Jumat, 25 Maret 2016

Break That Plateau

If you follow the same workout program for too long, you will start to see diminishing results (gains in muscle size and strength) over time as your body adapts to the stimulus placed on it.

You want to grow as fast as possible, right? A gym program is only as good as the strength and size gains it brings you. There might be nothing wrong with your program, but if you’re doing the same thing over and over, your body will have adapted and stop growing to meet the demands.
Signs of a plateau:
-          You aren’t increasing your reps and weights regularly and are stuck in the same place you’ve been at for 2 weeks or more.
-          You aren’t losing fat / building extra muscle (Your body weight stays the same).
-          Your gym regime seems more like a daily routine than a challenge for your body to overcome.
-          The work seems easy, but you still reach failure and can’t push past your previous bench marks.
Please note: Although OVER TRAINING and PLATEAU’s can often interlink, they are not the same thing; it is possible to over train without hitting a plateau, and it is possible to hit a plateau without over training.
Signs of over training (if you’ve overtrained then you need to remedy that instead of trying to break a plateau):
-         Sleep: you suffer from insomnia or oversleeping
-          Lack of motivation (could also be present in a plateau, but not as predominantly).
-          Diet: lack of appetite or constant cravings for high calorie / fast foods.
-          Moodiness
-          Halted/ diminishing physical performance
-          Depression (yes, too much gym could cause depression, who knew!?)
-          Muscle spasms and twitches
-          Lowered immune system, falling ill more easily and more frequently
-          You reach failure quicker on your reps with the same weight
-          Hyper-activity and loss of mental focus throughout the day
-          Constant unquenchable thirst
-          It becomes harder to follow your normal daily routine (waking up, working, spending time with friends and family, bed time, etc.)
-          Regular feeling of nausea
Back to breaking that plateau
8 ways to break a plateau:

1)      Take a rest week
Taking a rest week off might be all your body needs. Your body adapts between workouts the best it can, but there is also a long-term recovery that the body can use to maximize your progress. It is recommended to take a rest week off every 10 weeks you spending pounding the weights so that your body can repair on a deeper level. This time will allow your body to re-align muscle fibers, strengthen bones and joints and stock up in inter-muscular nutrients without the stress of quickly recovering as best it can before the next workout. Many people have larger muscle growth in their rest week than normal! They often return to the gym with increased strength, stamina and motivation.
It is recommended to spend two days during this week at the gym - only stretching and relaxing in the sauna, which will help maximize your body’s recovery.
It’s hard to stay away from the gym when you’re as dedicated and addicted as most of the bodybuilding greats. It can sometimes feel like we shrink a little when we take off. Try this out at least once and see how you feel when you return. In the meantime, use this opportunity to clean your house, spend some extra time with the family or do something fun. Taking a nice, relaxed walk can do wonders for you both mentally and physically during these times.
2)      Diet: Add or Subtract Something
You’ll be surprised how often this is the case. Are you taking enough calories to sustain further muscle growth? Are your macro (protein, carbohydrate, fat, fruit and vegetable) portions in order? There are many ways to customize your diet:
1.       Try a simple/fast-acting carbs straight after workouts to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles quicker
2.       Increase protein and water intake
3.       Increase your calories
4.       Switch out your protein sources (too much whey, too little fish?)
5.       Add micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals or oils
6.       Check your supplements, are they really perfect or is it time for a change-up?
7.       What can you add or subtract to help your body get its growth back?

3)      Go on a creatine cycle
A good pre-workout creatine cycle will give your body a boost to blast past that wall it can’t climb over. Start with a half dose for 2 weeks, a full dose for 2 weeks, and then another half dose for the following 2 weeks (keeping the same reps and weight numbers you did on the full dose). Sometimes our bodies just need a good push in the right direction to get it growing again.
4)      Change the program
How long have you been following the program you are currently on? Under 3 months? Go back to diet. Over 3 months? Then it’s time to change it up! You can do this by either changing the whole program completely (a standard 5-day split to a Push-Pull-Legs (PPL) program) or a few small things on the program if you want to keep at it a little longer.
There are many things you can change in your existing program to bring back your body’s magical adaption mechanism:
1.       Rep Range
Many people cycle between a week of higher reps and a week of lower reps to keep the body in its primal adaption phase. Try using heavier weights for less reps or lighter weights for more reps. This has a great counter-plateau effect.
2.       Rep time
Try increasing your TUT (time under tension) with each rep. If your reps are usually under a second, take a full second to lift the weight, another second to hold it there and two seconds to lower the weight back to your resting position. The burn you feel in your muscles after doing this will definitely be an indicator of a greater stimulus being put on the muscle.
3.       Number of sets
Change the number of sets to a higher or lower number. Would your muscles benefit form a few more sets per exercise or are you doing too many sets for them to recover sufficiently before the next session? You can also add a Power set at the end of your session to pump the muscle you want to grow.
4.       Exercises Used
Switch rows with pull-ups, cable presses for bench press and hack squats with knee extensions and you will instantly be out of your plateau.
5.       Grip
Reverse the grip on all your exercises to work the muscle from an angle it is not used to, and force it to adapt to the new stimulus.
6.       Set style
Swap the standard 8, 8, 8 set for a pyramid style, drop set and super-set to keep forcing your muscles to grow.
7.       Intensity
Try decreasing the amount of time you rest in-between sets, now muscles will need to get stronger and bigger to be able to cope with less recovery time they have before being recruited to work again.

8.       Order
Change the order of exercises you do, so that different fibers in the muscles are recruited at different exercises. The bench press might be exhausting your triceps before you hit the dips. Now your triceps do more on the dips and your chest will need to step up to complete the bench press afterwards.
9.       Rest in-between workouts
You might be resting too little in-between sessions that use the same muscles, so that they aren’t at their full potential next time round, or you might be resting too long meaning that they have rested too long and have started going back to normal before they are used again.

5)      Get more sleep
You might feel OK, but maybe an extra hour or two of shut eye might be all your body needs to recover to the max for its next session under pressure. Most muscle growth happens when you sleep, so it’s important that we get enough of it and have the right nutrients in our bodies when we sleep so that our muscle can do what we want them to – Grow!
6)      Suntan!
Exposing the skin to the natural rays of the sun increases our testosterone hormones through the vitamin D our skin makes during contact with the light. No wonder why our energy levels are lower, grow slower and are just plain lazy during winter!
7)      Add a friend
Studies show that males particularly perform better at physical activities when their peers can see them. Some healthy competition between you and a bud will increase your muscular output. This might sound crazy, but it is true.
8)      Add music
Studies also show that the music that pumps you up can increase your body’s physical performance by around 30%. Imagine beating your personal best just because the right track is playing!
My top 3:
Everybody hits a plateau (although some plan ahead and make changes BEFORE they plateau). My personal favorite ways to speed things up are:
A.      Taking a rest week
I like the idea of getting a deep recovery every few weeks. I personally feel like it sets my last week’s gain to my new cycles’ starting point. After a week of rest, my new size and strength become my ‘starting’ stats for me to improve on before my next rest week.
B.      Going on a creatine cycle
I feel like creatine can be the jumper cables to a body that wants to start slowing down (its embedded in our bodies to save energy whenever it can, and it will only grow when it feels like it has to in order to survive). A helping hand from mister C never hurts.
C.      Changing my program
I generally do a rest week, then a creatine cycle and then a total change in program (different exercises, reps, split, everything). I love the soreness in my muscles when starting a new program because I feel like the muscle is now forced to grow even bigger.

Like this post? Disagree with what’s being said? Want to add something? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below!

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