In our last article, we talked about the most important thing to do, when it comes to making progress- Progressive overload.
Increasing the demand upon the musculature however, can’t be done forever, especially when that increase is expressed by an increase in the working weight.
Sooner or later, we will reach a stall in progress, also known as “plateau”.
Types of adaptations
Before I go on to explain how we can shatter the stall in progress, let’s take a look at the types of adaptations we can observe in training:
- Positive adaptation
An adaptation is basically the process during which an organism gets used to new irritants from the environment.
A positive (successful) adaptation in training is one that results in new heights of strength, endurance, explosiveness and improvements in other physical properties.
2. Negative adaptation
As mentioned, the more successful adaptations you achieve, the closer you get to the stall in progress.
The plateau we can refer to as a negative adaptation.
So, how can we get over that negative adaptation and reach new feats of positive adaptations?
- Changes in intensity
As a matter of fact, changing the intensity of the workout doesn’t ALWAYS mean increasing the working weight.
You can change in a reverse manner and decrease the weight, rather than increase it.
If, for example, we take the bench press exercise, we could do 2 things when we stall at say, 100 kg (222 lbs) for 3 sets of 10 repetitions:
- Increase the intensity (working weight) to 102,5-105 kg (227.5-233 lbs.) and do less repetitions
- Decrease the intensity (working weight) to 95-97,5 kg and do more repetitions.
Which is better?
Well, the answer is simple – There is NO unified approach to breaking the plateau.
Feel free to try both – Increasing and decreasing the weight.
You can furthermore do the things from our previous article – Changing up the volume, exercises, intensity of effort, rest times.
Been benching 80 kg for 3 sets of 8 forever?
Just switch up to the incline or decline bench press, get a different zone of the chest working.
Don’t like that? Try the same angle but with dumbbells.
If it feels off, try putting in more effort.
Or maybe, do the same 3 sets of 8 repetitions, but increase the demand for the body by decreasing the rest times between sets and exercises.
As soon as you hit a plateau, bring as much diversity and effort as possible.
One of the often underestimated parts of breaking the plateau is your mental approach to it.
If you get discouraged by the lack of progress, it won’t get better!
The mental drive is the blueprint to what signals the brain will send to the working musculature, when subjected to new stress.
Law of diminishing returns
The more effort you put into something, the less effective your efforts become.
Each following expression of effort gives back less and less, until eventually, we reach the undesired plateau.
On the plateau is where the efforts don’t directly result in returns and might even become counterproductive, if not dealt with correctly.
As a matter of fact, that law can be applied even to things outside of training, such as sleep.
You can survive on 3-4 hours of sleep, as they are the most regenerative and the following 3-4 hours are less, until we reach the point of diminishing returns.
At about the 7th to 9th hour, we get optimal sleep and after that, we don’t really get any benefits and we might even wake up kind of tired.
Adhering and staying dedicated to your program is of prime importance when it comes to breaking the plateau.
That is exactly why you need a sustainable plan – Something you can stick to.
If your plan feels like a torture and with each day that passes it seems harder and harder to stick to, then it is the wrong plan.
We generally recommend experimenting! Manipulate your training parameters in a way that best works for YOU.