Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Overcoming Training Plateuas

Bodybuilding, as many things in life, follows an ebb and flow pattern. Sometimes progress comes rapidly. At other times it grinds to a halt . . . that's when you've hit a plateau. Bodybuilding plateaus are characterized by a steady state, or in biological terms, a homeostasis effect where literally nothing is happening with your body, you are merely maintaining your present physique.

Not only have your physical gains leveled off, your enthusiasm has begun to dwindle as your workouts go seemingly unrewarded. Obviously, something must be done about this situation. 

Every bodybuilder at some point in his life hits a plateau. You can get all aggravated and then depressed, or you can learn how you as an individual can overcome these plateaus when they come up, maybe in time even learn how to avoid them coming up at all. 

Muscular growth is the end result of your body's adaptation to stress imposed on the muscles. "Overload" is the most elemental method of applying stress to the muscles. Increased poundages, more reps, more sets, less rest between sets. If you can't increase at least one of those fundamentals in time you'll find yourself at a standstill. 

Training too much, too often relative to how soon you can recover fully, too long on the nerve . . . these can also cause plateaus. 

Plateaus can also come about as the result of not eating well. Not eating at all. Not getting enough sleep. Not sleeping at all. Audio and visual hallucinations. Major psychotic break. Thinking you are fighting an evil giant with your shining scepter when you're actually destroying your neighbor's lawnmower with an axe. 

The Cure: Shock Therapy

Not that kind, you fool! Beating a plateau can require drastic training techniques. In order to pull your muscles out of their slump, you've got to "fool" them sometimes. Oh, the duality of it all, eh. You? Them? We are one crazy mammalian species.   

Here's a few ways you might want to try at different times.

Alternate, switch up different bodypart routines. 
For example, for your first chest workout you could do something like this: 

1) Heavy Bench Press - 4 x6
2) Heavy Incline Flye - 4 x 8 
3) Heavy Flat Flye - 4 x 6.

Next chest workout you'd do something different: 

1) Incline Barbell Press - 5 x 10
2) Decline Dumbbell Flye - 4 x 12
3) Cable Crossover - 5 x 15.

In the example above you are completely switching both the exercises and the heaviness of the weights used. At one point, a point before computers overran the world and digital playthings grafted themselves onto so many unfortunate but awfully important people's hands and heads, I had a bunch  of little plastic cases filled with different workouts. Written out on index cards. A full body workout case. A case or two for each major bodypart. No big deal. They looked kinda like this thing - 

Imagine what you could use all those cases of index cards for!

You could even do the same with your cooking.
Bulking recipes and meal layouts.
The same for the opposite.
No reason you have to eat like a brain damaged ascetic, unless that's what you want.
I've talked to lifters who eat pretty much the same stuff  prepared the same way for ages.
Good Christ, eat a gun already and spare us all the painful demonstration of your moronic monotony. 

So, pardner. Even very small variations in your routine can do big things for ya. For hexample, José, something as simple as setting up two back layouts and alternating them will work:

Back Workout One -
Do your rowing-type things on this day. BB Row, Cable Row, etc.
Back Workout Two -
Do your puldown/chin type stuff on this day.

Set up a dumbbell only arm workout for one day
and a barbell only arm one for the other.
Or triset bi-tri-forearm using BB only for bi, cable only for tri, and DB only for forearm.
And all the variations of that small idea.

Be a fool and do only unilateral moves for your legs for a while.
Left on one day and right on the other.
Nothing says you can't eat up a lotta hard "work" and still have it with a side of variety.
This is physique training we're talkin' about here. You realize it's not strength training.
That goes without saying but I had to anyhow.

You can come up with tons of ideas, I'm sure.
The main thing is to build variety into your progressions.
There's more than one partner at this dance. Right?

Another way to avoid plateaus is to set up three "cycles" of training. The first could be a lighter, conditioning and pumping layout using, say, sets of 12-15 reps. The next, sets of 8-10 using medium/heavy weights. The third, the heaviest of the three, could be more strength-based and use lower reps, how low depending on what strength training reps you find you respond best to. 6-8. 5's. 3-5. Doubles with a pump set. Figure it out for yourself over time. 

As the cycles vary, so do the exercises used. The lighter cycles emphasize isolation exercises, whereas the heavy cycle revolves around compound moves.

Look at plateaus as a learning experience. Take what you learn with you.
Turn your stop signs into high speed turns. Bro.
Now that bit's way to corny to put here.  


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