The Dangerous Plateau

I would say about 50% of my clients come to me because they have reached a certain level of fitness and then for some reason unbeknownst to them, they cannot achieve the rest of their ultimate goal of fat loss and muscle toning. It’s always the same thing “I can’t lose these final pounds” or “I have worked really hard and still have belly, butt or thigh fat.” My answer is always the same too – “you have plateaued, plain and simple.”

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The body (in particular, the muscles and cardiovascular system) achieves benefit during the first few weeks of any new exercise routine, but those benefits (fat loss, muscle tone) quickly level off after 4-6 weeks of performing the same exact regiment. Without constant changing up of what, how, and even when you work out, at some point you will no longer see any changes.

Obviously for those of you who do not want to or can’t work out with a trainer, you may not know what to do that effectively resumes your body’s progress. Without giving away all my tricks of the trade, I will give you a few suggestions:

Revamp your entire routine.

Chose different exercises than you’ve been doing, do them in a different order, and on different days. I.e., if you were doing standing dumbbell biceps curls, now incorporate preacher curls or hammers instead. If you were running on a treadmill, try walking at an incline or using the elliptical instead.

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Change your quantity & quality.

If your previous routine consisted of chest presses with 15 lbs, 10 reps, 3 sets – try 12 lbs, 15 reps, 4 sets. Or try a few weeks of all exercises performed very very slowly. Then switch it up and perform them faster (still with good form) and very little rest in between – more of a cardio pump concept.

Divide your workouts.

Try an upper body workout one day and a lower body the next, followed by a day of rest, followed by two total-body workout days, etc. Make sure you change up your workout and rest days as well. If you always workout Monday through Friday, try Saturday through Thursday.

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Don’t forget to rest.

Often when clients get desperate to see quicker results they really rev up their routines and hit the gym 7 days a week. Lack of proper rest for the muscles to recover is a key contributor to plateauing. Conversely, resting too much negates faster gains. Never workout for more than 5-6 days without 1-2 days rest. Best yet, intersperse your rest days throughout the week (i.e., Mon-Wed workouts, Thurs rest, Fri-Sat workouts, Sun rest).

When all else fails.

When all else fails, call upon a seasoned professional (me, hint hint) to create a customized workout routine for you and/or kick your butt in person. Also, remember why started this fitness journey.  What is your motivation?  Remind yourself of what’s important and it may renew your enthusiasm.  Boredom too is a strong factor behind non-achievement, so following these suggestions will help keep your routines fresh and challenging.

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Happy exercising!

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