There is nothing more frustrating than experiencing a fitness plateau. Where losing weight was once easy, now it seems that no matter how hard you try, you simply aren’t getting stronger, or bigger, or slimmer.
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This can be very disappointing, especially after all of those months of hard work and dedication, but just know that you aren’t alone. Eventually, everyone will reach a point in their fitness journey in which their results begin to stall.
Your body hates physical change – it sees it as a threat to survival – and will do anything to avoid it. In terms of weight loss, your body adapts to the changes you’ve made, figuring out how to maintain its current state without using as much energy.
Translation? Even though you are doing the same amount of work, you will burn fewer calories and gain less muscle. If what was once working for you is no longer getting results, you need to break through that fitness plateau.
1. Increase Your Resistance
If you aren’t seeing results, chances are you aren’t working hard enough. The stronger you become, the more you have to challenge yourself in order to continue seeing results. Try upping your weights or resistance during your strength training workouts to build more fat-blasting muscle mass.
2. Take A Break
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it really works. If you aren’t seeing any changes despite still hitting the gym hard and every day, you might be over-training. If your body rebels and refuses respond to your workouts, it may be telling you to take a rest. Take a week off of training to let your body rest and heal itself so you can come back to your workouts stronger and more motivated than ever. You can do some gentle yoga, swimming or jogging that week, but lay off the heavy training and you may find you have bigger gains when you get back into the swing of things.
3. Try Drop Sets
Muscle confusion is the key to continued growth, and drop sets are the perfect way to do this. Drop sets are simple: pick 3 or 4 sets of weights of descending resistance. Start with the heaviest (your typical weight for that exercise) and max out. Pick the next lighter weight and do a few more reps to failure. Then, pick the even lighter weight and do more reps to failure. Working past failure will stimulate new growth.
4. Use Negative Training
Another way to work past failure is to use negative, or “eccentric” training. Negative training overloads the muscle during the eccentric portion of your lift, allowing you to lift 30 per cent more weight than you normally could, while you are assisted by a partner during the concentric portion.
5. Choose A New Rep Range
If you follow the 3-sets-of-15-reps rule, or something close to it, your body is going to figure you out and get used to it. Try a new rep range to create muscle confusion. Just remember, if you do fewer reps, you will need to up your weight accordingly to ensure the last rep of each set is the last one you can do with good form.
6. Check Your Diet
Consuming too much processed food and not enough whole foods inevitably leads to weight gain, so if the scale isn’t moving (and weight loss is your goal) take a good, hard look at your intake. Keep in mind that as you lose weight, you require fewer calories to maintain your new body, so your calories will need to be adjusted along with your progress. Keep a food journal to get a better sense of what you’re actually eating. You may be surprised at all the snacks and treats that add up.
7. Eat More
On the flip side, if you’re cutting calories too quickly or drastically, you may enter starvation mode, where your body hangs on to every calorie you eat for survival. Striking the right calorie balance for your age, gender and fitness level is key to continued progress. Make sure you’re eating clean meals with wholesome ingredients that are full of protein, vegetables and complex carbs to fuel your muscles, so they can grow back bigger and stronger.
8. Try Something New
Try a new piece of equipment, a new exercise, a new activity or a group fitness class you’ve always been wanting to try – anything to put some variety into your routine and throw something new at your body that it’s not expecting. Not only is this great for shocking your muscles and overcoming a plateau, but it’s excellent for your mental motivation as well. (It’s fun to mix it up!).
9. HIIT It
If you’re used to doing slow, steady-state cardio, turn up the volume with high intensity-interval training (HIIT). Not only does alternating bursts of all-out intensity with lower intensity recovery intervals burn the most calories out of any type of workout, but it continues to burn calories long after your workout is over. Up the intensity, up the results.
10. Sleep On It
A night of restful sleep resets your hormones, making everything run at maximum efficiency. Even missing out on a little bit of sleep can cause you to produce more cortisol, the stress hormone, which signals to your body to store fat around your midsection, no matter how hard you are dieting and exercising. Focus on getting more sleep, and you may find you have better workouts and much better results.