Whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle, you work out consistently, take proper nutrition and sleep, and seem to hit the wall all of a sudden. The more you push yourself, the more your helplessness frustrates you. Welcome aboard the fitness Plateau – A body builder’s worst enemy and nightmare! (wiki) Realizing that the workout plan you charted so diligently has stopped working for you can be really disappointing. Some people have the smarts and dedication to move past it while others continue to graze on it forever.
If you are reading this, I’m pretty confident you are there or, fear you might be there in a few days. But, the question you actually need to ask yourself is…
- Have I reached a plateau or I’m just over training myself?
- Identify what could be wrong
- The other plateau busting techniques I promised
Have I reached a plateau or I’m just over training myself?
This is a very important question you need to be extremely clear of. Reaching a plateau could be bad, but over training and not realizing, could even be worse. Reason: When you over train your hard earned muscle size gets exhausted as they do not get proper time to recover from workout stress. As a result, all those hours you have put in bulking them up during the last two months go right into drain. So, its better to reach a plateau, because at least if your graph is not moving up, it isn’t even going downhill.
Identify what could be wrong
A workout routine consists of three parts: Diet, Workout and Rest. Reaching a plateau means something wrong with any of these, right?! So, all you need to do is identify the loop hole and fix it. But, how will you do that?
Jason Statham reveals the secret to his badass workout as extensive journalling. “Journal everything that you gulp in, including water and every physical activity, including taking stairs to your room”, he presses.
Okay, so you recorded everything and realized you are not over training yourself, plateau is the problem. Then, these could be the possible errors:
(a) Improper nutrition
If you are eating as much as you can then, may be you should try taking supplements and increase your caloric intake. Without sufficient nutrition, your muscles will stop growing.
You have to realize that Hugh Jackman, the man who brought Wolverine to life on screen, eats close to 6000 calories each day to embody the physique of an animal.
(b) Improper hydration
This is probably the most neglected aspect of any workout. You must stay hydrated otherwise your muscles will begin to lose strength and will get exhausted earlier than they should.
(c) Ineffective diet plan
What works for one, may not work for you. For instance, to get an athletic physique, Jason Statham makes it a point to limit his caloric intake to 2000 a day. Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, consumes 6000 calories, but, practices intermittent fasting.
Sylvester Stallone, having trained on extreme diet advises newbies to stay away from it, and build a physique similar to his by taking a balanced diet and training smart. Though he played an underdog in Rocky who always came out winning, his diet at that time used to leave him weak and dizzy. So, for those who aspire to get bulked up like him, he recommends keeping enough carbs in diet sufficient to maintain a training schedule and perform daily activities, while keeping fat to lowest and proteins the highest.
Most of the times, problems arise here, because it is difficult to get it right due to a vast number of aspects involved.
(a) Overhaul the reps
Now that you have your complete day’s diet, rest, workout and other activities’ list laid out in front of you, you can pin point if number of reps is the problem. Usually it is not, but if it is, then try to super set a move, even giant step it. I’ll come to the other techniques celebrities and fitness trainers use to combat this a little later.
(b) Get creative with exercises and order
The order can be shuffled, but repeating the same moves on and on, can lead to muscles getting used to them. You know that already don’t you? Then tell me why are you still following the old and stale workout plan even after two months? The plan has cradled you this far, it has served it purpose, now, move past it. Cross train and experiment with something new.
This is how Jason Statham and Roger Federer workout. According to Roger Federer, “Coordinated creativity is the key for long term consistency.” While former believes in honing a skill like Martial arts and Kick boxing to add to workout and fun, the later adds resistance bands and trampoline to improve agility and balance.
(c) Kick some ass even as you rest
Rest or recovery period is crucial both to give muscles the sufficient recovery time and to keep the intensity well in place. Hence, rest time between the reps must be closely monitored. A rule most trainers and body builders follow is of active rest. Stay in motion even while you are resting. Move around, stretch, jog or jump – the point is not to hit the hay yet.
As a result, your workout will become much more effective and fruitful. Muscles will learn to recover even while working and you’d be able to condense training session into shorter workloads. So, you train less, but train hard.
Every athlete, body builder and fitness trainer knows sleep is as important as the time you spend working out in gym. Cristiano Ronaldo makes it a point to sleep 10 hours every day to provide his muscles sufficient time to recover from the gym session and wake up ready for next. So, when you design your own or follow a celebrity workout, allot a good number of hours for sleep too.
The other plateau busting techniques I promised
1. Shock your muscles with intensity
This technique is extensively used in home workout programs designed by Celebrity fitness trainer and coach Tony Horton in his Power 90 series. He plans your regular to ripped journey with very short and equally active rest periods. He throws in a mix of a variety of moves from plyometrics to gymnastics to MMA to resistance training to confuse muscles and shock your body into compensating in response to each stressor.
The worst thing your can do to yourself is concluding with the same workout routine you started with. That is the belief of Chalene Johnson, a fitness instructor and designer of ChaLEAN Extreme, a home fitness routine for women. Another fitness trainer sharing similar thoughts is Shaun T, who divides his Insanity home workout program into different phases with unique moves and target muscles. This not only keeps the workout fresh but also forces complex muscle groups into extreme motion periodically so you are never bothered by any plateau.
3. Mental strength and barriers
I’d not be wrong if I say everything begins with your mind. Body building and achieving a proper form is as much a mental exercise as it is physical. I have observed people fearing higher weights or reps, thinking they cannot do it. Hrithik Roshan, the actor who transformed from skinny boy to Greek God-like body advises combating your fears head on. “Do what you fear, don’t fear what you do”, he maintains.
As for Wolverine, our man animal, Hugh Jackman, he believes to be able to portray the Man-animal on-screen, you really have to unleash the beast in you during gym hours. To be able to do that, not only does one need to eat and train like an animal, but think and behave like one too. When he pushes, he usually gets insanely pissed off and then he’d yell and scream just like he does in movies. So, to move past physical barriers, break free of mental ones too.
4. Compete for speed
This is something most of us forget in the crowd of weights, shakes and bands. Sometimes, you need to recruit more muscles fibers than just train and define a few. So, lift light weights but lift fast. That way you improve your strength drastically while challenging muscles in a new way.
Having achieved a plateau and not being able to crack the reason behind it, is in no way the excuse to stop and give up. Keep trying different moves, different plans, diet routines and strategies. Begin small but never give up, keep pushing and lunging barriers.