How to avoid the dreaded PLATEAU in your exercise routine
By Jason Johnson
We all have experienced a point in our exercise program in which we stop seeing results. You have worked out consistently for 8 weeks straight and kept your diet clean. You lost weight during this time, your clothes fit better and you’re getting compliments left and right.
But now-your results have stopped. The weight scale is not going down. What happened? You hit the dreaded point of everyone’s exercise program: THE PLATEAU.
It happens to everyone. The human body has an amazing way of adapting to the everyday stress we place upon our it. It’s called muscle memory. You have probably experienced this in your own routines when you perform a new exercise for the 1st time, it feels challenging, maybe a little awkward.
The next day you are sore. But the next time you do the same exercise, it’s a little easier. Still challenging, but it feels more natural. The next day, not quite as sore. And the next time you perform the same exercise for a 3rd time, you breeze right through it.
Then what? No soreness at all. This is due to muscle memory. It’s good news-bad news. Good news because this is how the human body should function.
Your body should be adapting to the movement, and it means your body is healthy and functioning properly. The bad news is-you are not going to burn as many calories during the exercise because your body (muscles, bones, joints and tendons) have now adapted to the stress of the movement, and thus your body will not work as hard during the exercise.
This translates into THE PLATEAU. You stop seeing results because your body has adapted.
The human body needs to be progressively challenged in order to see results. If you always do the same routine with the same amount of weight, same rep scheme-your progress will stall. I read a research study a while back that said after performing an exercise 13 times with the same weight and same reps, your body will PLATEAU.
What can you do to prevent this? Easy: change your routine. The fancy phrase we use in exercise science jargon is called periodization. I would recommend changing your routine every 3-4 weeks. You want to always keep your body guessing “what’s next?” so it never gets too comfortable. I do this all the time with my clients and my own routines. You can change the entire routine, or you can simply change a few variables such as reps, weight or the order of the exercises.
Here’s what you can do, starting today, this is the fun part:
-instead of doing 3 sets of 10, do 3 sets of 8 with heavier weight. For real shock to the system, try doing 5 sets of 5 with heavy weight.
-instead of doing 10 reps on all exercises in your routine, go lighter and do 15 reps
-instead of doing the exercise bike for your cardio, hop on the treadmill
-instead of always doing abs last in your routine, hit your abs in the beginning of your routine
-instead of always doing crunches on ab machine, do reverse crunches or hold the plank position for 1 minute
-instead of using the barbell, use dumbbells
-instead of using a barbell or dumbbell, use a resistance band or a kettlebell
-change the order of your exercises: instead of always doing flat bench press, lat pulldown, and dumbbell lateral raises. Start with dumbbell lateral raises, go to flat bench press and end with lat pulldowns.
-change the direction of your outdoor walking/running routine. If you always go the same route in your routine, go the opposite direction.
Try a few of these this week in your routine. I think you’ll like results, and I’ll leave you with this quote:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Until next time…
Jason M. Johnson, CPT