Getting stuck in a plateau stinks – there’s just no other way to put it.
When you’re doing everything you can to push though and transform your body, and your results essentially stop, it’s easy to get discouraged. This point is critical, as it is where many athletes give up. They either jump ship and start working another program, start slacking or give up altogether.
Everyone experiences plateaus now and then and you just have to find a way to get through it. You have to dominate all aspects of your training, including the inevitable plateau.
Through my work, I’ve found several ways to blast through plateaus. These methods are things that everyone can do. Some come from well-known names like Charles Poliquin and IFBB pro, Ben Pakulski. Others come from what I have seen in the people I’ve trained. Still others come from my experience in fine-tuning my own body. All of them will help you not only get back on the bandwagon, but also start seeing gains again. They also should cause you to rethink your approach to training.
1. Change the Tempo
Time under tension is measured in a 3-number ratio. The first number refers to the number of seconds in the lowering, or eccentric, phase. The second is the number of seconds you pause, and the third is the number of seconds you lift, or the concentric phase.
You can change your tempo by increasing or decreasing the concentric part and increasing the eccentric part, such as 8:0:4, 3:1:3, 4:2:1 o 6:1:3. These are all slow tempos. For a faster tempo, consider 1:0:1 or 2:0:1. For something in the middle, consider 2:1:1, 3:1:1 or 3:2:1. The point is not a specific ratio, per se, but rather making a change to your existing ratio.
2. Swap Sets with Reps
Swapping sets and reps gives you the same number of reps, but may trick your body into better results. For example, if you are doing 8 sets of 4, change to 4 sets of 8. This changes your routine from intensity training to volume training. If you’re looking for muscle size, you want volume training. If you’re looking for strength, you want intensity training.
3. Do a Giant Set
Most training protocols teach you to rotate between body parts during your routine, but a giant set does just the opposite. With a giant set, you do a 6-12-25 set of three different exercises for the same body part back-to-back-to-back. This requires all three of the primary muscle fibers to work out, giving you better growth and definition. It puts low-rep strength, hypertrophy and endurance work all into one series.
This is not an easy approach. When I did a YouTube video series on it, I went through the workouts myself. They’re tough. However, they’re worthwhile and will help you improve, so don’t be afraid to try them, provided you’re experienced enough to handle it. It’s not for beginners.
4. Use a Stopwatch
Unless you have a stopwatch, you can’t be certain how long you’re resting. Those 30 seconds go by quickly when you’re pushing yourself hard. Wear a stopwatch and time your rest periods, so your workouts are honest and consistent. Make the most out of every second of your workout. This starts by learning to count those seconds.
5. Work Yourself Like Crazy, then Rest
At Charles Poliquin’s 5-Day Hypertrophy Boot Camp, I worked myself almost to death. This was the hardest week of my life, working every body part three times daily, for a full five days. I learned 15 unique workouts and some of the best methods, none of which I’ve seen published anywhere for all of the 10 years I’ve been doing this.
When we left, we were told to take five days off. It’s a good thing I listened, because my body was wasted. What surprised me was what happened during those five days of rest. I gained five pounds of lean muscle mass while not doing anything. In fact, all 17 of those who participated in the boot camp also gained, with the average gain being five pounds.
From this I learned that pushing yourself to an extreme will create super compensation, if you give your body rest and recovery time. You can do this yourself. Work every body part three times per day for five days total, then take off the next five days. If this is too ambitious, start with two workouts a day.
This will shock your body and blast you through your plateau. We now teach Poliquin’s method to our own Hypertrophy MAX students here at IFBB. We teach it because it works really well, so go ahead and give it a try.
6. Rotate Protein Sources
Your body can quickly get used to protein sources just as it does workouts. If you’re eating the standards of chicken, eggs and steak, you need to stop those for a week and try something new. Also, make sure you don’t eat the same protein two times in the same day. Don’t neglect the dairy and plant-based proteins, like beans, quinoa and yogurt, when making your choices.
7. Focus on One Part
Finally, if you’re trying to bust out of a plateau, start by focusing on just one part. Pick the body part that needs the most work, and work it as hard as you can two or three times a week for a period of three to six weeks. This will trick your body into developing that body part. Then, resume normal frequency so the body part can super compensate. Don’t specialize in this way for more than six weeks, though. Resume your normal frequency, and watch the plateau disappear.
There’s 7 good ways for you to break through a plateau, so monitor your tracking carefully, so you can spot one as it starts, and you’ll avoid a lot of lost time and wasted effort.
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