Beat the Plateau: A 7-Step Guide for Beginners to Gain Muscle Mass, Strength and Power
You’re a beginner to the bodybuilding world. That’s why you’re here. You’re here because you have fallen in love with bodybuilding. It seemed like the perfect relationship- you put in the effort, you receive the rewards.
But now, it seems like it is all falling apart. You’re putting in all the same effort, maybe even more. But you’re not seeing any results.
Your diet hasn’t changed all that much, and you can’t understand why on earth you aren’t gaining like you used to. The future seemed so bright, and now it seems to be crashing around you.
You’ve reached a plateau.
It might seem like the end of your bodybuilding career, but it isn’t all that uncommon. In fact, it is such a common problem that there are many ways to beat a plateau.
While it may be discouraging, you are nowhere near finished with bodybuilding just yet. We’re going to help you dominate your plateau and turn you back onto the promising path you’re traveling on. Are you ready?
Everyone will encounter a plateau at some point or another. If you haven’t yet, then consider yourself extremely lucky.
But you will hit one eventually. A plateau is when you hit a halt in your progress, whether it is a halt in muscle, strength increase or overall performance.
You’ll notice that you aren’t gaining any muscle mass, or that you haven’t been able to add more weight to your sets.
It is as if your performance has just died down, and you have been noticing it for a while now. The worst part about hitting a plateau, besides the obvious discouragement and frustration, is the confusion.
A plateau can be the result of any number of things. It can be because of a change in diet. Maybe you’re not eating enough, maybe you’re eating too much.
Or perhaps you’re over-training or under-training. The possibilities are endless, and therefore all the more frustrating.
Why have I hit a Plateau?
While there are a number of reasons why you may have hit a plateau, you don’t need to freak out over it.
It is frustrating yes, but when you hold the answer to defeating your plateau, you can calm down and take a look at what is happening in your body at the moment.
Put simply, plateaus are a result of your body getting used to the amount of stress that you are exerting on yourself.
Your body also gets used to a certain amount of calorie intake, or your body may be suffering under the amount of training you’re doing. Remember that we gain muscle during recovery.
So, you have a hit a plateau because you haven’t modified your routine in a while. You might be over-training, or you need to have a good look at your nutrition plan.
See? Once you know the reason behind a plateau, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore.
How do I know if I have hit a bodybuilding dead-end?
This is not a strange question, since a plateau may manifest itself in a variety of different ways. Thankfully, the signs are fairly common, and it is easy to diagnose a plateau.
All you have to do is look for one or more of the following symptoms.
You’re losing strength
Sometimes, you will notice a sudden loss in strength. Your performance will take a nosedive and you will no longer be able to do what you once did. This is a sign of overtraining.
You haven’t given your body enough time to build muscle tissue, and have now damaged your muscles to a point where they are actually weaker.
You’re not getting that “pump”
When you have reached a plateau, or you are on your way to reaching one, you will notice a sudden decrease in that “pump” feeling. This is that famous feeling that you get when you have been working hard, and you get that wonderful feeling in your muscles.
If you notice that you don’t get that feeling for as long, or at all anymore, then you have hit a plateau.
You lack motivation
While a lack of motivation might be caused by a number of factors, the root of the problem might be a plateau.
Your body doesn’t want to go on anymore, and your brain is forcing you to rest. This might also be a sign of overtraining.
You have had no progress for at least two workouts
A good way to map your progress is by assessing even the smallest signs of progress during each and every workout.
You will see a tiny inch of progress every time you work out. But if you have had two identical workouts, then you know you’re on the way to a plateau.
You’re feeling flush
This is a common problem in the weight training world, and you have probably experienced it by now.
This is when your face goes red and your ears feel like they are burning. This happens because of the amount of stress you are putting on your body. The only solution is rest and relaxation.
You lack aggression, but are gaining irritation
When you work too hard, or are feeling stressed in any way, our bodies release cortisol.
This is usually manifested in general grouchiness, depression or a loss of “edge”. Cortisol also works directly against any muscle gain, so you will have to be very careful if you start feeling this way before or after going to the gym.
You’re not that hungry anymore
When you are at the peak of your training capabilities, you’re having fun, and you’re hungry- all the time. But now, you’re not that hungry anymore. This means that you have hit a plateau.
How Do I Overcome This Problem and Begin Seeing Muscle Gains Results?
Now that you know you have hit a plateau, it is time to beat the plateau. Follow these seven simple steps, and you’ll be progressing again in no time at all.
