You may remember the days when you first got into training.
It was rapid and significant progress. Whether it was packing on more muscle mass or losing fat that was your goal, it felt like almost every time you stepped into the gym, you made at least a little bit of progress towards your goals.
But as you’ve made progress over weeks, months, or even years, you’ve come to a point where you feel stuck.
You can’t seem to get any faster, stronger, or bigger no matter how hard you try. And it’s having an impact on your motivation and enthusiasm to train, which is also not good for making progress.
We’re here to tell you that, yes, you can and you will get over the slump and unlock a whole new level of progress. And not to worry, you’re not “doomed” to your current level of fitness (which is probably pretty decent already if you’re hitting a plateau.
But enough with the pep talk. Let’s talk specifics, and let’s get methodical.
Here are five seemingly simple steps, but if you dial ALL of them in, you won’t be able to help but break through the slump.
Identify the Issue – Mental, Physical, or Both?
It’s pretty obvious – you have to first identify the problem that needs fixing. Yes, you know the big picture, which is that you seem to have hit a ceiling.
But what specifically seems to be the problem?
Are you as motivated as before, but simply can’t lift heavier than a certain weight? Or have you been doing the same workout for months now and you’re just too bored and losing enthusiasm?
Or perhaps you can’t break past a plateau on speed or distance before running out of steam?
It is vital that you break down the bigger problem into smaller pieces so you can approach the issue in a more targeted manner.
Your plan of action will be different if it’s a genuine lack of strength or stamina instead of a matter of boredom.
How is Your Recovery?
Are you doing everything you can to make sure your recovery is on point? Allowing your body to rest, repair, and rejuvenate is extra critical when you intensify your training to reach your next level fitness goals.
So, if you’re pushing yourself during training, and then not recovering adequately, then your body is always under some stress and it will never perform at its peak. And you will most lilely also experience sluggishness and loss of motivation.
So what is optimal recovery?
For one, and this one might be the most important, is 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
The importance of sleep for health and performance (both mental and physical) is beyond the scope of this article, but rest assured that if you’re not sleeping well, you probably won’t be able to hit peak performance and sustain it for any reasonable period.
Other ways to enhance recovery are to eat plenty of protein (more below), hydrate properly (make sure you’re also getting your electrolytes and not just water), and if you can, use a sauna regularly.
Are You Eating Too Little?
The vast majority of the advice out there is on how to eat less. Very little of it talks about how athletes can eat more to optimize recovery and energy.
Believe it or not, it can be somewhat of a challenge to eat enough protein and calories when all you’re focused on is clean food.
The majority of the population is eating too much because they eat boxed dinners, fast food, or packaged junkk from the grocery store.
If you’re eating rice, chicken, and vegetables, it can be quite difficult to hit all your macros and calorie goals.
Look up a free calculator online to determine your macro and calorie goals. Then download an app like MyFitnessPal to track your intake for a couple weeks.
If you need to up your protein, then look for a clean whey protein like this grass-fed whey protein from Naked Nutrition.
Time to Take a Step Back?
Sometimes less is more. And doing less might just be the key that unlocks next level performance for you.
Ok, hear us out.
Let’s say you’re struggling to hit 5 reps of 300 lbs on your squat. Your form is breaking down, you’re worried about getting injured and its just not happening. And you’re stuck there.
What if your nervous system is not ready to handle that load quite yet? The answer maybe to build a better foundation before attempting the same weight and reps again.
So, instead of 5 sets of 5 reps at 300 lbs, maybe drop it to 250 lbs and try 4 sets of 8 reps. You’ll have to play with the numbers to get it right, but you get the point.
And instead of rushing through your 250 phase, you really spend some time there, and you get to the point where you absolutely own the movement at that weight.
Then you gradually move back to where you’re now, and you’ll see the difference.
Invest in Your Future – Hire a Trainer
Hopefully the tips above have given you a sense of how to approach your training plateau and maybe even sparked a couple of ideas that will allow you to break through.
But something as complex as individual training and progress is of course not something can be fixed by reading internet articles.
If you’ve never worked with a trainer, and you’re really serious about your long term health and fitness, its an investment that is well worth the life long benefits. Assuming you do your due diligence and pick an experienced trainer that fits your goals, personality, learning habits, etc.
A good trainer is really more of a life coach that focuses on fitness. They will learn about your history, your current lifestyle, your goals, your problems, and create a holistic plan that will fit you like a glove.
And the intangibles can’t be understated. They’re your biggest cheerleader, albeit ones that push you a bit every now and then. And not to mention, your accountability buddy. After all, you don’t wanna let your trainer down, do you?
All that being said, if a trainer is currently not an option due to budget, location, or any other circumstance, focus on the rest of the tips and maybe you can make it a goal to work with a trainer in the coming years.
Plus, there is plenty of incredible fitness content on YouTube and Instagram these days for all levels of fitness, so find a few channels that resonate with you and hit that “follow” button.