Over-Coming Growth Plateaus & Progress in Bodybuilding

Growth Plateaus

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All bodybuilders makeexcellent gains when they begin because any kind of weight training is a strong stimulus to their untrained muscles. When you exercise regularly the usual pattern of muscular response is as follows:

1. Muscles show a sudden growth spurt.

2. Muscle growth slows and stops. In fact, muscle size may even diminish slightly. You may not be able to increase the weights you use on your exercises. This is called a plateau.

3. Muscle size remains constant for some time (varies from individual to individual).

4. Muscles suddenly show a growth spurt.

So it is normal to make quick gains, reach a point where gains stop for a while (plateau), and then, with continued effort. The muscles start growing again. Unfortunately another plateau is eventually reached. Training more intensely and paying more attention to nutrition, rest and recovery will get you over that next hurdle.

The training you did in the first couple of months stressed or overloaded your muscles enough to cause an adaptative growth response called overcompensation. (Your muscles grew a little bigger and stronger.) Basically, the body doesn't like to be stressed. In response to the weights you lifted and the overloads you subjected your muscles to, your muscles grew bigger and stronger in order to prepare for the next time your body is similarly stressed. As long as you keep increasing the stress/overload, your muscles will continue overcompensating - but only if you allow them enough recovery time to grow.

In 1936 Hans Selye of McGill University in Montreal demonstrated that f rats were stressed and then allowed to recover; they became stronger Rats that were stressed again before they recovered became weaker Rats that were not stressed again did not improve. To improve, you must increase your body's capacity by increasing its workload, but not beyond its ability to recover.

You may be overtraining. Allow enough rest between workouts for recovery. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if one set is good, two are better; or if you gained well doing two exercises per muscle group. you'll gain twice as fast on four exercises per muscle group.

A few months of training isn't very long. When you started, you probably followed a whole-body routine three times a week, doing one exercise per major muscle group for 3 sets. At this workload level your body was able to recover. But if you re now doings or 6 sets per muscle group on a three-times-a-week, whole-body routine, you might be unable to recover properly You U recover better - and grow better - by dividing the body in two and training four times a week on an every-other-day routine (chest, back, arms one workout, abs. delts, legs the next). This way each muscle group is trained twice every eight days instead of three times a week.

Now a few quick suggestions that should help you to bust past this plateau: Don't miss workouts, but keep each workout no more than an hour long. Make sure you re not overtraining. Keep total sets per muscle group per workout to 6 or fewer; Keep a training diary and try to increase the weights you use on your exercises by two and a half to five pounds every week or two, or at least do one more rep with the same weight you used the previous workout. In other words, train progressively.

Ensure that you're getting enough sleep at night. Try to get a quick nap before a workout or sometime during the day. Even 15 or 20 minutes 'rest will make a world of difference in your recovery. If you're really tired, you can even take two complete days off instead one after every four-workout cycle. Check your diet for enough protein and total calories. Take a vitamin-mineral supplement every day and have several small protein shakes between meals two or three times a day. Most of all be patient - you will start to grow again if you supply your body with enough nutrients, give it the rest and recovery time it needs, and keep increasing training intensity and workout overload sensibly.

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