Have you reached a bodybuilding plateau?
Every would-be bodybuilder has heard of the phrase, “hitting a plateau.” This is when your body reaches a point in its training and stops or slows down on development.
A lot of people will disagree with this theory but I have experienced this first hand. Your body will hit this plateau usually after several months into a new bodybuilding routine. You train with the same intensity, the same amount of sessions per week and your diet is good but you stop or slow down on your development.
Why Is This?
The issue is simple, really. The way I see it is that your body is a very clever organism and it will adapt to the stresses and lifestyle that you put it through. If you decide that you want to be a long distance runner and you train for that, your body will adapt to its training. It’s the same with fat loss and change of diet.
Let’s imagine that you train 3 times per week using the same compound movements and weight in each training session. This is a great plan and you should be stressing your body enough to notice development — especially if you are a beginner to bodybuilding.
In the first few weeks or months, you will really “feel” the training sessions, the D.O.M.S. and you will see development. But soon, the D.O.M.S. will stop, you will find the sessions easier and you will stop seeing good results.
All that has happened here is that your body has adapted to the lifestyle that it has been put through; it has developed to the level that you are pushing it to and it is now maintaining this level. It is at this point that you need to change a few things.
Being a bodybuilder and not understanding this concept can lead to a lot of frustration and doubt, so here are a few things that you can change each time you hit your training plateau:
Change Your Exercise Choices
If you change your exercise choices for each body part, you will be stressing that muscle group in a different way. For example: If you have been using the leg press machine for your main compound leg exercise, you can switch it to barbell squats. This will move your training for that muscle group up a level, adding intensity, and breaking your training plateau.
Add More Weight
You can increase the weight that you are using. This may sound obvious but it always surprises me to see people using the same weight at every training session. It is important to remember, when adding weight, that you keep your form. I will admit that I have also been guilty of choosing a heavier weight over strict form; this is an easy mistake to make. The best way to gauge that you have the correct weight for your own muscular development is: If you can complete your full rep range in your set easily and with correct form, the weight is too light. You want to be struggling at the last 2 reps of your set. (These last 2 reps can actually be cheat or forced reps.)
Use Pre-Exhaust Sets
Yes, you can use pre-exhaust sets. This is a form of training that I have personally had very good muscular development from. You will basically use an isolation exercise on a muscle group before doing your main compound movement on that same muscle group. (Follow this link for more information on pre-exhaust sets.) A great way of training, but not for guys with a big ego! You will not be able to lift as heavy on your compound exercises.
Partial reps. We have already talked about cheat reps and forced reps, and partial reps are in the same boat. If you have a training partner, these are a really good way of getting some more out of your set. To make use of partial reps, you should complete your set ;and before you rack your bar or drop your dumbbells, you should perform as many partial reps as you can at the bottom of the movement. For example: If you are doing a barbell bench press, you should lower the bar to your chest and then push it up to the half-way point of your full range of motion, so you are not lifting it too far from your chest. This will keep the intensity on and really push your working muscle to its max. If you have a good spotter and you want some good leg development, do these with your squats… OUCH! Good luck!
Reduce Rest Time Between Sets & Exercises
Reduce rest between sets and exercises. This is something that can be done right away without much planning. If you take a stopwatch with you to the gym and time 30 seconds, 1 minute or something similar between each set and each exercise, you will see how effective this can be for adding intensity to your workouts. By making this small change, you can actually bring yourself out of a plateau.
Supersets are another great way of adding intensity and beating a training plateau. I have found that the best way to use supersets is to train opposing body parts together. For example: I would do a set of barbell chest press, rack the bar, and move directly to the seated row machine and bang out 12 reps on that machine. This way, I am training chest and back in 1 superset. This can work for most muscle groups: Biceps with triceps, Quads with hams, etc. There are no strict rules when it comes to supersets but this is the path I tend to go down. But there is no reason why you can’t superset something like dumbbell shoulder press with barbell squats. You can make it that interesting. Or as painful as you like!
These 6 points will help you beat your training plateau; however, it is also important to remember that if you are chopping and changing too often, and never sticking to a certain training method long enough for your body to reach its potential or plateau, you are not likely to get the results that you are after. So, when starting a new bodybuilding routine, or any other training plan for that matter, it is good to aim for the plateau! This way, you know that your body is doing what you are training it to do.
I hope that this short article has given you a lot of insight into beating your training plateau. Remember that I am always happy give you my advice on any of your concerns, so feel free to drop me a comment.
You’ll Never Again Hit A Bodybuilding Plateau If You Follow The Training Routines In My Book, Jim’s Weight Training & Bodybuilding Workout Plan.