Breaking Through the Dreaded Plateau
No matter where you go to pump iron, do cardio, or be personally trained, everybody wants to maximize his or her results in the least amount of time. For many of us, there was a point in our rookie lifting days where we thought that our normal workout routine would suffice in attaining our fitness goals, but sadly, we were wrong. Several friends of mine (including myself) felt that as long as we lifted heavy weights and pushed ourselves to the max, we would get bigger and bigger until we started to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime (ok maybe not).
After several months, or even years of following the same sort of workout routine, we began to wonder why we were not getting any bigger. Here is a probable reason why you, your friends, and I had trouble moving to the next level - we plateaued. Plateaus can be extremely frustrating for anybody. Let me first explain what a plateau is and how it relates to fitness. If you search "plateau" on dictionary.com, you will find this as one of the definitions, "a period or state of little or no growth or decline" (dictionary.com, 2014).
In other words, you have been working out and are no longer achieving any gains. You are not getting any bigger, stronger, faster, or maybe even smarter. The reason your body plateaus is that it has become accustomed to the stresses it is experiencing.
When your body is used to the weights you are lifting, the number of sets and reps, and the types of exercises, it no longer reacts the same way as it once did. For those of you that want a good read on plateaus and the causes, a great article to read is 7 Ways to Bust Any Plateau by Joey Villaincourt (Fitness Model Champ).
The Solution to Breaking Through the Plateau
As mentioned earlier, my body had plateaued and I was having trouble breaking through. At first, I thought I was not working out hard enough, but later realized this was not the cause. To break through the plateau, a friend of mine recommended a 12-Week Program designed by Jim Stoppani, Ph.D. and is offered through a free app that can be downloaded onto your smartphone. The reason I was attracted to this program was because I finally learned about the need to shock my body and constantly change my routine to maximize results and break through the plateau.
This 12-week program is broken down into phases and microcycles. Throughout the different weeks, the app instructs you on which exercises to perform and how many reps/sets you should do for maximum results. During the various microcycles, you begin by lifting 12-15 reps, the next cycle 9-11 reps, and then 6-8 reps, and finally 3-5 reps. This causes tremendous changes in your body because the stresses it is experiencing are constantly changing.
By the end of this 12-week program, I didn't even have to ask my friends if they saw a difference in my gains, it was obvious. If there is one thing you should take away from breaking through plateaus, it is that you need to break out of your comfort zone and shock your body with different weights, sets, reps, and exercises to maximize your results.