How To Break Through Weight Training Plateaus
Updated: Aug 25
Have you reached a point where you are not able to lift heavier weights and feel stuck in your training routine? This is referred as fitness plateau and is very common among gym goers. In this article, we will look at how you can break through the weight training plateau and keep making progress.
How to use training variables to break through weight training plateaus
Resistance training variables are factors that can be modified in order to maximize muscle growth, and we can use them to structure our training programs. The most important weight training variables are: intensity, volume, frequency, proximity to failure and exercise selection.
1. Intensity is the amount of resistance you use when you train, and is normally expressed in kg or lbs. For muscle growth, the optimal amount is around 60% to 80% of your one-rep max.
2. Volume is the amount of work performed in a resistance training session. Volume can be expressed as the number of sets performed for a given exercise.
3. Frequency refers to the number of resistance training sessions performed over a given period of time. From a hypertrophy standpoint, frequency is most commonly expressed as the number of times a muscle group is trained on a weekly basis.
4. Proximity to failure is defined as the number of repetitions remaining in a set prior to momentary muscular failure. As an individual gains training experience, the need to train close to failure becomes increasingly important.
5. Exercise selection refers to the inclusion of specific exercises in a resistance training program. Resistance training programs should include a variety of exercises that work muscles in different planes and angles of pull.
Let's have a look at a practical example of how you can implement these variables in a workout plan. A trainee has been doing the bench press exercise 3 sets of 10 repetitions once a week with 80kg for a few weeks and he is not able to do the same amount of reps and sets with a higher weight.
A few options to keep progressing could be:
1) increase the weight and aim for 6-8 repetitions.
2) Maintain the same weight and do 4 sets.
3) Keep the same volume and load and increase the frequency to 2 x week.
Progress can be achieved in multiple ways and not only by increasing the resistance. Volume, frequency and proximity to failure play important roles in driving muscle growth and should not be neglected when creating a training program.
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Reference: Brad J. Schoenfeld et al. (2021). Resistance Training Recommendations to Maximise Muscle Hypertrophy in an Athletic Population: Position Stand of the IUSCA, International Journal of Strength and Conditioning.