No matter what level of fitness you are in, you have experienced some sort of training plateau or slump. Whether it is the lack of exercise plateau where you just cannot push off and start moving to exercise at all, OR you are stuck at 295 pounds bench press and cannot break the 300 pound barrier. Regardless of the plateau, there are methods to get you moving in the right direction again. Often the answer to progress toward your fitness and health goals is to build a new habit and to drop a bad habit that might be preventing you from success.
Here is a list of ten methods that work for varying types of plateaus we all have encountered at some point in our training life:
First group is the NON-TRAINING people stuck at not being able to get in workouts regularly.
1. Treat Yourself Like Beginner - Get moving by walking. If you have not trained in a long period and time and are seeking to get started again (or for the first time ever), start off with baby steps. Walk 5-10 minutes after every meal. Walk somewhere you would normally drive (if within reason). Walk your dog more often. Just get out and walk. Then drink water! Lots of water throughout the day to help hydrate you as well as curb hunger and snacking between meals.
2 and 3. Weight Loss Plateau: Change things in the gym and the kitchen - If you are stuck and no longer losing weight at the rate you once were, it can become demoralizing. Consider this -- your body is getting used to you at this "new" weight. So, if you have lost 40 pounds and you are stuck for a month with minimal loss and no gaining, your body is saying "OK, I can be 40 pounds lighter." The trick is to change something you have been doing either in the kitchen or in the fitness center. Add another form of cardio like biking, elliptical, or rowing to your walking program. Maybe pick it up a notch and try some jogging for 1-2 minutes and walking 1-2 minutes intervals during your walks. Maybe you need to focus more on your diet again and add some fruits and vegetables high in fiber and stay away from ANY processed sugars. Maybe take away that cheat day for a few weeks and see what happens. Regardless, the goal is to make a change when you see things are at a standstill.
For the remainder of the list, the focus will be on those who already train, but are having issues with seeing performance results:
4. Take a Mobility Day Off - Maybe you have been overdoing it for a few weeks, missing out on sleep, not eating well and generally having a few recent bad days in the gym. Take a rest day and loosen things up. See the Mobility Day Off Ideas.
5. Sign Up For a Race - Sometimes, even the most disciplined people need a reason to train. Signing up for a triathlon, 10km run, an obstacle course race, or other event will be just the thing to get you to the gym with a training focus and goal. Sometimes the answer is a simple "refocus" event.
6. Change Things Up - Often people are creatures of habit. We eat the same things each week. We do the same workouts Monday / Wednesday / Friday, week after week. The body and the mind need variety and a change in stimulus can be just the trick to boost you off the plateau.
7. For the Powerlifter - If you are stuck at a weight for a 1RM (one rep max) for competition or for your own satisfaction, try a few things. One, consider a few days off from heavy lifting. I found I always came back stronger after 2-3 days of not lifting heavy. Maybe mix in a few days of mobility training and light cardio. Two, try a few days of doing negative lifts at the end of your sets after you fail. Do a few negative lifts (with a spotter) at the weight you have been unable to get as the peak of your workout that day. Sometimes, getting the body to feel the weight will do the trick.
8. Stuck on Pullups - If you are doing your first pullup ever or stuck at 20 and trying to get 25, the methods are a bit different, as the first pullup you ever do is a strength exercise and the 20th pullup you do is an endurance / muscle stamina exercise. Since the pullup is the "heavy weight lifting" of calisthenics, follow the directions of the powerlifter above. (1) take a few days off from pullups, and, (2) try negative pullups or weighted pullups for a few sets each week.
9. Stuck at Same Running Pace - If you are trying to get faster for your timed runs, try changing up your workouts from longer distance running, to shorter, higher speed interval running. Every other day do a faster than goal pace running (near sprint pace) workout of shorter distances like ¼ mile or ½ mile intervals for the same or double your timed run distance.
And finally, in closing, it could be all in your head?
10. Sometimes Plateaus Are Mental - Don't look at plateaus as a slump necessarily. Think of a plateau as the end of foundation building and it is time to up the program to a new level of performance. If you did the same type of training for long periods of time, it is time to change things up. Consider the process to training called Periodization. There are several articles and books written on the topic. Periodization is nothing more than a fitness budget and plan not for a single workout, but for a year (for instance). Other links on Periodization Training. Periodization – Do I Need It? Periodization Advice Multi-Sport Athlete Periodization