One of the first and most common problems bodybuilders find themselves in weight training is overcoming a plateau in muscle building or increasing strength. Plateaus come in the form of muscle building where you stop putting on muscle and in your workout routines where you have trouble increasing strength or reps. Many bodybuilders actually give just bad advice on how to stop a plateau. They make plateau prevention way too complicated. You hear them talking about how you gotta do this fancy new program that is a plateau buster routine or you gotta try some supplement or some other crazy idea. Some bring in the concept of periodization which is a very complex laid out plan to switch up your routine in certain phases. This is all the wrong way of doing it. Its actually very easy to prevent a muscle building plateau or stop them once they happen.
Ways to prevent a muscle building plateau
1) Calories: You must increase calories if you feel a plateau is coming on. If your struggling to add weight every week and your muscle gains are slowing its time to increase calories. Calories is the most important aspect of muscle building and strength gains. If you don’t increase your calories to gain a steady amount of weight each week, your strength and muscle gains WILL plateau. Period.
2) Progressive overload: Make sure each week you try to make your routine a little harder. Try to squeeze out an extra rep or increase weight on some of your sets if possible. Not every week you will be able to do this and don’t force it if your not stronger. You don’t want to injure yourself with bad form trying to do more than you could if you really aren’t stronger. The goal is to try to do it on a regular basis when you can.
The calories will be the impetus behind your growth, the progressive overload just works together with it so your muscles have more reason to grow. If you don’t use progressive overload on a consistent basis you might as well not even weight train because your not stimulating your muscles by introducing new loads. Progressive overload enhances your muscle gains as you gain weight.
3) Don’t overtrain: If you do way too many sets a week your body becomes drained after awhile and your body just stops adapting to changes and you hit a plateau. It then enters a state of overtraining where you make things worse every time you workout. Instead of increasing calories to make things better, you should lower your volume first to an amount that doesn’t make you feel exhausted and unable to recuperate. Naturals really only need about 3 days a week of weight training.
4) Take breaks: Even if you do a volume that is suitable for you after 2 or 3 months your body will be worn down and start over training. You can not stop this completely because our body becomes resistant to too many changes over a certain period of time. Therefore, just continuing to work out every week won’t make the situation better. You will eventually once again enter a state of overtraining.
You could increase calories and probably keep gaining, but your gains will be lousy and eventually your body will plateau. The only way to stop this is to just stop excercise completely for a couple weeks and let the body reset mentally and physically at a hormonal and cellular level. There is studies that show that after a break weight trainers hormones like testosterone, IGF-1, and growth hormone back to normal resting levels. It also gives your brain a chance to feel mentally refreshed again because subconsciously are brain gets exhausted of the same workout week after week.
4) Stick to compound exercises mainly. Compound exercises don’t plateau in strength as easily as the isolations. Compound exercises also have the most potential for mass building. If your routine is built around a lot of isolations or machines and not compounds, your gains will stall easier and be lousy.
There you go. Thats how you prevent a plateau in muscle building or strength. You don’t need to change your routine to shock your muscle. In fact if you just change your routine or keep adding weights week after week without increasing calories or taking a break, your going to go backwards as you overtrain or stagnate. You may do that if you are getting bored of your routine and want to try something else mentally, but its not necessary in curing a plateau.