Sometimes in our efforts to create the perfect physique, we find that we are hitting a plateau. No matter what we do, we can’t seem to get any further. A situation like this can be very discouraging, causing you to psych yourself out when all you probably need are a couple of tweaks to your existing plan. What can you do? Follow these six tips to break through that plateau and get on the road to the body you want.
Don’t Overdo It
If a little is good, a lot must be better, right? Since lifting helps you build muscle, more lifting will help you build more, the thinking goes. Not so fast. It is possible to work out too long. How does this work? When you work out hard for more than an hour, your body starts releasing stress hormones. One of these hormones is cortisol, which has the effect of weakening muscles, thus, making longer workouts counterproductive. So what is the solution? Well, you do need the intense activity, but focus on making your workouts more productive during that hour. Analyze your current routine and see where you can cut out exercises that are less useful. Men’s Fitness has this suggestion:
Rather than spending every moment trying a different variation of bicep curls, master the basics and load them up.
Figure out which exercises get you the most bang for your buck, and focus on these.
When it comes to a workout program, we’ve all heard about the importance of lifting at the right tempo. But focusing on slow tempos may actually be keeping you on that plateau. For a change, try to lift as fast as you can, getting you access to fast-twitch muscle. Aside from this, it will keep you from expending lots of mental energy trying to get that tempo just right, letting your body focus solely on muscle growth. You will also get more done in a shorter time, which helps you make good use of the limited time where you will be effective before stress hormone release makes it a losing game. You also will see more calories used up, helping get rid of lingering fat stores.
Sometimes when people think fast, they think in terms of running around in a circuitous fashion, trying to do a whole-body workout. While there is no doubt that this is an excellent way of getting lean, and it certainly will burn the calories, it can be counterproductive for gaining muscle mass. What you really need to focus on is heavy resistance and low reps. Use your time concentrating on your core lifting rather than running around trying to do everything.
It’s a simple equation. You need food to build muscle. Without enough food, you will not gain size. What keeps people stuck here is the fear of eating “too much” and consequently adding to your adipose tissues – making you fat. But this can be a losing proposition, since that fear will often keep you from eating enough to see the gains you need. What should you eat? In a word: protein. You know this, but how much? MensHealth stated:
Shoot for about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, which is roughly the maximum amount your body can use in a day, according to a landmark study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, you’d need 170 grams of protein. To put that in perspective, that means one chicken breast, a cup of cottage cheese, a roast beef sandwich, four eggs, and a glass of milk. Aside from the protein, you need calories. Once you’ve met you protein needs, don’t try to make up the excess calories by downing a bag of chips and a box of cookies. You need nutrients other than protein, so have some fruit, and eat leafy green vegetables.
When you’ve hit a plateau and are trying to break new ground, patience may be the last thing you want to hear about. But you need to. If you are at the gym every day and getting frustrated with the lack of progress, it can really mess up your mind, causing discouragement and leading to frustration that can cause you to give up. Jeremey Duvall quotes Rob Sulaver as saying:
One of the biggest mistakes a guy can make is getting frustrated with their progress early on. Getting hulked is a slow and arduous process – that why it garners so much respect.
Don’t expect increases in size to come easily. It will take time. But here is where tracking your progress is so important. If you increase your bench press by 5 pounds every two weeks, in three months you will be lifting 30 pounds more, with the consequent results. You simply can’t shortcut hard work. It will take time, but you will get there, as long as you take a focused, consistent approach to it.
Let Yourself Recover
Don’t forget that when you are lifting, you are actually tearing your muscles down, not building them up. Where you build them up is the time between workouts. If you don’t take care of your body at these times, you will not allow your body to do the work of actually building your muscles back up, increasing size, strength, and stamina. So remember that you can’t simply have a killer workout at the gym and treat your body poorly at other times. Building is a whole-life experience. So concentrate on good nutrition, and make sure you get enough quality sleep.
Some guys are always looking in the mirror and focusing on what is right in front of them. They forget that what is behind them is just as important. When you spend all your time focusing on your chest and abdomen, and little on your back, you are doing yourself a disservice. First of all, it can make you look a bit lopsided. Have you ever seen those guys with huge chests walking around looking like an ape? That’s the result of an unbalanced workout. For an excellent look you need to focus on what you can’t see as well: your back.