It happens to us all. Everything is going great. You’re adding muscle and shedding pounds. You feel stronger and more confident.
And then…WHAM! It hits: the dreaded plateau.
Suddenly, everything is going wrong. You stop building muscle, stop losing fat, and stop progressing. It’s a state of homeostasis,where here everything stays the same.
At this point, many people get discouraged and give up. They back away from the gym and stop watching what they eat. In a few weeks or months, they rouse themselves enough to try getting in shape again. After some rapid progress, guess what?
Yes, they hit another plateau. And give up again for a while. Sometimes this cycle can repeat itself for years.
I have hit so many plateaus in my life but the one I remember the most is when I sat around 92 kg. I must have sat there for 2 years. Up to 93, down to 91, but 92 was it.
I thought I was doing everything right. But I wasn’t. I was doing the same thing I had been doing for as long as I can remember. As soon as I made the changes that were required, I suddenly shot up to 97 kg. This is where I comfortably sit right now and i’m stronger than ever.
What does all this have to do with you? Everything! My message to you is:
Don’t get discouraged, get off your plateau instead.
- Cycle Your Calories
If your goal is 3000 calories per day., That’s 21,000 per week. The normal gym goer would split this up evenly over 7 days. This makes life easy but also makes it easy to stagnate.
Instead, eat more or less each day depending on what you are doing that day.
For example, you might eat 3,400 calories on leg day and 2,900 on arm day and so on.
This helps to trick your body into believing it’s not losing fat or on a long term bulk. The result: more constant growth.
- Periodize Your Routine
Or in simple terms, switch up things every week or so. Periodization has been proven to improve muscle growth and fat loss. How it works is as soon as your body starts to figure out what you’re up to, you change your routine.
A simple protocol would look like this:
Week 1: 5 reps
Week 2: 8 reps
Week 3: 10 reps
Week 4: 12 reps
Week 5: start over
This is basic version of periodization where you alter the rep ranges to target different energy systems and muscle fibres.
As you advance, you can switch up the exercises as well as the rep ranges.
This will keep your body guessing and promote constant growth.
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Fasting is extremely popular and for good reason. It cleans out old cells, helps regulate hunger hormones, and can slow the effects of some diseases.
The sort of fast I recommend is a 24-36 hour fast. I personally go for longer fasts between 3-4 days for health benefits that aren’t gym related.
During your fast your body will forget about what it’s been doing and start cleaning out old cells in the body to use as fuel. The duration without food also helps your body look to your stored energy to keep it alive.
After your fast, you will have reset your body and you can begin your normal regime again.
If your fast is longer than 2 days then once every 2 months is a good frequency. If you decide the shorter fasts are your thing then once a month or up to once a week can be beneficial.
- Work Harder
We can become the villain in our own story. We get comfortable and stop treating each workout with the intensity it deserves. Instead we look for something else to blame whether it be genetics, age, work, your bad knee etc.
Make sure you are giving every workout your absolute best. You should feel like crawling out of the gym.
My favorite way to increase intensity is to add dropsets to each exercise.
To do this, simply take the set to failure, drop some weight and go again. It will feel like someone has a blowtorch to your muscles.
5. Forgive Yourself
Plateaus are inevitable. Whether you like it or not, it will come. It happens to all of us. Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekly gym goer, you’re still human. The important thing is to keep going and say: “okay, what now?”
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