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How to Break Through a Plateau in Weightlifting

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Feb 13,2024|12 min| 5748
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Surpass the roadblocks and hit your goals

Weight training is undoubtedly one of the hardest, longest roads that you will go down in life, whether you are training for a sport like powerlifting, trying to bulk up and put on muscle mass, or you are on on your weight loss journey. It takes a lot of patience, time, dedication, and discipline to continue on this journey, which is why you see so much of the country being out of shape. It is the sad truth, that the average person will go through life not knowing the feats of strength that they are truly capable of. Sure, not everyone wants to be a competitive powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter or bodybuilder, but weight training is a form of bettering yourself, and that is quite the journey. Throughout the weight training journey, you will more than likely hit a few roadblocks, and they can sometimes be defeating. However, weight training has been shown to be an effective way to combat obesity and improve overall health. By working with a professional and setting specific fitness goals, you can surpass these roadblocks and achieve your desired results.

When we say roadblocks, we do not necessarily mean injuries, or finally achieving your absolute genetic potential, or anything like that, but we mean hitting a strength training plateau. Plateaus are some of the most frustrating points in your lifting career, and this is where a lot of people will just throw the towel in and give up, so how do you overcome it? One effective way is to consume foods with fewer calories, such as a low-calorie diet, to help break through the plateau in the weight room, but there are more ways than that.

Let’s dive in.

What is a Plateau? 

A plateau is a point in your lifting career where you hit a wall essentially, meaning you are lifting the same weights for the same reps for a while; you really do not put any size or strength on during a plateau. It is frustrating to say the least, especially if you are a natural lifter who is not using anabolic substances. To break through a plateau, it is important to reassess your training program and consider incorporating techniques such as one-rep max testing and using a barbell to challenge your muscles and stimulate growth in your exercise regimen.

Ways to Overcome a Plateau

So what do you do to break through plateaus in lifting? Is it time to give up? Is it time to hop on anabolic steroids? Is this the end of your progression? No, not necessarily, plateaus are actually very common, as your progression is not going to be entirely linear, and there are plenty of ways to break through these tough times. 

Supplementation 

One thing to evaluate when it comes to breaking through a plateau in lifting, is your supplementation routine. Supplements are designed to help us push past our limits, and provide us with the extra boost that we need, whether that be energy, or nutrients. Some good supplements to keep in your stack to break through and avoid plateaus are those that promote muscle growth and strength gains, such as those commonly used in bodybuilding, are great. Let's take a look:

  • Protein powder- to make sure you are getting the proper amount of protein, which is an essential macronutrient for building muscle. 

  • Creatine- to help supply energy to your muscles and really build up that size and strength. To put it simply, creatine pushes water to your muscles so you are able to get a bit more out of them. For example, if you bench press 225 lbs for 3 reps, you may get it for 5 reps once you start to utilize creatine. 

  • Pre-workout- to help with energy levels and your pumps. A lot of times people are drained from day to day activities and really do not have it in them to train, a good pre-workout gives that extra pick-me-up to get you amped and in the gym. Pre-workouts can also help with blood flow and pumps!

  • Multivitamin- helps to provide necessary micronutrients to help repair muscles and keep you healthy.

Proper Recovery

Another thing to really think about is how much you are focusing on recovery, especially when it comes to preventing the loss of muscle mass and optimizing protein intake. While weight training is fun, and tossing around heavy weight is euphoric, the recovery process is where you actually make the most growth. If you are not focusing on your recovery and giving yourself enough time to rest, relax, and recover, then you are shorting yourself of gains, as it directly affects your metabolic rate.

For example, sleep is where your body generates the most testosterone and growth hormone, which are both crucial hormones for building muscle and strength, including muscle hypertrophy. Even incorporating a proper deload week can be beneficial for your recovery. A deload is just when you are lifting with less intensity or completing less of a workload than you normally would. Increasing the amount of time you sleep schedule is also important for appetite, muscle recovery, and growth, especially when it comes to the intensity of your workouts.

Changing Your Diet

You are what you eat! While it is a cliche saying, it is partially true. Filling your body with the proper foods, including carbs, is key for making progress in nutrition and weight loss. Not only the proper foods, but eating enough of them is just as important. You do not want to be in a caloric deficit if you are trying to break through a lifting plateau, you may actually want to increase your caloric intake a little bit.

Trying to break through a plateau essentially means you need to put in a little more effort in your training, so in order to properly recover you need to fuel yourself with enough calories. Finding the sweet spot for your caloric intake, based on your current weight, can be done through an online calorie calculator that takes into account your current weight and the number of calories you need to consume.

Switching up Your Training

This may be the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to breaking through a lifting plateau. A lot of times gym goers will succumb to going through the motions, hitting the same amount of reps, doing the same exercises, and expecting different results. The problem is, if you continue to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the textbook definition of insanity. Now, we are not saying you are insane for going through the motions, but we are saying you need to change it up if you want something different. And there are a few different ways to go about it, for example, targeting your biceps with new exercises or increasing the weight for your bicep curls. Another way to change it up is to incorporate exercises that work in the sagittal plane, such as deadlifts or squats, to improve your range of motion and workout intensity. Additionally, incorporating glycogen into your diet can help fuel your workouts and improve your performance.

Changing Programs or Splits

Over time, your body gets used to your program and your workout split, which is one of the number of reasons for lifting plateaus, so you have to shock the muscles. Switching up your lifting program or the split that you are utilizing is a great way to break through a weightlifting plateau and ensure proper form. This helps you incorporate different exercises, progressive overload and workloads, and something like a different program makes you change up your entire style of training, forcing your body to progress and adapt to the new training, without experiencing any discomfort. Another way to shock your muscles is to incorporate exercises that work different muscle groups in different planes of motion, such as free weights, which can be used instead of machines. Varying your exercise routine is crucial for breaking through plateaus and keeping your body challenged.

Your best bet is to find an easy way to track your workouts with a good workout app, as it really holds you accountable for your own progression. You can track your workouts and see exactly where you should be and what you need to do to get there. Keep in mind that good programs will help with your fitness journey, you would want to find a program that caters to your needs and guides you in the right direction, making sure that you are making the most gains. If you are looking to stay on track and continue with linear progression, then finding a good workout program is the key. Where do you look for a good bodybuilding workout program? Check out the Boostcamp App for some great programs. 

Boostcamp is home to over 50 FREE workout programs that consist of strength, hypertrophy, or functional fitness, or both, from the push pull legs program all the way to upper lower. However, with Boostcamp, you don’t have to just follow a pre-written program, you also can create your own program as well, and track your progress to make sure you are on the right track. That being said, when you are looking to incorporate some arm training to further your powerlifting progress, then check out Boostcamp.

Boostcamp is a great place to find free workout programs, and it is designed to be the last workout app you ever need. You can choose from over 50 different programs designed for strength, hypertrophy, or both, and you can custom make your workouts as well. 

Breaking Through a Lifting Plateau Wrap Up

Overall, hitting a lifting plateau or a weight-loss plateau is one of the most frustrating things you will encounter during your journey. It is normal though, and there are plenty of ways to break through it. What is your favorite method to break through a lifting plateau?

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