How to Get Past a Workout Plateau
Experiencing a workout plateau? Try these tips to overcome your plateau and continue your progress.
One of the most common questions personal training clients ask me is, “What should I do when things get easy?”
One of the most common things I SEE as a personal trainer (besides poor form) is people performing the same exercises, at the same weight, for way longer than they should – unless there is some medical/health reason why they can’t change up their program.
Why We Hit Plateaus
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same exact workout routine every day of our lives, AND make progress? Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works (woof).
Our bodies are amazing machines; they will adapt to almost anything we put them through, in order to bring our bodies back to homeostasis: a state of balance, or dynamic equilibrium.
So, back to that workout you’ve been doing with the same weights and number of reps for the past two months: it might not be working for you anymore. Yes, it will aid in maintenance, but if you’re looking to continue building strength and endurance…it’s time to change it up!
How to Tell if You’ve Hit a Plateau
At some point, a basic bodyweight squat will become too easy.
Paying attention to form and making sure we pick effective exercises is hard enough. How the HECK are you supposed to realize when you’ve hit a plateau? If you’ve one or more of the following thoughts has crossed your mind, it’s time to step it up:
- I could do 78 more reps of this exercise! Once we pass the 15-rep set, it’s generally safe to say that we can increase weights used for the current exercise. While it’s one of many ways to progress a movement, it can be the most basic adjustment.
- Now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I increased these weights. Unless you have an injury or health reason for maintaining the weight you’re lifting, that one’s a huge red flag! A relatively active, healthy adult who lifts regularly could increase weights at least every other session, depending on how form looks.
- I’m bored. Not much explanation needed there, right? While boredom doesn’t always stem from a plateau, it can be a sign that you need some more spice in your life!
Three Tips for Getting Over Your Workout Plateau
Remember that this is not your personal exercise prescription. Before trying these or any tips on Hello to Fit, have a little chat with your physician, physical therapist, or fitness professional.
You’ve said one or more of the above phrases to yourself. Workouts are becoming monotonous. You’re losing motivation to exercise. Looks like it’s time to try one or three of these tips!
Increase your reps, sets, and weights (generally in that order)
Before mastering a new weight, it could be easiest to first increase repetitions performed in each set. Basically, you are evaluating how long you can maintain good form. Have you reached 15 reps and could’ve done five more? Increase the number of sets performed to fatigue the muscles, then increase the weights (with lower reps) to continue building strength.
Perform the same movement with a different fitness tool
Tired of doing bench press with the barbell or dumbbells? Above, I’ve complemented my chest work with a variation on push-ups. By balancing on an exercise ball, I can incorporate additional muscle groups (legs, more abs/back) while forcing my muscles to adapt in a new way.
Make friends with a new fitness tool, learn how to use it safely and effectively, and go WILD (with love for a new challenge).
Hire a personal trainer
Okay, okay. This last tip is a plug for personal training. While I may be biased, hiring a fitness professional to help you overcome a plateau can be extremely helpful. Assuming you and your trainer are a good match for each other, he/she can help you set new goals, monitor your progression of reps/sets/weights, and push you out of your comfort zone.
Many Routes to Overcoming a Plateau
Just like there is not a one-size-fits-all regimen for a healthy and fit bod, there is no one-size-fits-all protocol for getting through a workout plateau. Success will come in many different forms, depending on your goals, fitness level, who you talk to, and what you read.
It’s important to find what works best for YOU, and you might not get that by reading a fitness magazine or asking your friend what she did. Of all the ways you can overcome a plateau, the big takeaway is this: the body adapts (faster than we think), and we must keep up with it by continuing to challenge ourselves!
I’ll be packing up for my bachelorette party later this evening. Can’t wait for a weekend of girlfriends and fun! Follow along on our adventures via Instagram.
- What do you do when you hit a workout plateau?
- Tell me your favorite fitness tool
- What’s for lunch today?
- Have you attended a bachelorette party recently?