You’ve been consistent with your workouts, hitting the gym on schedule, running on the hamster wheel, and you notice that the needle is not moving much at all. It happens to us every year and, for some, multiple times per year. It’s the dreaded plateau. I’ve written about it before and, because I’m going through it now, it’s time to give it more attention.
A plateau, in fitness terms, is a performance peak. It usually happens when there is little variation to your workout. Your body gets use to your routine, your metabolism stabilizes, and muscles cease to grow.
There are a few things that you can do to shake things up a bit.
People love the treadmill, but is it getting you the results that you want? If the answer is no, consider switching your treadmill routine with high-intensity intervals. Do 4 minutes of any cardio exercise as hard as you can and then do 2 minutes of strength exercise. Repeat that 5 times.
Are you a walker? While walking is good for your health, it doesn’t help you lose much weight. Mix it up a bit by throwing in other cardio exercises like stationary bike, outdoor cycling, running, row machine, elliptical machine, stair climber etc.
If you are an early riser but you save your workouts for the afternoon and evenings, try getting your cardio in in the mornings. Light cardio in the AM can jumpstart the fat-burning enzymes in your liver.
Eat healthier. You might think that you are so examine what you are putting in your body. 80% of weight loss results are based on diet. Add healthy calories to your diet to boost metabolism.
Get your sleep on. When you are sleeping your muscles continue to build, fat continues to burn and your body recovers.
To get some advice on breaking through my own plateau, I turned to my trainer Lindsey Blair. She leads the Les Mills Grit class that I’m taking and she is in phenomenal shape. She advised me to add super-setting to my strength routine. She advised that I skip taking a rest between sets and do another exercise to eliminate the break. After those two exercises, Lindsey suggested taking an active break by jumping rope for 1-2 minutes. The goal, she says, is to keep the heart rate up.
Super-setting is when you complete two exercises back-to-back with no rest between sets. There are two types of super-sets: 1) antagonist supper-setting pairs two opposite muscle groups like bicep and tricep. One muscle relaxes while the other contracts; and 2) agonist supper-sets pairs two similar muscle groups back-to-back. Combine compound movement with isolation movement. Compound movement could include bench press followed by incline bench press. Isolation could include barbell curls followed by hammer curls.
I set out to follow LB’s advice and have been doing so for the last couple of weeks. I’ve added super-sets to my strength workouts and concentrate on keeping my heart rate up between sets by doing high knee runs, mountain climbers or burpees.
I feel much stronger than I did a few weeks ago. My muscles feel more challenged and my metabolism has increased.
Perhaps the most important key to breaking through any plateau is to get real with yourself. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Recognize when your performance has peaked, man up, and change your workout by challenging yourself.