We’ve all been there. Whether we’re trying to lose weight, add muscle, or even develop a new skill, we hit that point in our progress where everything seems to stall. Do any of these sound familiar?
- “I’ve been losing a little bit of weight each week for months, and yet I’ve been stuck the past two weeks despite sticking to my regular routine.”
- “I’ve been increasing my bench press weight for each of the past 8 weeks, but this week I lifted less than before!”
- “I’ve been running faster and faster miles for a year now, but I can’t seem to break past the seven minute mark.”
ImageIn a strong majority of the cases, plateaus are really just issues of concentration in disguise. Before you think you’re stuck (or in a plateau) consider the following: Track your meals for the next few days. Oftentimes we think we’re doing great, until we realize that after a few weeks of eating the right things we’ve started slacking. “Oh I’ve been good, just this one time,” and “sure why not” become more common as we start to fall back into old habits. This one issue is probably responsible for more than half of the “plateau: cases out there. For women, a big issue is not eating enough calories. If you are trying to bulk up, are you eating enough calories to promote muscle growth The fix: Rededicate yourself for two weeks, track your meals, and see if progress picks back up! How are your workouts? If you are weeks or months into a workout plan, I bet the initial luster has worn off. Have you been skipping that last rep, cutting out an exercise here or there, getting bored and wanting to go home? I know when I hit a plateau at the gym, it’s generally because I haven’t been pushing myself as hard as I had been previously. The fix: Track your workouts regularly for two weeks and see if these changes get you back on track. Are you getting enough sleep/recovery? This is one that most people skip out on. They are exercising, eating right, but for whatever reason they’ve been slacking on their sleep. We all know sleep is important; lack of sleep leads to increased levels of stress, less time for our bodies to rebuild muscle, to recover from strenuous activity, and more. I know that if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, then my performance in the gym the next day will suffer. Also, how about time off or recovery weeks? Are you giving your body ample time to recover from a hard 8-10 week cycle of training? As hard as time off is from a mental standpoint, your body loves the time off (assuming you’ve been working hard, of course). The fix: Listen to your body and give it the time it needs to recover. Overall, can you honestly say you’re completely focused on quality sleep, nutrition, and exercise? In many cases we think we’re stuck and in need of some sort of drastic change or adjustment to kick-start progress again. Now, there are definitely instances where we are stuck or stalled, and that’s when things need to change. However, before we cover the dreaded plateau, there are a few important things to review. To start, progress cannot continue indefinitely.
- If you are learning to squat and you start with just the bar, adding 5 lbs a week (which is how you should learn to squat!), you will eventually reach a point where your body cannot build the strength/muscle fast enough to continually add 5 lbs a week. If it DID work that way, in three years everybody would be squatting 1000 pounds.
- You will run into the same issues with weight loss. For example, it’s easier for you to lose 3 pounds a week when you are at 300 lbs than it is to lose 3 pounds a week when you are 150 pounds. There is simply more of you to “lose” when you’re bigger and thus progress will be easier. If you could lose 2-3 pounds a week every week forever, at some point you’d disappear, and we don’t want that. Weight loss might slow to 1 pound every other week.