained with weights for a long period of time has experienced a plateau in their training, whether they have realized it or not. A plateau is when the individual stops seeing gains, stops getting stronger, and possibly even loses strength. There are ways to prevent this “plateau effect.” Prevention is much better than the person hitting a plateau and then continuing to train in the same way.
The first way to prevent the plateau effect is to change the workout routine on a regular basis. Many personal trainers feel that for a serious weight trainer, their routine should be changed every two to three months. Most serious weight trainers use a split routine in their workouts. They work different body parts each day. An example of a split routine might be:
Day One: Chest and Biceps
Day Two: Back and Triceps
Day Three: Shoulders and Traps
Day Four: Legs
If this or a similar routine is followed, after a couple of months the muscles settle into a routine. They get used to the exercises and routines. For continued muscle growth, strength growth, and athletic progress, the muscles cannot be allowed to get comfortable with a routine.
After two to three months, a different workout routine should be implemented. This will shock and challenge the muscles and will prevent the plateau effect. The different routine might look like this:
Day One: Chest and Shoulders
Day Two: Back and Traps
Day Three: Triceps and Biceps
Day Four: Legs
There are many variations of the split routine and the ones listed above are just two examples. The individual can experiment with what works best for them. Most people do not like change. In the area of weight training, however, change is a key to continued progress.
A second way to prevent the plateau effect is to take a break from weight training. A plateau is often the body’s way of saying it needs a break. Many weight trainers will let their bodies rest and recover for a week or two every two to three months, when they change their split routine.
A lay off from weights does not mean a lay off from exercise, however. The individual should focus on cardio training, core training, or some other type of activity. By letting the muscles rest and recover for a period of time, they will be ready when the person starts weight training again.
A third way to prevent the plateau effect is to add variety to the workouts. If a person is doing a split routine and is changing it regularly but still feels that they are hitting a wall, they can do a few things differently to shock the muscles into pushing past that wall. For example, many individuals focus on developing strength and size by doing high amounts of weight with low repetitions. To add a little spice to the workout, they could focus on doing lower amounts of weight with higher repetitions for a couple of weeks.
Another way to add variety to ones workouts is to change the exercises that one performs for different body parts. If the regular bench press is the only exercise an individual does for their chest, they might consider the occasional workout in which they use dumbbells or even a chest press machine. If someone only uses a leg press machine for working their legs out, they might considering doing barbell squats occasionally. Variety keeps the workouts interesting, challenging, and goes a long way to preventing the plateau effect.
One last way to prevent plateaus in workouts is that of education. There are so many resources available, both in print form and on the Internet. The individual who educates them self about weight and strength training is going to be the person who is successful and makes life long physical gains.