Snapshot of Takeaway Points
- 3 ways to break a strength plateau
- 3 ways to break a fat loss plateau
- 3 ways to break a muscle mass plateau
Hitting a plateau is the worst place to be when it comes to pursuing your health and fitness goal. You’re doing all the right things, but aren’t seeing the return on investment. Or are you doing all the right things? The only constant is change and this is the perfect opportunity to find a solution to your problem. Embrace the plateau and learn from it.
There are many ways to skin a cat and I have many more tricks and tools available but here are 9 different options for you for when disaster strikes.
Tip #1: Utilise an Eccentric training phase
Now I’m not going to delve too deep into explaining why in this article as the link above takes you to a fully written article with a year of training programs. I will say though that utilising an eccentric phase as outlined in the article is my first stop to break a strength plateau.
Tip #2: Use a nootropic on that lift/day only
A nootropic is defined as cognitive enhancer. Often you’ll receive a boost in the excitatory neurotransmitters dopamine, acetylcholine and/or noradrenaline. These excite the sympathetic nervous system into action. Side effects will be extra focus, harder muscular contractions and an increase in drive/motivation.
There are many to choose from and my biggest tip is to rotate. Especially some of the pharmaceutical versions, I recommend to never take more than once a week. We could get specific and use the Braverman to figure out which one works best for who but it’s beyond the scope of this article.
For now, use life as a study of one, and trial any of the following at minimum dosages first before trying an increase. There is an inverted U theory with nootropics which means more isn’t better. Applying meatheaded-ness to this is not a good idea!
- Alpha GPC
Tip #3: Use 2 x Neural Days only
The astute will notice the similarity between this and the Westside Barbell system who also use only two max effort days a week. One for lower and one for upper body. I often see a lack of progress week to week because the lifter is going heavy four times a week. Sometimes on both lower and upper body four times each! This is too much. You’re not over training, but you are definitely under recovering.
Strength needs to be coaxed out of you over a longer term. There are times to use overtraining protocols but not week in week out. The other two days can be dedicated to intermuscular co-ordination and/or hypertrophy. This is also a great protocol for those that only ever seem to grind reps out.
Fatigue masks fitness so you will probably see some great gains initially. Stay patient though. The toughest part can be waiting for the neural day to come back round again. I know it’s fun to go in and smash the hell out of something and lift to a 1RM but as Ed Coan says, ‘You only have so many 1RM’s in your body.’
Fat Loss Plateaus
Tip #1: Fish/Seafood & green leafy vegetables only
In all honesty, most aren’t losing body fat because they’re really not aware of how much they’re eating. This is a 1-2 week protocol and I guarantee you will see results. Mainly because overeating on this is next to impossible. I still allow unlimited quantities of both the seafood and green leafy vegetables so eat as much of it as you want.
Added benefits will be a higher intake of omega 3’s and lower intake of omega 6’s, balancing out that all key 3:6 ratio. You’ll also receive an increase in iodine and selenium which will boost thyroid regulation, a key factor in fat loss.
Tip #2: Organic apple cider vinegar 2-4 x day
Organic apple cider vinegar improves insulin sensitivity. Improving insulin sensitivity allows the body to utilise sugars more efficiently. Organic apple cider vinegar so effective it has been proven in research to help those with Type 2 diabetes. Studies also show organic apple cider vinegar helps people lose weight as well as helping to kill bacteria and pathogens, reducing the toxic load on the body.
Take anything from 1 x tsp to 2 x tbsp, 2-4 times a day for this protocol for one week. After that, if you like, you can keep it in at the dosage of one serving a day.
Tip #3: Re-program your subconscious
One of the main barriers I come across with the general population trying to strip body fat is their busy mind. From overthinking to identifying yourself as ‘the fat one’. Not being able to control your mind set is going to hamper your fat loss efforts.
Whatever you think with your conscious mind, goes into and is believed 100% by your subconscious mind. This highlights the importance of positive self-talk and surrounding yourself with like-minded and supportive individuals.
Increasing your own resiliency and being in control of your thoughts is the absolute key though. You want to become unwavering in your approach to achieving your goal. Accept that the negative is there, acknowledge it then re-affirm it with the positive and keeping moving towards your goal.
