Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Importance of Busting Through Plateaus

You can't progress without getting stronger, faster, leaner, more muscular... essentially, you don't make any gains if you don't get better. A lot of people have been coming up to me and sending me emails about how to break through their plateaus that they have ran into. This is a physical and mental roadblock on some exercises for a lot of people.

I have even seen people build up to their plateau weight several times in a semester and instead of brainstorming ways to blow past it, they let that muscle group drop off of their workout for a little while out of frustration in what they think is a concrete ceiling... "Man, I just can't push past 225 on bench"... Rob, my squat only gets up to 315 and then stalls"

calling them out... BS

If they want to continue in the cyclic pattern of adequacy, fine by me. If you don’t mind staying at the same level or you aren’t consistent in any of your workout -- i.e. one workout a month this month and then three weeks straight at 4 times a week and repeat—try crossfit, I hear it’s great. But if they want help pushing through it so they can actually push toward a new goal, a new challenge, more weight on the bar, they need to bust out a notepad and listen.

The property of overload states that you need to do more weight, reps, sets, and/or volume to put additional strain on your body to cause it (or force it, if you like that better) to adapt and GROW. In order to have progression in your workouts you must always be trying to overload your neuromuscular system.

I blogged briefly on breaking plateaus before here, but now I'll give you some new ideas.

Drop Sets

You can try drop sets. On your last set you are going to hit it for as many reps as you can and then drop it to a lower weight and repeat. Before starting tell your lifting partner what weight to drop to after your set is over to minimize time between sets. So if you were doing 225, you should put a 45, 25, and two tens on each side so you could hit 225 and then drop to 185… dropping from 225 to 135 would be too much of a drop to make because you would easily get 10-15 reps at 135 if you were shooting for 225 for 6 or less.


You can also try the Rest–Pause technique. This training technique allows you to get more reps with a higher weight than you would usually be able to get. No magic supplement, no gear, no extra lifting equipment is needed… just you, your balls, and a stop watch or clock. You pick a weight that you have been stuck doing 6 reps for (insert time period here). You complete just three reps and rack it. Start your stop watch and wait 20 seconds. Repeat three reps. Wait 20 seconds. Try to get another three reps.

I did this a couple of weeks ago on deadlift and ended up getting 9 reps on a weight that in a normal set I would have only been able to get to around six reps. I also felt like I was going to puke after it. IF you are doing deadlift and have straps on, don’t unwrap bc that will add time between sets which isn’t the point. You want 15-20 seconds between sets, but not one minute... one minute would be almost before another set. You are playing to the advantage of your ATP-CP system. This system is responsible for producing explosive power and energy from your muscles for activity lasting less than thirty seconds... ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is also replenished very quickly so you are allowing your muscles to partially replenish their ATP supply to get another three reps... or one or two reps.

Go out and bust through a plateau…. Or stay the same. You really just have those two options.

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