When you first begin your weightlifting journey, everything is fun and easy.
You make great gains in both size and strength almost every day which causes you to feel like a real-life Superman walking around on planet Earth… Then, after a couple of months, reality hits you.
No matter how hard you try, you simply can’t add any more weight to the bar. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us. This is something we call a weightlifting plateau.
Now, if you do your first strength training program correctly (nobody does), this will not happen for many months. But when it does, you’ll want to be prepared so that you don’t waste your time trying to handle weights that your body isn’t ready for.
When you try to force heavier weights on your body before it is ready, you will almost certainly come away with an injury.
Building Muscle Takes Lots Of Time
The truth is, building new muscle tissue on your body takes a long time… especially if you are doing it without the assistance of performing enhancing drugs. In fact, when I was a personal trainer, my clients would often ask me why so many people paid for a gym membership, worked out consistently for a month, and then never came back. My answer was always the same…
“Building muscle requires lots of time lifting heavy weights which is really difficult and really boring. All a good training program does is create artificial hard physical work so that your body can adapt by building muscle and strength. The fact of the matter is, most people simply don’t want to do hard physical work”.
You see, most people never think about weight training and exercise in those terms, but it’s absolutely true.
Lifting weights is nothing more than artificially created hard physical work. Think about that for a second. The world has become so lazy and reliant on technology that we now have to create fake physical labor for ourselves just to remain healthy!
Anyway, for those of you that are smart enough to realize how terribly important doing hard physical work is, let’s learn how to get the most out of our training routines and smash through our weightlifting plateaus with ease!
First… Take A Look At Your Lifestyle
The first thing you must look at when you hit a weightlifting plateau is your lifestyle.
Like I said before, building new muscle tissue is a difficult process that takes lots of time, so with that in mind, you must do your best to make sure you are creating an optimal lifestyle that will benefit your physique goals.
Go ahead and ask yourself the following questions.
Are you getting at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night?
Are you eating enough calories to support muscle growth?
Is your job causing you to feel stressed out and unhappy?
Is your girlfriend a negative soul-sucking bitch?
The truth is, most people don’t experience weightlifting plateaus because they have already reached their genetic potential. It’s due to the fact that they aren’t making smart life choices.
The Importance Of Getting High-Quality Sleep
The only time that your body is able to heal itself and build new muscle tissue is when you are sleeping.
Like anything else in life, there are multiple different types of sleep and I’m sure you’ve experienced all of them.
Tossing and turning all night.
Staring at the ceiling for hours wishing you could fall asleep.
And the ever-popular waking up once every hour for no reason at all.
All of those types of sleep have one thing in common… they absolutely suck and end up ruining the next day’s productivity.
But, there is one type of sleep that is the holy grail of sleep… The kind where you fall asleep and don’t move a muscle until your alarm goes off the next morning. This kind of sleep makes you think to yourself…
Damn, I wish I could do that every night!
Well, friend, you can get that type of sleep every night if you do these 4 things consistently.
Limit Eating And Drinking Before Bed
Do not eat or drink anything for at least 3 hours before bed. Eating before bed can cause annoying discomfort in your belly and drinking fluids will have you up all night pissing your life away.
Turn Off All Lights And Electronics
Turn off all light sources and fall asleep in complete darkness. Humans were meant to sleep when its dark and wake up at the first light of the sun. Don’t confuse your body by trying to fall asleep to the glow of bright screens from your TV, smartphone, and computer.
Make Sure Your Room Is At An Appropriate Temperature
If you are like me (and most other men) you need to make sure that the room you are sleeping in is between 65-70 degrees. Doing this will allow you to bundle up in blankets and get that nice warm comfortable feeling that makes it easy to get a good night sleep.
Sex Before Bed
And There You Have It…
Doing those 4 things as often as possible will have you sleeping uninterrupted throughout the night and greatly speed up the muscle recovery process.
Now that we have sleep out of the way, let’s talk about the next most important piece of the plateau smashing puzzle.
Eat Your Food!
Sleep and food go hand in hand when it comes to building strength and muscle. You simply can’t have one without the other.
In order to continuously build muscle and smash through your weightlifting plateau, you must be eating more calories than you burn.
This is really easy to do so I’m not going to write a whole book on dieting in this post.
All you have to do is use an online calorie calculator to see how many calories you need daily in order to maintain your current body weight. Then, eat 300 to 500 more calories than your maintenance level.
Why this is so hard for so many underweight males to understand is beyond me.
Sorry to tell you this but, you don’t get to put on tons of muscle and strength while keeping your razor abs at the same time…Unless you are a genetic freak who is taking a bunch of drugs.
Honestly, nobody gives a shit about your razor abs and they don’t mean a god damn thing if you can’t squat 1.5 times your bodyweight, bench your bodyweight, and deadlift 2 times your bodyweight.
Now, if you have already achieved all of the minimum strength goals listed above, go ahead and cut fat like there is no tomorrow and get as ripped as you want.
As far as the rest of you who haven’t, keep eating more so that you can add more weight to the bar and keep your progress coming. Nothing will get you stuck at a weightlifting plateau faster than not eating enough food.
If you are interested in more in-depth diet information, check out these posts in the Success & Strength archives here.
Hating Your Job
One thing almost nobody talks about when it comes to building muscle and strength is the importance of maintaining stable happy moods. Since your job basically controls everything in your life from your daily schedule to your moods, it’s important to make sure you are doing something you enjoy every day while you make a living.