Simply slowing down during your day, reflecting and asking yourself questions about the choices you are about to make will offer the answers you are after. Too many people are stuck in the rat race and aren’t consciously thinking 90% or more of their day, much to their detriment.
Muscle Mass Plateaus
Tip #1: Intra-workout shake/drink
Sometimes you are training too hard to enable recovery from the all necessary muscle tissue breakdown of your session/workout. Muscles don’t always need to be smashed into oblivion and the metabolic cost of recovering is often not looked at. If though you do like training with advanced methods over actually seeing results and employing a more scientific or patient approach you could simply add in a shake to consume whilst you train.
- Vitargo: 20-40g
- BCAAs & EAAs: 20g
- Glutamine: 5-10g
- Creatine monohydrate: 5g
- Whey: 20g
This works by fuelling your muscles instantly and kick starting the anabolic processes necessary. Not to mention it also simply added calories towards the required surplus for adding mass.
Tip #2: Utilise an over training protocol
Over training protocols are hellish and unforgiving but you will be ecstatic once you have recovered and experienced the results they produce. Not only will you see gains in muscle but also concurrent gains in strength. There are many to choose from but I’ll offer an insight into the first one I ever did which was originally called ‘Super Accumulation’, introduced to me by Charles Poliquin in 2009.
- Train 9 x a week for two weeks
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday are 2 x day
- Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday are 1 x day
- Take every single set to concentric failure
- Only use compound movements
- Train lower and upper body in each session
Here’s the original layout
Monday, Wednesday, Friday AM
- A1) Back Squat (High Bar): 5 x 4-6, 40X0, 100s rest
- A2) Lying Leg Curl (Pl., Neu.): 5 x 4-6, 40X0, 100s rest
- B1) Subscapular Pull Up (Pron., Sh.): 5 x 4-6, 4010, 100s rest
- B2) Dips: 5 x 4-6, 4010, 100s rest
Monday, Wednesday, Friday PM
- A) Snatch Grip Deadlift (4” Deficit): 10 x 6 reps, 5110, 180s rest
- B1) 80° Incline DB Press (Neutral): 5 x 4-6, 4010, 100s rest
- B2) Kneeling Row (Elbow Low, Semi-Sup.): 5 x 4-6, 2011, 100s rest
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
- A1) Front Squat: 5 x 4-6, 40X0, 100s rest
- A2) Kneeling Leg Curl (Dorsi. Neu.): 5 x 4-6, 40X0, 100s rest
- B1) Chin Up (Sup., Sh.): 5 x 6-8, 3011, 100s rest
- B2) 40° Incline DB Press (Neutral): 5 x 6-8, 3110, 100s rest
Your bodyweight will decrease initially as will your strength but you will supercompensate provided you eat to gain mass in the 4-5 days after the final session. A brutal but highly effective protocol. In fact using the next tip the day after completing it will go a long way to helping.
Tip #3: Hyper-calorie day
A hyper-calorie day is a dedicated day once a week where you attempt to consume 150% of your normal total calories in one day. Now being able to do this with solid food is challenging and that doesn’t even take into account a normal work day instead of just sitting in one place for 12-16 hours.
What I recommend you do instead is alternate shakes with solid meals. The shakes should empty from your gastrointestinal tract fairly quickly leaving you hungry and ready to consume your next solid meal of food. Don’t depend on that though and take digestive enzymes with each solid meal and shake throughout the day.
- Whey: 20-40g
- BCAAs & EAAs: 10-20g
- Glutamine: 5-10g
- Creatine monohydrate: 5g
Aim for 3-4 shakes and 3-4 x solid meals taking digestive enzymes with all of them. I am aware of the science surrounding meal frequency and total calories but for you to be able to digest, absorb and assimilate so much you’re better off with little and often. For add benefits take a glucose shuttling agent like [?} with each meal to better partition the nutrients you are taking in.
Growth comes about through learning. This plateau for you offers an opportunity to find a solution. Go back and analyse why this might have happened. Yes plateaus happen but play devil’s advocate and assume it was something you did incorrectly. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Just acknowledge it, fix it and move on.