Weight Training & Bodybuilding Plateaus: How to Overcome Sticking Points

Overcoming Training Plateaus

Always Keep Moving Ahead with Your Fitness & Dedication

fitFLEX Articles - Learn, Share and Discover



I love bodybuilding. So do you, right? Why else would you be reading this article at fitFLEX? Rut like most other pursuits, bodybuilding is great when all is going well and the pits when it isn't. Unfortunately building muscle is not an endless cycle of fantastic gains. If this were true, we would see 38-inch arms and 75-inch chests. The bench press record would be over 1000 pounds and the squat would top a ton. However, the body has not been pushed that far yet. It slows and finally stops its progress. The point at which this occurs can be different for each individual lifter. The body often comes to a stop in training as it is rebelling against the attempt to change it into something larger. These stops are referred to as "plateaus" - places where the training gains flatten out or cease. Every bodybuilder faces these flat times. If that were not true, a novice could garner a top championship within a couple of years simply by training continuously. The truth is that the champions are the bodybuilders who have learned to get past the plateaus and keep moving ahead.

The first time a lifter hits a plateau he tends to panic. Perhaps he is working out with the shoulder press and has moved steadily up to 125 pounds. Now, however, he seems to be stuck at that weight. He had been able to increase the amount of weight used every three weeks, but now he is going nowhere. In fact, he got two fewer repetitions in his last workout than he had in the previous one. He is in a state of panic. Fortunately there is an answer.


Beginning and experienced trainees alike sooner or later have to deal with the problem. The plateaus seem to come more often as you advance. This can be a real frustration. The difficulty may involve amount of weight used, sets, repetitions, or the body size itself. Measurements get to a certain level and then stop. The bodybuilder has reached this point several times with the same result - the body goes flat. He has arrived at a true plateau.

So everyone hits plateaus. What is the best path past them? There are several routes that will take you around that sticking point that is frustrating you. The first step is to make an assessment of whether or not the plateau has occurred from overtraining. Plateaus caused by overtraining are common. The best course of action here is to take some time off There is a certain point beating a dead horse, so to speak. If your plateau has come from overtraining you need to put the weights down for a while. How can you tell if your plateau is the result of overtraining? Listen to your body. Do you have a lot of aches and pains? Do you drag yourself into the gym? Does your mind wander often during your workout? These are very real indicators that you are in the over trained state. You need to take some time off away from the gym. Believe it or not, a layoff is actually good for your physique. Your muscles will rebound so strongly when you return to training that you will quickly blow by the sticking point - which was only your body telling you what it needed.

What do you do if you are not overtraining and still hit a plateau? You enjoy getting into the gym, have no injuries, but still get stuck. The first place to check is your fuel. What is your diet like? Maybe you have slipped below the level of carbohydrates that your body needs for energy, or you are not putting enough protein into your system after workouts and this shortfall is inhibiting your growth potential. Just a slight dip in the carb and protein intake can hold you back if you play it right on the line. Another factor is lack of a fully balanced diet. Missing a few key minerals or vitamins can short-circuit your body's metabolism and in turn cause it to cut back on its expansion plans. So check your diet and fuel up.

If your diet is correct and you are not overtraining, there remains only one area on which you need to focus to overcome a plateau. This area is the most common problem in plateaus - the mental aspect. The mind plays such a key part in bodybuilding that it must always be considered. This a fine-tuned instrument that can be thrown off course without the person knowing it. Applied to bodybuilding, this fact means that a bodybuilder may be his own problem in the plateau crisis. His body may be capable of going further and flying right past the plateau, but his mind won't let it. Sometimes an extreme amount of mental discipline is required to bring it into line. "Fooling" the mind may be necessary. For example, if a lifter plateaus at a 300-pound bench press and can't get past it, he can opt to use a pair of 1- 1/4-pound plates instead of the traditional 2-1/2-pounders. The extra weight feels so light and insignificant that he has no problem putting up the bar and breaking his plateau. He is able to move ahead to heavier weights because he has mentally accepted the ability which his body had all along. This approach can work in any lift with any set and repetition combination. When the mind realizes that it can handle the load, it generally will reignite to a whole new level of growth.

The bodybuilder who has been training for a long time often comes up against a mental wall, a plateau caused by long association with the weights. This blockage can keep occurring until he beats it. Sometimes the answer lies in simply pounding away at the wall until it is broken, taking the body to the edge of overtraining. There is a fine line between overtraining and maximum training, and the seasoned bodybuilder can find it if he is looking for it. He may have to get a little more sleep and maintain a tighter control of the diet, but success can be accomplished.

If you find yourself on that nasty plateau of no growth, don't panic. You can push past the temporary stopping point, especially if you view it as temporary instead of long term. Make your move and don't let a plateau beat you.





Related Articles