Have you ever found yourself reaching a point in your health or wellness journey where you just seem to hit a wall? You have changed your diet, you regularly go to the gym and participate in fitness classes but you cannot seem to get your body where you want it to be or improve the level of fitness you have intended to achieve?
If this is the case, then you have reached a fitness plateau. If this is the case, don’t feel too dejected, this can happen for even the most experienced of athletes! There are several reasons why this can happen and conversely several strategies to handle these issues.
Although, there is a limit as to what you are capable of, most people don’t even come close to this point.
If you are looking at your level of physical fitness and how your body is responding, here are some ideas you should consider.
The most important mistake I notice people making in the gym is their reluctance to push themselves. If you train your body at a low level of energy output on a continual basis, it will very quickly adapt to this exercise stimulus, your body and consequently your level of physical conditioning will plateau. One of the core principles of any exercise program is progressive difficulty. Since your body will adapt to any change in exercise stimulus, you must always strive to gently force new adaptations which challenge your body to continually adapt to the newer exercise stimuli.
There is a multitude of ways to accomplish this task in the gym or at home if you choose to exercise in this environment. You can increase the weight by 10%, take less rest between each set or circuit, increase the number of repetitions from 10-15, add an additional set, or a new exercise. If you increase the weight or take less rest between sets, this is an excellent strategy to increase your level of training intensity. However, if you add repetitions, sets or new exercises to your routine, this increases your exercise volume. Either of these strategies can add a significant degree of difficulty to your exercise program and lead to new adaptations your body must make.
Changing your program design is also a great way to reduce boredom and improve your exercise response. Have you ever noticed people doing the same routine in the gym for weeks or months without changing anything? This is also a very common mistake I see many people making. Your body will quickly adapt to the same motor patterns in a short period of time making any improvements impossible. Program variation is essential every four to six weeks to ensure new skill development, adaptations of your nervous system, and to develop new motor patterning of your muscles.
Have you ever switched from one type of cardio machine to another and realized how difficult, awkward, and challenging it was for the first few days? The changes to your program can be subtle or dramatic and the possibilities are endless in this regard.
If you work out or exercise regularly, taking time off may be the best way to battle the plateau phenomena. Try taking four weeks off from your normal routine and use this time for active rest which may consist of stretching, a few yoga classes or a mild walk every other day.
- Thompson, H.,“Breaking Through the Plateau Effect: Fuzz Up Your Workout,”Huffington Postwebsite; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/herbert-h-thompson/fitness-plateaus_b_3255297.html ,last accessed Dec. 23, 2013.
Dr. K.J.McLaughlin is a chiropractor with 27 years of clinical experience. In addition, he has degrees in physical education, nutrition and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with an interest in anti-aging medicine. He has also spent time studying health promotion and the effect that health education has upon health outcomes. Dr. McLaughlin has a diverse professional background which has involved clinical management, teaching, health promotion and health coaching and brings a unique passion to his work.