How You Don't Have to Be Stuck on a Training Plateau

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A medic paratrooper participates in an Army combat fitness test.
A U.S. Army medic paratrooper assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade participates in an Army combat fitness test during a Best Medic Competition on Caserma Del Din, Italy, June 4-5, 2020. (Spc. Ryan Lucas/U.S. Army photo)

This email comes from a young man seeking to enlist in the Navy after losing weight and getting into shape. He has made significant progress but is stuck on a plateau and not seeing any more progress.

Here is his email:

"I weighed over 240 pounds and now after doing my own exercise program of walking/running and eating right, I am down to 195! My exercise routine has mainly consisted of a cardio routine, e.g., running (3-5mi./daily), and walking every once in a while (about 2-3x/wk.) I am stuck now. What are my options?

"I know part of the problem is that I become easily overwhelmed with all the info that is out there. I actually didn't want to hit the weights yet, because I was afraid of my weight increasing, which I don't want to happen, because I'm trying to move in the other direction, sir. What do you think? What do you recommend?"

First of all, congratulations on your goal to serve your country and your determination to get within the Navy's fitness and weight standards. So far, you have done everything correctly. The first phase to achieving a fitness and health goal is to start moving more and eating better foods that fuel your energy needs, not fatten you.

For more ideas on these types of foods, check out my "Lean Down Plan" article.

It is very common to reach a sticking point when it comes to any training plan. Our bodies can get used to the same routine day after day, week after week, until the routines have an ineffective result on weight loss. That is why it is best to vary your training routine occasionally to "shock the system" into burning more calories. What you need is to add a solid calisthenics plan that will include major muscle groups, such as arms, legs and stomach/back (core).

Adding a weight routine or resistance training program has many benefits. It increases your metabolism and bone density, reduces body fat, and builds muscular strength and endurance, among other health and wellness benefits. The good news is that your body weight counts as resistance, just as a weight machine or dumbbell does, so you do not even have to join a gym or purchase expensive equipment to benefit from a resistance training plan.

By adding the following exercises every other day to your workout routine, you will start to lose weight again at the same time as building muscle and losing inches. See the corresponding link for an article with expanded exercise routines to the listed exercises:

Also, start adding speed workouts to your runs to get used to running at a faster pace. Read the "Improving Your PFT Run Time" article for more information or the "Take 2:00 off your Running Pace" article.

From now on, expect to see more inches lost as you remove fatty deposits but build muscle mass. But if you keep the weight light and perform repetitions of 15 or more each set, you will build more muscle endurance than size, thus keeping the weight gain to a minimum.

You still will get the benefit of the extra caloric burn, which has been studied to be up to 500% greater than cardio alone over a 72-hour period.

Add many of the above ideas to your fitness routines, and you should see and feel a difference within 1-2 weeks.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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