There is nothing worse then starting a new program with high hopes of reaching specific goals and then BAM! Somewhere along the way, with whatever exercise, you hit a wall and progress halts!

This type of training issue can arise for many different reasons; overtraining, lack of strength, poor programing or injury to name a few. Whatever the reason may be, you’ve hit a road block and your progress is static, never a good thing.

Let’s start with probably the most common example, you’re working with a specific weight, but cannot get the prescribed number of repetitions. For conversation sake we’ll use the bench press and say that the weight you’re on is #225 and you’re shooting for 6 reps but you consistently get stuck at 5 reps. If this is something that’s pestering you, there are a few things that can get you back on track:

  • One option you can try is to up the weight to #230 and perform as many correct form reps as you can.    This will build some strength and help you increase your reps with the #225.
  • Another option is to stay at the sticking weight (#225) but use a method called “rest pause”. This technique is simple, what you do is perform the exercise until you get stuck, rack the weight and take 10 deep breathes. Once you have taken around a 25 second rest period, un-rack the weight and perform as many reps as you can.
  • A third option is to look at your warmup sequence and see if you’re spending too much time warming up and by the time you get to that #225, your muscles are fatigued. This will be something to try based off how you feel and play around with your warm up sets next time you’re in the gym.

It is also common to hit a plateau when working towards a new max effort lift. Lets say once or twice a month you head into the gym to test and see how much weight you can bench press for one repetition, BUT the last few times you’ve done it you fail at the same weight. This can be extremely frustrating but isn’t all that hard to fix!

  • Something fun to do, that will also keep your interest is to change your program up. If you are doing low rep, strength building training then maybe go through a cycle of higher rep training geared a little more towards building muscle. If your gym provides the equipment, you can use bands while performing your major lifts (bench press, deadlift, squat) to switch up the resistance. Another route is to use chains while lifting so that the weight increases as you get closer to the top of the lift. Basic idea here is to change the stimulus!
  • One fix might be to rest a little more and not max out as often. Depending on who you are, more than two max effort training days a month might be too much and could be burning you out neurologically. A good idea would be step away from the max efforts and try to increase your strength and reps at about 80%-90% of you max lift! Do this for awhile and perform a max day when you feel recharged!

The above examples are just a few ways to break through the shackles that have been holding your progress back! There are always more detailed routes to take but these are simple and proven. Below I am going to list a few bullet points of little tricks/tips to try:

  • Lower your volume, pertaining to sets and reps.
  • Make sure you’re using a deload week. It is important to train hard for a number of weeks and then have a week where you back off and rest. Try three – six weeks of intense training and the one week off.
  • Warm up properly. Have a good mobility and warm up routine before you start moving some weight around.
  • Do not add too much weight at a time. If you’re moving up in weight by 10 – 20 pounds, cut back and only move up by 5 – 10 pounds or even smaller if your gym provides the equipment.
  • Have someone (certified trainer) critique your form and make sure you’re not just performing the lift sloppy. If so, get your head in some good books and blogs and learn the correct form!
  • If you’re just burnt out or tired, have the good sense to take some time away from training and recover.

Bottom line is that if what you’re doing isn’t working, change what you’re doing! Give your body/muscles a different stimulus to react to and you will see change! Start by picking one of these that applies to you and give it a go! If you have any deeper questions on training or even nutrition plateaus please do not hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email!

– By Brig Van Etten CSCS –

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