4 tips to break weight-training plateaus


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There’s nothing like the first year of weight training when your lifts go up 10 pounds a week, and you look better and better each day. Sadly, that first year comes to an end and you eventually hit plateaus on your lifts that require time and strategy to break.

In terms of weightlifting, plateaus are defined as an extended period of time during which one or more of your lifts have not increased, despite performing the lift regularly. Some plateaus can be overcome relatively quickly, while others may take a few weeks or months to surpass.

It’s important to remember that plateaus are completely normal, not a sign of weakness. If you need to overcome a plateau, here are four things you should try:


1. Correct your form.

Compromising good form might allow you to add a bit of weight to your lift at a particular point in time, but it is no way to progress. Poor form can cause strain on your joints and uneven muscle development.

Take a minute to research good form on the lift you’re having trouble with or ask someone at the gym for their 2 cents. You may end up having to lower the weight on your lift to concentrate on form, but you’ll likely progress back to your previous weight quickly and continue to progress.


2. Don't forget to deload.

Overtraining is also a common culprit for weightlifting plateaus. You might have been able to increase your one-rep max on a weekly basis earlier in your training, but eventually muscle recovery needs to be taken into account to achieve gains.

A deload week is a seven-day period in which you perform your normal workout with approximately 40% to 60% of the weight you normally lift. The point of this is to give your muscles and central nervous system a break without staying out of the gym entirely.

It is recommended that deload weeks be taken every four weeks, especially following period of really high stress like one-rep-max weeks and weightlifting competitions.


3. Increase volume and frequency.

For many weightlifters, it is all too tempting to work up to a max every time they hit the gym. However, these “macho man” gains are short-lived.

Shifting the focus of your workout routine from amount of weight to the number of reps will help your muscles grow more evenly and thoroughly. This focus is exactly what is embodied in the rigorous yet effective Smolov squat routine, famous for adding 60 to 100 pounds to anyone’s one-rep max.

Try adding supersets and burnout sets to your workout instead of packing on the plates.


4. Re-evaluate your diet.

Your stagnant progress in the gym could be a result of your habits outside of the gym, particularly your diet.

A lack of protein, crucial for muscle growth, could be the reason for a plateau. Protein intake is especially important following a workout, when your muscles are depleted.

Also, eating carbohydrates before the gym could provide you with the energy boost needed to shatter that plateau.