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Avoid Strength Training PlateausAvoid Strength Training Plateaus


Avoid Strength Training Plateaus

When gaining strength and improving fitness, it is not uncommon to hit a plateau. Don’t let it discourage you. Here are a few ways to break through and continue making progress.

Switch To Circuits

If you use a traditional style of weight lifting with strength moves followed by rest periods, your body may have adapted to this type of training. Incorporate weight lifting circuits into your routine and create a challenging pace for your workout. Choose eight to ten exercises that work major muscle groups. Perform one set of the first exercise and then move quickly to the next without resting. Continue this until you have completed the circuit, and then repeat one to two more times. Circuits increase heart rate and exhaust the muscles giving them the challenge they need to grow stronger.

Lift Heavier Weights

Despite research showing that women will not bulk up by using heavy weights, many still shy away from grabbing heavier dumbbells. Muscles must be challenged with more weight to grow stronger. As you grow more fit, light dumbbells aren’t enough to give muscles the challenge they need. Your last two to three repetitions of the exercise should be difficult to complete. If not, grab a heavier set of weights.

Take a Break from Weights

Exercises using your body weight can be equally as effective as those that use free weights and machines. These exercises incorporate functional movements that strengthen the muscles you use during daily activities like sitting, lifting objects, and climbing stairs. Planks, wall-sits, jumping lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups will build strength by changing the way your muscles are worked.

Restructure Your Routine

It’s easy to get into a rut with strength workouts -- training legs on Monday and Wednesday or chest on Tuesday and Thursday. Simply switching the order of your exercises or your pattern of training can push you past a plateau. Try full body training three days per week or split a longer workout into a shorter morning and evening workout.

Monitor Your Protein Intake

Protein is essential for building muscle. Some sources include beans, seeds, nuts, eggs, milks, fish, and poultry. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that strength-trained and endurance athletes get 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. That’s 75 to 120 grams for a 150-pound person. For most people, protein recommendations can be met through food without investing in costly supplements. For example, one cup of plain Greek yogurt contains 20 grams of protein, a 4-ounce chicken breast has 35 grams, one half-cup black beans has 6 grams, and 3 ounces of wild salmon has about 20 grams for total of 81 grams of protein.

Boost Your Effort

If your current program is only two or three weeks old, don’t assume you’ve hit a plateau. It takes time to see results and most fitness experts recommend sticking with it for at least four weeks. How quickly you progress depends on your fitness level and how hard you are working. Increase your effort by adding repetitions and sets or by safely moving through the exercises at a faster pace. After four weeks, consider making more significant changes to your program.

Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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