Recently I have come across a few clients when they have said (with little reason to worry) “I don’t want to plateau” or “I think I have plateaued”. Well before you start fulfilling your own training prophecy it is a good idea to familiarise ourselves on what a plateau is.
A training plateau is a sudden drop in progress in noticeable results in a program whether it be strength, cardiovascular or fat loss. You must remember that the human body is an absolute master of adaptation, so if you’re not making progress, there is likely not enough challenge to cause adaptation! It is a signal to change it up! As athletes, because we are to some degree, if you are consistently training towards a goal, we want to see fast and immediate results. It can be frustrating to see no change on the scales, in your lifts and/or in your times. Rest assured this is normal, even Olympians experience this.
Before we jump to the psychological effects of a plateau lets just get that monkey off your back right now. By changing up your programming every 5 weeks or so, it will stimulate your body in preparation for something new. For example, a resistance training workout that you perform 2-3 times per week that is structured one exercise at a time 3 sets by 12 repetitions each, changed to a weights circuit where you perform 5 exercises in a row and then rest before doing another 2 sets is a great way to stimulate metabolic stress and break the plateau. In the case of cardiovascular progression, instead of concentrating on treadmill intervals lasting 1 minute then resting for 30 seconds, change it up by doubling the time during the conditioning (effort) phase of the session or utilizing hills/incline. You will find you’re body will respond simply due to the variety - happy days.
Then, finally there is the mindset of plateau and how it likes to creep up on us like a repeating garlic pizza. This the part where that self-fulfilling prophecy comes into play. Put it this way, if we were to go out on a run in the rain and say in our heads “I am going to slip and fall down”, the chances of doing that significantly increase. Sticking to a 9-week block training plan, consuming the appropriate number of calories and consistently tracking both ensures the plateau goblins stay away. And remember, there is more to a fitness plan than fat loss, more about that in the next article! If you'd like some guidance for your next program, keep an eye out for the other articles in this series, or shoot us a message on Facebook or our website!