Overcoming Plateaus And Overtraining – Part 1

What is a training plateau? If you have never hit a training plateau, consider yourself lucky! Eventually everyone will inevitably run into a point in their training when they have a stop in their progress whether it is muscle gain, strength increases or just overall performance.A training plateau is a time when you are no longer progressing in your workouts. You may have simply stopped being able to add more weight to your sets, or perhaps you haven’t gained any additional muscle in quite some time.

The worse part about hitting a plateau is that it could be due to a number of reasons which only leaves you feeling more confused than ever! Could it be your training too much, not training enough, eating too much, not eating enough, changing your workouts too often or not often enough.

Also, how do you truly know when you have hit a plateau or are on the verge of overtraining? Are there tell tale signs to look for?

The answer is yes!

I will be covering every one of these concerns throughout this report to narrow down the possibilities and give you a plan to put into action right away.

Why Have I hit a plateau?

Without going in too deep right now, because we will be diving deep later, hitting a plateau is quite common and you shouldn’t freak out when it happens (especially now that you hold the answers to busting through it :).

But in a nutshell, a plateau is when our bodies become accustomed to the stresses we place upon it through out weight training. It can also become accustomed to a certain caloric intake.

The reason behind most plateaus is lack of strategic modifications in training programs, nutrition plans and listening to your biofeedback. Those are all high level views of why you have hit a plateau.

When you don’t give your body a reason to grow anymore, it won’t!

When you don’t adjust your caloric intake after your metabolism requires more calories to fuel your body for more muscle growth, you will plateau!

When you train too often, or too long you begin to enter overtraining syndrome (OTS) which always leads to a plateau and frustrations.

What Can I Do To Bust through A Plateau?

When you hit a plateau you can choose to do three things; Quit, keep training regularly and be satisfied with not gaining anymore or BUST through this plateau as if it were nothing at all.

Hopefully you choose the last option and if you have the will, I will provide you with the way.

You have to make changes to your program design. Now before you switch everything upside down and start doing the opposite of everything you have been doing, I want to first let you know, you should always start by changing 1 or 2 little things to begin with.

Never make so many changes that you cannot accurately trace back to what caused the plateau in the first place. Start by making small changes and assess if they made a difference or not within a week.

Then, if you need to, make additional changes. But always start off with small changes as our bodies respond much better to smaller changes and it’s much easier to do than change everything all at once.

Now it’s time to identify some things to watch out for if you suspect you might be hitting a plateau or have entered into the dreaded overtraining phase.

The 9 Signs You Have Hit A Plateau

1. A Loss In Strength:

A common sign of hitting a plateau or even beginning to enter the overtraining stage is when you suddenly experience a loss in overall strength.Now I am not simply referring to when you don’t progress in a workout or exercise. No. What I am talking about is when you notice a significant decrease in your performance and you can no longer match the lifts you once did.

This is a sign that your body has not been able to properly recover and grow more muscle tissue. Worse part is, sometimes, when you damage your muscles to this point, you become weaker. Hence this is why a loss in strength will occur.

2. Failure to Achieve a Pump

Although I do not believe achieving a pump when you are working out directly translates to muscle growth, I do believe that if you can no longer feel a pump in your muscles when you are working out that this is a sign that your body is not fully recovered.

Ever notice when you take a break from training, or when you first began working out, your muscles would fill up and you would get that famous ‘pump’ feeling?

Did you also notice you don’t get that nearly as much the longer you have been training without a break?

This is yet another sign that you’re on the road to overtraining which will inevitably lead to a plateau.

3. Lack Of Motivation

When you lose motivation, it could be caused by a number of reasons such as personal matters, pursuit of different interests but if those are not your reasons then it is more than likely caused by hitting a plateau otherwise known as overtraining.

At this point, your body is tired, fatigued and does not feel like going to train with heavy weights. This is pure instinct and your body will tell your brain ‘we need to recover…STOP training’.

You see, your body knows better than you might think. As a motivated trainer, you would more than likely just want to push through and try to blast through the plateau. Of course, in this case, you need to do the opposite. Hard to do I know, but you have to do this in order to let your body recover properly.

4. No Progress In at Least 2 Workouts

A good rule of thumb when trying to build muscle is to constantly progress in your workouts and exercises every week. The progression doesn’t have to be much, but it does have to be enough to trigger new growth.

This could be an extra couple of reps on your bench press or even adding 5% extra weight to your bench press and completing the same reps as you did previously with a lighter weight.

All these little progressions lead to new muscle formation through the ‘adapt and grow’ principle.

When you are training hard, eating ample amounts of calories to build muscle and paying attention to recovery, you should have no problem progressing in your workouts.

However, if there comes a time when you have not progressed in any exercises of 2 consecutive identical workouts, then this should be a big sign that your body has reached a plateau and it’s time for a change.

This rule only applies when you haven’t progressed in ANY form. If you are having a hard time on just one exercise, but progressing in the other exercises of your workout, you are still progressing. You may just need to change the exercise you’re having a hard time with.

5. Feeling Flush

This happens quite a bit amongst aggressive trainers. Feeling flush in the face is an indication of overworking your body past the point of comfort.

It can be brought on by many different factors, but generally speaking, when you feel red in the face or your ears feel like they are burning, this could be a sign of overtraining or being over-stressed from numerous causes (work, training, emotionally).

