How to break plateaus and get back on track with your training

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Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you train, nothing seems to change? Perhaps even for months at a time? Well, you’re not alone. This is a common phenomenon which occurs for many people, and can happen to anyone regardless of their knowledge and experience. It is very easy to become complacent with any of the aspects that contribute to your training, which can ultimately be the cause for a plateau. I know first-hand how frustrating it can be so I thought I would take the time to write this blog to help others who are stuck, or who want to avoid a plateau in future.

Firstly I want to start off by saying that all is not lost! Plateaus are something that you can overcome and can simply be a part of the journey to your goal.

There are several factors in your training to consider which could potentially be contributing to a plateau. The most common causes are; lack of progressive overload in exercise, poor nutrition, prolonged fatigue (whether from lack of sleep, stress or other factors), inconsistency or lack of direction.


Asian woman sleeping on bed and wake up with alarm clock


One of the most important elements that is often neglected is consistency. I don’t mean consistency in attending the gym 3 times a week; I mean consistency across the board. You can be consistent with your training and never miss a session, but if you’re not getting enough sleep or your nutrition isn’t great, you will eventually see a plateau in your results. Achieving your training goals often requires an overall lifestyle change.

If you do feel like your progress is stalling, this is a good point to stop and evaluate all aspects of your training to identify any areas needing adjustment or improvement. This can be the hardest part because you have to be completely honest with yourself. Are you being a little too relaxed with your diet on the weekends? Could you have pumped out a few more reps at the gym? If you’re having trouble pinpointing the cause it might help to talk it out with a training partner or even consult a professional; sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective. This might also be a good time to revisit your goal. What is it? Is it achievable? How can I measure it? Be specific. If your goal is to lose weight, how much weight do you want to lose? What percentage of body fat do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it by?

standing on the scalesIn some cases the reason for your plateau could simply be a misinterpretation of your results, particularly when training for weight loss. You might be exercising hard and eating healthy foods, but the number on the scales stays the same or even increases! This could easily be interpreted as a plateau, but it is important to remember that the scales aren’t always an accurate way to measure your progress. In this instance, the scales aren’t showing the change in body composition – a loss of fat but an increase in muscle mass. A better way to measure this progress would be a combination of scales and body fat measurements to give a more accurate reading of your results.

Fatigue is also a major cause of plateaus and is commonly a sign of overtraining. It is essential to get enough sleep each night and allow enough time for recovery in order to see optimal results. Without allowing your body adequate time for recovery you could be doing more harm than good for your training goals.

The last aspect I want to address is the training itself. Your body adapts extremely quickly to external stressors, particularly exercise. If you’ve been following the exact same program week in and week out, your body will quickly adapt and your progress will begin to slow down. As your body adapts you need to vary your training in order to continue to see improvement.  A few very simple ways to ensure that you’re consistently challenging your body might be to do an extra rep than you did last week, run a little bit further, add a little more weight or decrease your rest time. These small changes to increase the load placed on your body can be enough to break out of a plateau and avoid them occurring in future.

A plateau is not something to be scared of. If you ever find yourself stuck, think of it as an opportunity to re-evaluate all aspects of your training and get back on track to your goals. The strategies above give you a guideline of where to start and what to consider if you feel like you’re plateauing.  This list is by no means exhaustive as there are several external factors that can also play a part. Remember to take a holistic approach to your training and be mindful of complacency in your routine. Always set clear goals and remember to track your progress. Happy training![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]4 (2)

Written by Onfit Tutor, Rob Gardener