Frustrated that your weights haven’t gone up significantly? Do you ever find yourself saying things like – “I’ve been stuck squatting 70kg for weeks now”, or, “I can’t make that jump from the 12.5kg Dumbbells, to the 15kgs!” It is possible that you may have hit a plateau in your training.
Fear not, training plateaus are common, and the further you get into your strength training, the more likely you are to stumble across a training plateau in one exercise or another. However, before I delve into the “how to’s” of breaking a training plateau, lets first take the time to recognize whether you are actually in a plateau or not.
Naturally as humans, we are impatient. We want results, we want progress and we want it now!! However, what needs to be understood is that, in strength training progress can be slow and at times frustrating, especially in the later stages of your journey. As a trainer, I often hear people talk about how they have ‘stalled’ in a certain exercise, however, they may not be entirely correct. When I go back and track their weights over the last few months, they have in fact been making small progressions. They may have been stuck doing 70kg for 8 reps for the last two weeks, but four weeks prior to that, they were only doing 65kg for 8 reps. Although slight, this is still progression.
You may not be improving by the same drastic amounts as you did when you first started training, but the improvement is still there – and in a few weeks or months time, when you look back, you’ll be able to see the drastic progression in your strength.
This is why tracking your weights is crucial. We can often overlook the small changes in our strength – but these are just as important and impressive as the achieving a personal best. Those few extra reps, or that 1 extra kilogram on your bench press will accumulate into massive gains in strength and big PB’s in the future. It is likely that you haven’t really plateaued in your training, you are just simply failing to celebrate and acknowledge the smaller gains you have achieved.
Hang on, but I have been tracking my weights, and I’m STILL not making any progression.
If you’re tracking your weights and you haven’t been making any progress; here are my top tips to breaking through your training plateau.
1. Small, small, small progression! Every single gram you add to your weights will eventually add up. If you were to add .5kg to your bench press every week for 8 weeks, you would eventually improve your bench press by 4kg. Now 4kg may not seem like much in 8 weeks, but training and increasing in strength is a long term process. If you feel like you’re not progressing, try this in your next session. Increase your squat, deadlift or bench press by 1kg and aim for the same amount of reps as last week. Alternatively, do the same weight as last week, but aim for one extra rep. Eventually these small gains in strength, although they may feel absolutely insignificant at the time, will equate the bigger PB’s in the future.
2. Acknowledge your weaknesses. Generally speaking, when performing an exercise, there is going to be a point in the exercise which you’re struggling the most and need to improve upon. For example, this could be the lockout point of your deadlift, the bottom of your squat or the deepest point of your bench press. To make improvements on these exercises you need to overload the weakest part of your lift. For example, if the deepest part of your squat and bench press is your weak point, then overload the movement by incorporating a pause at the bottom of your squat or bench press. If for example the lockout point of your deadlift is where you struggle the most, overload the top of the deadlift using bands or chains, or perform ‘rack pulls’ to strengthen the top portion of your deadlift.
3. Add more frequency to your training. You are more likely to improve on an exercise you’re struggling with by increasing frequency. If there’s a particular exercises you feel you have plateaued in, then training that exercise a second time in a week may go a long way to increasing your strength.
4. Always train with a spotter. Having a spotter with you will allow you to potentially get through those last two extra reps at a heavier weight. It gives you the confidence to go deeper in your lifts and the extra motivation and support will go a long way to getting those PB’s.
5. Lastly, be patient and consistent. Strength training is a marathon not a sprint. At times it’s going to be frustrating, your progress may stall, but if you’re patient and consistent, the improvements in your strength will come.
So there we have it. My top tips to breaking through that strength plateau and reaching your strength goals. Train hard and happy lifting!