In a modern American society where most people often spend way more time working than anything else, having a job that you hate CAN and WILL put a damper on anything else that you plan to do with your life.
You see, I was once one of those people that believed it was normal to go to a job that I hated every day so that I could pay my bills and buy a bunch of other meaningless stuff.
In Fact, that’s all most people do with there life. Work, work, work, get 2 days of freedom where they get drunk and buy material things, and then go back to work on Monday depressed, hungover, and broke.
Hey, if that’s what you want to do with your time on Earth, by all means, go for it. But, when it comes to training with weights in order to build muscle and strength, this is not the best way to live your life.
When you hate your job, the last thing you will want to do is hard physical labor with a barbell after work. Even if you do actually decide to train, your workouts will be sub-par because you will be in a fucked up depressed mood.
I know this because I experienced it first hand. The last time I had a job that I hated, I quit training altogether for a couple months so that I could figure out how I could quit that fucking job and make money in a way that didn’t steal my soul.
Having a significant other that doesn’t support your weight training goals and causes nothing but additional stress in your life and is just as bad as working at a soul-stealing job.
If you find yourself in a relationship that is nothing but a constant struggle, you need to start planning your exit strategy now!
Until you fix that situation, it will negatively affect everything in your life from your training to your eating and sleeping habits.
When you are living life the right way (constantly building your body and your business) you will be a magnet to beautiful women.
In fact, women should be the last thing on your mind until you have built a stable financial future for yourself along with a strong mind and body.
Once you achieve those goals, you will have your pick of the litter because many beautiful women will constantly be competing for your attention.
Success + Strength = Lots of sex with beautiful women.
Now, Let’s Talk About Training
Okay, so you did a lifestyle check on yourself and you feel like everything is in order, But you still aren’t making any new progress in the weight room.
Don’t worry friend, I have more easy to follow strategies that will give you a shot in the arm and restart you on the path to gains in both size and strength.
The following strategies should be followed in the order in which they are given. If you are patient enough to follow these plateau crushing strategies, you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration in your journey to becoming the strongest version of yourself.
Take Some Weight Off The Bar (Deload)
The first thing you should do when you hit a plateau on a given lift is to take 25 pounds off the bar.
This simple strategy works great because it gives your body a rest from constantly lifting heavy, near maximum weights, while still keeping you motivated and lifting regularly.
Simply add 5 pounds to the bar each workout again until you get to your original working weight and be amazed at how much lighter it feels.
Part of getting bigger and stronger is just practicing a movement pattern over and over again regardless of how much weight is on the bar.
Like everything else in life, practice makes perfect.
After you go through a deload you should be able to add another 5-10 pounds to your exercises before you get stuck again. When this happens, you have to get a little more creative with your training by adding more volume to your routine.
Instead of doing set after set of 5 reps (which is the best rep scheme for a novice lifter) you need to crank up the volume and do 4-5 sets of 10 reps. More reps mean more time under tension, which means more muscular stress and bigger muscles!
Typically, a set where you can only do 5 reps with good form has you using around 85% of your 1 rep max. This means you will have to drop your weights down 15-25 pounds so that you are using 70-75% of your 1 rep max, which is the perfect amount of weight for doing 10 rep sets.
Let’s take a look at a total weight lifted equation so that you can see how increasing your reps per set will help you get bigger and stronger.
A typical 5 sets of 5 protocol looks something like this…
225x5x5 = 5625 pounds lifted.
Now don’t get me wrong, 5625 total pounds lifted in a session is quite impressive but, let’s look at what happens when we drop the weight down and add more reps to our sets.
200x5x10 =10,000 pounds lifted. Damn, Almost double the total pounds lifted!
This simple equation shows just how beneficial lifting weights at a smaller percentage of your 1 rep max can be once you are no longer seeing good progress using lower rep ranges.
Change Your Split / Exercise Frequency
When you first start lifting weights you will be best served following a training routine that hits your entire body 3 times a week. Doing this will allow your body to grow at a fast pace while keeping you motivated to complete each workout since you will only have to be in the gym 3 times a week.
However, once you get past the novice lifting stage, you will need to switch to a more advanced routine that uses the split system of training.
See, one of the huge disadvantages of beginner full body programs is the workouts get very difficult once you start lifting some real weight on the bar.
For example, Once I got to the point where I was squatting 250 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps, I would be too exhausted to successfully complete heavy sets of bench press, deadlifts, rows, and overhead press during the same workout. Unless I rested for 10-20 minutes in between each exercise (which I did for a while and my workouts would last up to 2 hours), It would be impossible.
Instead of doing that nonsense, switch up your training routine so that it is organized is some sort of 4 day a week spilt schedule.
4 Day Split Example
Chest & Triceps
Back & Biceps
Shoulders & Arms
*Rest 1-2 days and repeat.
Doing this type of training when you are at a more advanced strength level will allow you to keep making progress on all of your lifts because you will have more energy in your session to dedicate to each main lift.
Trust me, knowing that you will have to complete an intense 2-hour workout on your training days is enough to make you want to skip out on them altogether.
Training with a split allows you to get in and out of the gym within an hour which is much more manageable.
Most Importantly… Just Keep Lifting
Even though all of the tips above are great advice, the most important thing you must do to ensure you reach all of your training goals is to never give up.
Training, just like anything else that is worth doing in life, is a difficult process that is not always straight and linear.
Most of the time, your training will be more like 2 steps forward and 1 step backward, but that’s okay! We have all been there and it’s just part of the process.
As long as you keep plugging away, success is all but guaranteed!
From The Man Himself –