Step 1: Diagnose the Problem
You need to know what is causing the problem before you can fix it. If you know what is causing your plateau, then you will be better equipped to take on the challenge.
You’ll need to take a look at the following factors:
Re-evaluate your diet, and calculate if you’re getting enough carbs, protein and fats. Remember that ever since you started bodybuilding, your weight has increased.
Are you adjusting your diet for that additional weight? Another thing to check is where you’re getting your calories from. Are you eating good and healthy foods? Or unhealthy junk? Your body is only as good as the food you put into it.
Your body gets accustomed to the various stresses that you place onto it. It is now time to ask yourself, when did I last change up my routine?
This is fairly common. If you don’t give your body time to rest, it won’t be able to go on progressing.
Lack of sleep:
Poor sleep = poor recovery.
Lack of intensity:
It might be time to increase your intensity and give yourself a more challenging workout.
It is time for you to start taking supplements. You are pushing your body harder than ever, and you need to start replacing all those essential vitamins that you’re using up.
Step 2: Plan a Recovery
When do you build muscle? If you think it is when you work out, you are very wrong. When you exercise, you’re breaking the muscle down, but when you rest, your body builds the muscle up.
Most people don’t know this, and so they underestimate the power of rest. Don’t be one of those people.
Now that you have identified the source of your plateau, it might be time to give your body a well-deserved break. And, the advantages of a rest week are numerous.
- Knowing that you have a break coming up will motivate you to work harder.
- You’ll get back to the gym motivated and refreshed.
- You’ll give your joints and ligaments a needed rest.
- Refreshes and relaxes the central nervous system.
- Gives your muscles time to be repaired and ensures a decent recovery.
Make sure to schedule regular rests of about 4-7 days every 6-8 weeks. This will keep your from simply slipping up and will keep you relaxed and plateau-free.
Step 3: Post Failure Heavy Overloading Method
The general set of reps that you need to do to gain muscle is between 6-12 reps. But say you haven’t been able to add more weight or reps in for a few workouts now. What should you do?
For your final rep, do the exercise just as before. Rack the weight, rest for 20-25 seconds, then do as many as you can.
You’ll only do a few more reps, but what you’re doing is coaxing your body into doing a little more work.
Step 4: Drop Sets
If you reach failure during a workout, you’re going to have to add more volume within a work set. So, for each set, you will be doing an additional three drop sets. For each drop set, you will be lowering the weight and the reps, but you will be doing more. Let’s say you’re doing dumbbell shoulder presses, this is how it would work.
Set 1: 90lbs for 8 reps
Drop set 1: 60lbs for 6 reps
Drop set 2: 40lbs for 5 reps
Drop set 3: 25lbs for 5 reps
The rule of thumb is to use a three-sequence drop set where each weight is 1/3 lbs lighter than the previous weight.
Incorporate drop sets during the last set of your work out, and make sure that you’re not passing more than 12 reps on each set or drop set.
You should only use this technique when working on the weaker heads of a muscle group that aren’t as good at making muscle gains. This technique is best used on isolation exercises such as on a peck deck machine and or side shoulder raises.
Step 5: Modified Superset Training
If you have been training for a while, you know what a superset is.
But if you don’t, then basically it is when you combine two exercises (either that target the same muscle group or opposing muscle groups) and perform both exercises after each other with no rest in between.
Now, most supersets contain about 15-20 reps because you’re doing about 8-12 reps for each exercise.
But try doing 6-8 reps for each exercise and try and keep the total reps to about 12. This will allow you to work with more focus and intensity. This will focus on triggering type 2 fibers which have the best potential for gains.
Step 6: Super-size your sets
Before you modify your super sets, just try doing super sets. This will help you to achieve that pump that you have been missing and will help you to look bigger. This will motivate you into getting over that plateau in no time at all.
Step 7: Try Bodyweight
When was the last time you did a good old push-up or pull-up? Sometimes we get so focused on weights that we forget all about using bodyweight.
If you can’t remember the last time you used these classic gym moves or variations thereof, it is time to go back to body-weight training for a little while.
You might be surprised what bodyweight can do to help you over your plateau.
And there you have it! A fool proof action plan that will get you over that slump and into weight gains in no time at all.
Plateaus can make you feel like you have run into a dead end. Like the whole bodybuilding thing isn’t working out. Well, when you start to feel like that, read through this guide again and beat that plateau!