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Breaking the Weight Lifting Plateau

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 in Q&As

I weight lift and exercise a lot. Still, my gains and my weight loss have stopped, and it doesn’t seem worth it. It really sucks. How do I fix it?

What you’re describing is essentially what many call an exercise plateau, which happens for a variety of reasons- too little calorie intake (which results in a lowered metabolic rate), too much weight training on the same muscles (resulting in exhausted muscles that don’t have time to grow) and general routine problems.

First off, most people experience exercise plateaus after they begin what amount to “crash diets” because they screw up their metabolic rate- that is, they eat too little, their metabolic rate lowers in response, and they end up maintaining their fat despite exercise and diet. The best way to fix this, of course, is to maintain a healthy diet that isn’t unreasonable. If you’re trying to maintain a ridiculously low calorie diet while still exercising, then stop- it hurts rather than helps. Eat plenty and eat healthily.

On the weight training side of this affair, two things could be happening- you can both be over training muscles and also getting into a bad routine. Doing too much weight lifting too often can easily destroy muscles where you seek to build them- without giving your muscles a time to grow, rest, and recover, they do not properly grow and often can be strained by efforts in the gym. Of course, everyone seems to have different recovery times, but in general, doing weight lifting every day is a bad idea- try to do it every other day (a schedule like MWF is wonderful), and avoid exercising the same muscles twice in any three day period. Similarly, in this process, you could easily have fallen into a dangerous routine- that is, you’ve gotten “comfortable” to the point of sticking with a certain exercise at a certain weight at a certain number of reps. This is a process that results in no body improvement- it’s a routine for maintenance, not growth. Ensure that you always push yourself forward in a reasonable way- increase the weight, change the exercises, or change the number of reps you perform.

Still, the key job here is to merely push through your plateau- you aren’t going to improve if you give up or shrink away from it. If anything, just keep going. It will go away eventually.

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