It doesn’t matter which is the primary cause, there is only one solution; rest and relaxation. Even if you know the cause is something going on in your personal life that’s not related to training, it will still have an effect on your training.

Stress causes an increase in blood pressure which will in turn cause your face to become pink/red and flushed.

Your body is smart, and it will give you the signs when it feels like you’re not listening to it, and this is just another one.

For those of you, who have never experienced this, don’t think that you are never overworked or stressed because that’s not the case. You may just be the exception to the rule or your body might have a different way of signalling overtraining and stress.

6. Lack Of Aggression and Increase In Irritability

Typically when you start to feel grouchy, down, slightly depressed or just don’t have that same edge you first had when you started training, it may be a sign that you need to rest up and take a break from the gym.

Our bodies release large amounts of cortisol when we are stressed out and we can become stressed when we overwork our bodies. Cortisol works directly against any muscle building you might be trying to accomplish.

Generally when I don’t have that same aggression factor when I am lifting in the gym, I know I am either on the verge or have already entered into a plateau.

What’s the point of continuing to try and training at 50% of your regular intensity? You won’t be setting any new personal bests when you are in this state, so the best thing to do is to take some time off and let yourself recover.

If you’re just having a bad day and that’s the reason behind your bad attitude, then don’t worry, it happens:. But, if this is consistent over several workouts, it may be a sign to cool it for a while.

7. No Progress In Muscle Gain In at Least 2 Weeks

If you are on a path to gain muscle mass, you should be aiming to gain about 1-2lbs per week. This is a good progression for lean muscle gain, and of course you can gain at a more accelerated rate if you’re ok with a bit more fat gain.

Now if after one week, you don’t gain anything on the scale, don’t freak out just yet. After all, it happens and the best thing to do is simply look back on your past week or so of training, nutrition and rest.

There are many things you can try, which I will cover later on, that will automatically get you back on track to gaining more muscle.

But if after two consecutive weeks, you don’t see any increase in muscle mass or even weight, then chances are you have hit a plateau and will need to make some changes.

8. Variances In Resting Heart Rate

Although this might be a more advanced overtraining syndrome for some, it is still worth noting.

Basically, there are two different types of overtraining syndromes that can affect your resting heart rate.

The Sympathetic Form: Common in physical activities such as sprinting or fast explosive heavy lifting.

The Parasympathetic Form: This form is more common in endurance type of activities such as higher rep training or long cardio sessions.

Both forms will have different effects on the resting heart rate and it’s fluctuations, but one thing is certain and that is overall performance suffers and fatigue sets in faster during exercise once you enter either of these two overtraining syndromes.

Sympathetic Form: Effects On Resting Heart Rate: When one enters into the sympathetic form of overtraining, the resting heart rate can be excessively high when compared to your previous normal heart rate for a given activity.

Basically, your heart rate will rise much higher than normal when in this state.

Parasympathetic Form: Effects On Resting Heart Rate: When one enters into the parasympathetic form of overtraining, you might find it hard to sustain the same workout at the usual set point that you normally would. Your heart rate will be significantly decreased and you will more than likely fatigue prematurely without ever reaching the desired intensity or physical exertion you were aiming for.

In basic sense, you won’t be able to match your normal heart rate even if exercising at the same intensity as before.

9. Decrease In Appetite

When things are going well in your training and you are eating clean and seeing good gains, you are typically hungry and can keep that appetite all day long.

But, when you begin to fatigue and you no longer have that aggressive edge when lifting, you might also notice a decrease in appetite. This is due to the fact that when our bodies become overworked and stressed, our muscle receptor sites can become ‘tired’ and are not longer as responsive to accepting those calories and shuttling into the muscles as stored glycogen.

At this point, your metabolism might feel sluggish and this is simply because a tired body is less efficient at everything it does which also includes nutrient assimilation, digestion and proper partitioning. All point to a sign of a potential plateau.

—Review Notes—

“9 Signs You Have Hit a Plateau”

1. A Loss In Strength
2. Failure to Achieve a Pump
3. Lack Of Motivation
4. No Progress in at Least 2 Workouts
5. Feeling Flush
6. Lack of Aggression and Increase In Irritability
7. No Progress In Muscle Gain In at Least 2 Weeks
8. Variances In Resting Heart Rate
9. Decrease In Appetite

Continue reading: Overcoming Plateaus And Overtraining – Part 2

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About the Author:

Hey everyone, my name is Joey Vaillancourt and I am a former skinny/out of shape guy who turned his entire life around by doing the same thing you are doing today…searching for answers to a better body. You see, I was not a certified personal trainer straight out of a well respected university graduating with top honours with a Kinesiology degree. I actually graduated with an Electronics degree (I’ll talk more about that after). I was also not gifted with above average genetics.No I was just another lost soul amongst the mass of bad fitness information out there today desperately searching for an answer to my most burning questions. I was also another victim of living my life by other people’s standards and beliefs and not believing in myself. Don’t worry, that all changed and it WILL for you too. Now, 5 years later, I am a certified personal trainer, am in the best shape of my life, releasing a highly anticipated fitness program and looking to compete in early 2010 in my first fitness model competition. I have helped others change their life and take action and I cannot wait to start helping you with your journey. Stop all the self doubt and start believing in you. Take action RIGHT NOW!I know you will find what you are looking for and I know you will achieve your goals. BonestoBuff.com 

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