Okay bro, you’ve been hitting the gym hard and noticing some changes, hopefully people around you are noticing those gains too. Unfortunately, the only thing that hasn’t changed is how much weight you are able to life. You want to be able to throw more weight on the bar and give the cis dudes a run for their money but it seems like you’re stuck. What gives? Well, the problem is that you’ve reached a plateau. Yeah, it sucks but almost everyone will reach this point where it feels like advancing is impossible. Which is why squatting the bar with 25lbs plates is easy but advancing to the 45lbs plates seems difficult, even getting through a single rep. If this sounds like you, keep reading! Let’s look at some reasons you may be in the dreaded plateau zone.
Are you recording your workouts? Fitness is just a journey and having a map is the key to having a successful trip. While spontaneity can be fun, having a map is the best way to make the fitness adventure worth your while. Without a plan in mind, you’re going to waste money and time in the gym by “winging it”. In this case, it’s best to save the spontaneity for road trips. Since you are already working out, go in and record everything you do starting with name of exercise, weight used (if any), number of sets and repetitions. These will be starting points. Do this for every exercise day; chest/back/leg/ab day. Once you know exactly which exercises are being performed, it will be easier to keep track of how often you are progressing or not.
Are you changing it up? Do you go in to the gym and start with the same exercise, do the same number of reps at the same weight, and then proceed this pattern throughout your session with the exact same exercises you did last week? If you said yes to any of these, this might be a reason you’re not advancing. Your body is going to get comfortable doing the same thing over and over again. You need to throw your muscles a curve ball by changing up the routine. You can do this by working backwards one week, trying super sets (switching quickly between two exercises), or it may be time to create a workout routine to compliment the major moves (Bench Press, Dead Lift, Squat) without doing these movements. It might be a good idea to build up some complimentary muscles for a few weeks then get back to the compound movements. And speaking of compound movements….
Are your muscle tired? You might be setting yourself up for failure by preforming complimentary muscle movements before large muscle. For instance, if it’s Chest Day (probably Monday) and you do a sets of “Pec-Dec Fly’s” before attempting the bench press, you have exhausted the muscles needed to perform a successful bench press before you even get under the bar. In the case of doing complimentary movements before compound movements, it’s not a matter of plateauing, it’s exhaustion. You probably could bench press a little more if you did a compound movement first instead of performing secondary, such as dips and pec moves first. Don’t be fooled if there is extra testosterone in your system, you’re not going to be able to hulk out and set a personal records every session. We all have bad days at the gym. One week, you are going to rock it and the next week you might have to lower the weight, but don’t get down about it, you might just need some rest.
Do you have a rest day? Gym memberships are expensive, eating right is a lifestyle, and those gym clothes look pretty sweet on you too, bro. But are you forgetting to take it easy? Rest day is almost as important as hitting the gym itself. If you’re muscles are not able to recover before starting again, you’re never going to be able to get the results you want. If you want to be able to give it all you got, you don’t want to be yawning under the bar. Your body needs rest and you need sleep to be in top preforming shape while your muscle are in recovery mode.
Are you eating (drinking enough water)? We all know food is fuel for the body, and we need fuel for these sweet new muscles. Muscles need protein, plain and simple. If you’re trying to bulk an excess of carbs is okay, you’ll need them to help put on some mass. But let’s be real, if you’re having a candy bar before or after a workout, prepare for your workout to suck and the gains to stay far away. Protein before or after a workout is going to be the most beneficial thing to feed and recover those muscles. Treat yourself to a shake, chicken, broccoli, beans, cottage cheese, there are TONS of high protein food and it’s up to you to find out what you like but you gotta eat. Oh, and never ever work out on an empty stomach or if you feel hungry especially if you’re going to be moving heavy weight, you might be in danger of passing out.
How many more reps you got, bro? Pyramiding is a great way to not only test your strength but push you muscle to the next level. Especially if you have been stuck doing three to four sets of eight to ten repetitions(4X10: 3X12). A pyramid is starting with a comfortable weight and completing the most reps, then increase the weight on the next set but drop the number of reps by at least two and no more than four, and so on. Since we’re focusing on building muscle, it’s suggested to keep repetitions at a lower number, twelve maximum; 1X12, 1X10, 1X8. The last set should be the heaviest weight and you should be struggling to get to the eighth repetition while the first set at twelve reps should feel like it can easily be reached or even do more, but don’t push it, save your strength for the next sets. If you want to use heavier weights; 1X10, 1X8, 1X6 will allow this. However, it is probably a good idea to switch between these styles of pyramiding every few weeks.
These are just some tips for you dudes out there trying to set a new PR. Since you are following rule number four right now by resting and reading, take this time to go over your workouts and make a plan to change them up and make changing it up every month to six weeks part of your fitness routine. In just a few weeks you’ll be busting out of the plateau zone. Fuel up on some protein then get out there and crush it.