You’ve been crushing it in the gym lately. Maybe you’re not the strongest guy in the weight room, but you’ve definitely felt yourself progressing over time. You used to struggle with a 215-lb squat and now look at you. That’s warm-up weight to you!
But, as quickly as you’ve noticed your growth, suddenly you’re stuck. Hey, these things happen. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with your progress slowing down a bit. Keep in mind that if you recently started going to the gym, your beginner gains will slow down eventually. Someone who doesn’t exercise can pack on about 15 pounds of muscle in six months (or 2.5 pounds per month, according to NSCA Trainer Brad Schoenfeld).
After your first few months of training, you can expect an average of 1 pound of muscle per month. Unfortunately, after 3 years of consistent training, it’s not uncommon for seasoned lifters to plateau.
The Importance of Progress
Of course, some of you may be wondering why continuing to progress matters. If your body has decided that this is its natural limit, why bother trying to push it further?
Well, a few things. First off, getting stuck at a 215-lb deadlift does not mean that you’ve reached your genetic limit. Believe it or not, most people will never max out their genetic potential.
What we’re really looking at is an issue of imbalance. Something is wrong with the way you’re training and the solution isn’t to give up. The solution is to get creative. It’s time to actually dive into the three common causes of plateaus and (more importantly) how to address them.
Switch Things Up
More often than not, people will go to the gym and go through the same routine week after week, month after month. Generally speaking, it’s some variation of the program they followed when they first started lifting weights. After all, if it worked all those years ago, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t work now, right?
Eh. Here’s the issue. It’s not that the exercises don’t work. It’s that, more often than not, you don’t. It’s not your fault, by the way. Getting bored with your workouts is a serious issue. Anyone would get bored doing the same workouts for months (sometimes years) at a time.
Plus, you need to challenge your body in new ways. Don’t ignore squats just because you deadlift. Stop avoiding pull-ups because you do push-ups. Your workout regimen should be challenging your entire body (especially if you want to bust through those plateaus).
Analyze Your Diet
Getting plenty of exercise is great. So is doing a variety of different, engaging exercises. But if you aren’t taking care of your nutritional needs, you’re going to be stuck for quite a while, my friend.
Let’s get one thing clear: what you eat is just as (if not more) important as how often you hit the gym. It’s common sense, really. Using high-quality materials to build a house is easier than building a house with low-quality ones.
Are you getting enough protein in your diet? How much fat are you consuming every day? Are you drinking water, man? These are the questions that you need to ask yourself. Honestly, this is probably where most people’s issues lie. Fix this and there’s a pretty good chance that putting on muscle is going to become a lot easier for you.
Take A Break
Okay, so this one might sound a bit strange at first, but hear us out. Occasionally, an over-enthusiastic fitness junkie will ask too much of their body. Maybe they’re just dealing with a lot of stress in general. Maybe they’re working out for too long or too often. Whatever the case may be, overtraining is a very real issue, and something that can absolutely make it hard to progress.
Here’s what happens: The leaner your body gets, the higher your cortisol levels rise. Cortisol, in case you aren’t familiar with it, is the stress hormone. The longer your cortisol levels are elevated, the more likely you are to suffer from any one (or all) of these symptoms:
- Sleep disruption;
- Impaired cognitive function;
- Slower healing times for wounds;
- Weakened immune system
- and, of course, decreased muscle ,ass
As ridiculous as it might sound, take a hard look at your training schedule (and your general stress level) and figure out if you need to take some time off from the gym. Believe it or not, easing up on the weights might actually make your fitness goals a bit more achievable.
So, there you have it. Keep things interesting in the weight room (for you mind’s sake, as well as your body’s), be smart about what you put into your body, and respect the value of rest. Once you’ve gotten a handle on those, you’ll be back on track to breaking those personal records and growing stronger than ever before.