Don't let your muscles get used to your weight-training routine. Mix up your workout and you'll continue to see results
When you first start training with weights, you quickly notice dramatic changes. However, after about 3 to 6 months, your muscles adapt to familiar patterns of stress with no new gains.
In order to make continued progress you need to change your program.
Here are tips to help get you out of a weight-training plateau.
- Increase your training intensity. Make your muscles work harder rather than longer. Switch to using a heavier weight with fewer repetitions, instead of lighter weights with higher reps, or vice versa. This change of routine may stimulate further changes.
- Vary your exercises, or the equipment you use, to stress your muscles differently. Instead of machines, try using free weights, an exercise ball or exercise elastics. These engage the muscles in a different way.
- Change the order of the exercises you do to force the muscles to re-adapt. Try a push-pull system where you exercise two opposing muscles one right after the other (with no break), or try circuit training, where you do exercises non-stop with small, frequent bursts of an aerobic activity.
- Change the frequency of your workout. Try a split program, where you exercise upper-body muscles one day and the lower body the next day. Take the third day off, or continue alternating upper-body with lower-body exercises for a four-day period, taking the fifth day off.
- Get adequate rest. Too much stress on a muscle is another big factor in hitting a plateau – or risking injury. It’s during rest periods that muscles recuperate so they can continue to make progress. Every 2 to 3 months, take a week off from weight training and enjoy another activity.
Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.