Breaking the plateau

GHoosdumGHoosdum Icrontian
edited September 2008 in Fitness
For about two months now I've been on a plateau on pretty much every exercise throughout my body. There's a variety of reasons for it: low energy, less frequent gym visits, a knee injury, and less attention to diet.

Yesterday I think I took the first step toward breaking the plateau. My normal workout partner had a baby Friday, so he's a little too busy to go to the gym. I worked out yesterday with another friend. My entire workout routine changed, and that made all the difference. While the exercises we performed yesterday were much less methodical than the routine I'm used to performing, just changing what I do might be what I needed. For the first time in a while, I actually feel some soreness in my upper body the day after a workout. I can't compare weights, obviously, since the exercises were all different, but I'll see whether I truly broke the plateau in a couple weeks when I get back to the normal routine.

On a side note, I really need to refocus on my diet. The only days I've surely hit my caloric goal lately were junk calories. My protein intake is back below 100g/day and I'd say I'm consuming on average less than 2500 calories daily, back to three meals. I need to change back to my five small meals, >2700 calories and 150g protein daily to really see the gains I was making before.


  • ClutchClutch North Carolina New
    edited September 2008
    Are you switching up your routines, or staying on the same exercises? I usually switch my routine every 4-6 weeks. Are you also keeping track of your weights for each exercise? I know the feeling of being stuck at a certain stage, and just can't seem to break past it.
  • GHoosdumGHoosdum Icrontian
    edited September 2008
    We have been evolving our routine every month or so by dropping less effective exercises and replacing with more effective ones (this has left us with a routine that is almost entirely free weights now), but it's rare that we abandon our routine in favor of something all-new. We've only done that once in the past year.

    Progress tracking has been in the form of once-per-month logs. It shows a huge amount of progress over the past year and a half but not a lot in the last few months.
  • ClutchClutch North Carolina New
    edited September 2008
    Check out and for some good articles on plateau busting.
  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited September 2008
    What is your exercise routine? You've a pretty ecto body, not much non-essential fat left to burn. What are your goals? Why are you eating for bulking and still doing cardio? What is your week-to-week programming like? Are you doing heavy lifting?
  • GHoosdumGHoosdum Icrontian
    edited September 2008
    We've migrated as much toward free weights and bar exercises as possible. Generally we have a light warmup set followed by four sets of as much weight as we can handle. Here's our normal routine:

    Workout 1:
    3x10 dumbbell press (warm-up exercise)
    5x5 bench press
    3xF pull-up
    3x10 back extensions
    3x10 T-bar row
    3xF pushups

    Workout 2:
    5x5 squat
    3x10 leg raises
    6x10 crunches
    3x10 Arnold press
    3x10 lateral raise
    5x10 db shrugs

    Workout 3:
    5x5 preacher curl
    3x10 skull crushers
    3xF chin-up
    5x5 dip
    3xF close pushup

    The only thing I do that resembles cardio is my bike riding, but that's more for pleasure than exercise. I've been limiting myself to short rides, under 20 miles, since my knee injury. The single speed configuration of my bike makes it feel like just as much a leg workout as cardio.
  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited September 2008
    Some of your programming is a bit strange as it recruits the same msucles as a primary actuator more than once throughout the week. Let me give some examples:
    Week 1:
    Dumbell Press - Pectoralis Major
    Bench Press - Pectoralis Major

    Week 3:
    Close Pushup - Pectoralis Major
    Week 1:
    Pushups - Triceps

    Week 3:
    Skullcrushers - Triceps

    You may be running into plateaus because various muscle groups are fatigued later in the week. Try to limit your programming to two muscle groups/day. For example, my programming is:

    DAY 1:
    Legs (Quads, hamstring, soleus, gastrocnemius, gluts)
    Stomach (Abdominal and obliques)

    DAY 2:
    Chest (Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus)
    Shoulder (Anterior/posterior/lateral delt)

    DAY 3:
    Back (Lats, traps, Iliac crest, fascia)
    Arms (Everything in the fore arm, bicep)

    In no instance does a muscle group get recruited as the primary actuator twice in one week. Like I said, that just leads to muscle fatigue. You must do what works for you, but I suggest switching around your routine to isolate the muscle groups in some way similar to what I outlined.

    You can drop pushups completely, as if you're doing bench, they're more effective.

    I would get rid of preacher curls and move up to 8 bodyweight dips, then switch to weighted dips. Preachers are an isolation exercise and not terribly prudent for beginners like us who still benefit greatly from the amazing compound exercise that is the dip.

    I also notice that you have no focus on your arms aside from what impact is created by pullups and bench. I would move to eliminate pullups and add DB curls to your programming. Retain pullups as they're amazing.

    I would advise dropping back extensions in favor of deadlifts as, again, hyperextensions are another isolation exercise. Deadlifts will focus your back but also give you intensity in your abdomen and legs.

    While you have flat bench on your rotation, your pectoralis minor is being ignored. I would add incline bench to the rotation to make sure you're getting even development in your chest area.

    Drop crunches and replace them with weighted incline situps and romanian situps. Your abs will die in a fiery death, and it'll be great.

    For arnold press, replace it with DB shoulder press and keep your lateral raises above shoulder level. You'll receive adequate delt work from these two exercises, plus using the bar will increase your intensity and intermuscular recruitment.

    Lastly, you may simply have stalled. You may need to do what's called a reset where you go back to a lighter weight and slowly work yourself back up to your plateau. It's also a bit psychological, as admitting you're at a plateau has the tendency to reinforce it. Grab that ****ing weight and beat the **** out of it!
  • NomadNomad A Small Piece of Hell Icrontian
    edited September 2008
    It's fairly simple, change your routine when it stops working. Some people use the same routine for six months because it still produces results. I don't advise jumping around a lot, but it can help reduce the monotony and fatigue. Take a week break every so often (2-3 months, listen to your body) and eat well during that time off.

    Your split has a kind of mixed bag, some muscles are getting worked twice. Your should probably do something where it's like, upper, lower, back.

    On upper, you'd stick shoulders, triceps, chest. For lower, it would be strictly your legs and abdominals and for back it would be your back and arms (since arms are integral to many movements to the back like rows and pull-ups).
  • GHoosdumGHoosdum Icrontian
    edited September 2008
    So far I've been enjoying the break from routine. It's kind of a free-form gym experience when I work out with my friend Dan. Once this stops benefiting me I will restructure the workout and go for something more methodical as you guys are suggesting. For now, I think I'm seeing a benefit because I'm trying for good form on all the lifts we do, even though they're different weights and rep ranges than I'm used to. Today I'm sore, and I like it.
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