#98: How to Push Through a Training Plateau

#98: How to Push Through a Training Plateau

You’ve probably noticed that your progress in the gym isn’t totally linear. You don’t go back every single day stronger or faster than you were the day before. Rather, it’s a little more up-and-down, but always trending upward. In other words, you’re (hopefully) stronger and faster than you were three months ago. But… what if you’re not?

Then it’s possible you’ve hit a training plateau.

We’re all especially susceptible to plateaus this year, with the massive curveball that 2020 threw us.

Let’s talk about what a training plateau is and how you can push through it — and come back better than ever in 2021.

What’s a Training Plateau?

Merriam-Webster defines “plateau” as “a relatively stable level, period, or condition.” There are some situations where a plateau is a good thing, but your training isn’t one of them.

If you’ve plateaued in the gym, it means that you’re no longer seeing progress. You’re not getting weaker, but you’re not getting stronger, either. Your body has become too used to training, and what you’re doing is no longer the stimulus you need to see change.

In a nutshell, you’re simply maintaining what you’ve already got.

If that’s your goal — to maintain — then you’re in a good place. However, for athletes actively working toward that next milestone, training plateaus can absolutely destroy their motivation and feelings of fulfillment and success in the gym.

To be very clear, plateaus don’t happen week to week. In other words, if your heaviest deadlift last week was 200 pounds and it was the same this week, don’t assume that you’ve plateaued.

Rather, if you maxed out your deadlift at 200 pounds five months ago and again at 200 pounds yesterday, unequivocally unable to go a pound heavier, then it’s possible that you’re experiencing a plateau.

You should also know that plateaus are quite common. In fact, most athletes will encounter at least one throughout their fitness journey. And this can apply to not just your training but also your nutrition. In other words, the diet that used to bring you steady results and progress no longer does.

You’re not stuck here. This isn’t the end of your training progress. Let’s talk about what you can do to push through a training plateau.

How to Get Through a Training Plateau

1. Adjust Your Goals

If you currently run a nine-minute mile and had a goal to get it down to eight minutes, that’s going to feel nearly impossible if you’re currently not shaving even a second off your time.

This means it’s time to adjust your goals so that you’re working with something a little more manageable.

For example, why not set a mini-goal of running a mile in 8:45? Or 8:30? You’re still on your way to eight minutes and slowly running faster over time, and you’re also setting yourself up for success. By adding in this stepping stone, you’re doing two things: (A) Making your overall goal more manageable, and (B) giving yourself another “win” along the way to celebrate.

These wins are vital to your motivation and sense of accomplishment. They’re what keep you going.

Psst! If you want to tackle your next goal with a like-minded group of people, PowerDot invites you to join our #BackToBetter challenge in 2021. Entrants who complete the challenge will receive the #BacktoBetter badge, 25% off of their next purchase, and they’ll be entered to win the Ultimate Recovery Package.

Once you’ve adjusted your goals, you’re likely going to need to adjust your approach — and that brings us to our second tip.

2. Adjust Your Approach

It probably goes without saying that if you continue doing what you’re doing right now, you’ll continue getting the same results, which isn’t what you want. So, you need a new plan of action.

A word of caution, though, before you go and overhaul your training and nutrition. Start by changing one or two small things first. You need to be able to track your results and pinpoint what’s working and what’s not. If you change too many variables at once, it’ll be impossible to do this.

Here are a few examples.

If you’ve been trying to increase your max clean and jerk and keep stalling at 150 pounds, first ask yourself what’s stopping you from making 155 pounds. 

Are you getting buried at the bottom of the lift? Then try incorporating more front squats into your programming to build up that strength.

Is the pull off the ground too heavy? Try doing clean pulls — or even clean pulls with a pause — at a weight slightly above your max, like 160 or 170.

The same mentality needs to apply to your nutrition, if that’s what you’re looking to modify. If your fat loss has stalled, for instance, try a slight calorie deficit or tweak your macros a little. No crash diets or smoothie detoxes necessary. (Plus, those can be very dangerous to your health!)

So, we’ve talked about revising your goals, as well as how to shift your training and nutrition. But there’s one other element that could be causing your training plateau: your recovery.

3. Be More Mindful of Your Recovery

Are you training too much? This can cause a plateau, or even overtraining syndrome, where you noticeably decline.

Are you making time for active recovery? Mobility? Trigger point massage? Electric muscle stimulation? If not, this could be stalling your progress.

Training is where you stress your muscles. Recovery is when they come back bigger and better. If your recovery doesn’t pair with your training in the way that it needs to, your body isn’t going to have the chance that it needs to heal.

Address your recovery with purpose and strategy. Don’t just let it happen. This might mean doing light, low-intensity workouts on your rest days (read: active recovery and not passive recovery). Or it might mean using your PowerDot device consistently and not just sporadically.

It might seem counterintuitive but sometimes, training less and recovering more is the answer to success.

We know that plateaus can sometimes feel like the end of the world — like no matter what you do, you just can’t break through.

But we promise you: You can!

Revise your goals. Make small changes to your training and nutrition. Be purposeful with your recovery. And before you know it, this plateau will be behind you.

Are you continuing to train outside of the gym in 2021? Learn how to keep active at home.

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