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Bust through your plateau

If you feel like you're doing the right thing in the gym, but you're not losing any weight, it could be time for a rethink.

If you feel like you're doing the right thing in the gym, but you're not losing any weight, it could be time for a rethink. Photo: Quentin Jones

Hitting your training plateau is like bumping into that glass ceiling at work – it's frustrating, seemingly invisible, and difficult to overcome.

But you can shatter that plateau if you make some changes in your training and lifestyle. Thoreau once said 'Things do not change; we change,' And that is true in the gym and the kitchen. Whether you're strength training, running, or just trying to lose some weight, breakthrough your plateau with the 9 tips below.

Strength Training

If you are looking to increase strength, altering your sets and reps might not be enough. Try these three tips:

1. Rest and rejuvenate – If you're pushing some serious weights, a week off from strength or hypertrophy training is a vacation for your body. Take a week off and let your muscles repair. However, don't use this rest time as an excuse for a week on the booze. Instead employ some active rest – go for some hikes, do some yoga, and get plenty of sleep. Your body will come back stronger.

2. Work surrounding muscles – If you're no longer progressing with activities such as the bench press, it could be that your secondary movers are weak (triceps and shoulders). Scale down your sets and reps on the bench and instead isolate your shoulders and triceps to build strength, then head back to the bench press and break through your one rep max.

3. Strengthen your grip – Fat Gripz are pretty new in Australia, and by widening the barbell/dumbbell, some experts believe they can target your weakest link - your forearms and grip.


Can't break your best time in the City2Surf or the half/full marathon? Then change the way you train. Many runners train by hitting the pavement for a fixed distance at a constant speed, but you need to mix it up if you want to break your runner's plateau. Here's how:

1. French physiologist Veronique Billat developed a type of high intensity interval training to give a VO2max boost called '30-30'. At a speed which you could hold for 6 minutes in race conditions, run for 30 seconds, then bring it down to a jogging pace for 30 seconds. Repeat up to 20 times, or until you cannot hold your fast pace any longer.

2. Stair running and hill running strengthens the muscles in your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. If you're solely running on flat surfaces, hitting the hills and stairs will increase your anaerobic performance and also improve your lactate tolerance.

3. Running does not give you a free pass from the weight room. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts will strengthen your legs, and strengthen you as a runner.

Weight loss

If you feel like you're doing the right thing in the gym and the kitchen, but you're not losing any weight, it could be time to rethink your strategy.

1. In the gym, if you're only doing cardio, then mix in some weights. If you're only doing weights, then start running. Swim, cycle, play tennis, do some fitness classes, or anything else you enjoy. The idea is to mix it up. The body will stay the same unless you throw something new at it.

2. Sometimes it takes a little bit of pain to bring about the biggest change, so it's time to increase the intensity of your workouts. Whatever you do to sweat out some calories, make sure you're doing it with intensity.

3. Change to a healthier diet. Not many Australians eat the daily, required amount of fruit and vegetables and most still consume too much sugar, alcohol, and processed food. If your weight is stuck, examine your diet and where you can make better choices for your body.

Some medical professionals feel motivation is far more important than education in reversing obesity. So while we all inherently know what to do, the motivation to get it done is lacking. If you're at your weight, strength, or running plateau, it's time to re-commit, find your inspiration, and motivate yourself to busting through and reaching new goals.

Have you hit a plateau in your health and fitness goals? How did you overcome it?

  Follow Michael Jarosky on Twitter

17 comments so far

  • I've just start using lifting straps on some exercises, particularly lat pull down and seated row. It took the pressure off my forearms and I was able to add over a 1/3 to my weight immediately and felt I was really hitting my back properly for the first time.

    Date and time
    September 12, 2012, 11:54AM
    • But you're creating a weak link. What could be more functional than a strong grip?

      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 2:12PM
    • I'm not creating a weak link, grip will always be the weak link with any major pulling exercise. Straps still require a grip action and other exercises give a grip work out.

      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 3:05PM
  • All it took for me was a 5 minute conversation with my spin class instructor, he just said something that clicked and I smashed through it staright after that. I was stuck on the same weight for 6 months. In 3 months after the chat I've lost 8KG. Still can't pinpoint eactly what it was but it did the trick!

    Date and time
    September 12, 2012, 12:07PM
    • What did he say?

      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 12:36PM
  • most people will find a stage where the weight no longer drops. i heard recently that this is to do with toxins and water retention in the body. this water alos prtects the fat being burnt by the body for energy.

    i hope that someone will correct this. The Gym owners do not want to know this.

    Date and time
    September 12, 2012, 12:26PM
    • That's just pseudo science, there is no such thing as toxins. People who believe this are extremely vague about what these toxins are.

      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 2:15PM
    • puvi, I notice you didn't provide any sources (reliable or otherwise) to back up your claims about "toxins" and "water protecting fat being burnt". And the reason being is that there aren't any.

      But hey its easier to blame made up toxins for your lack of fat loss rather then actually exercising more or eating less.

      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 2:29PM
    • What rubbish.
      The main parts of the body responsible for filtering "toxins" is the liver and kidney and even the sweat glands do this role as well. Just eat as close to natural foods as you can, exercise both aerobically and anerobically and have a reduced intake of processed foods and you'll maintain a healthy (lean) body.

      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 2:33PM
    • Here's some great advice i heard a long time ago: don't eat any foods that your grandmother wouldn't recognise. That will limit you to fresh, natural food and steer you away from heavily processed, sugar laden modern fast foods. Combine that with regular exercise (doesn't need to be high intensity) and be sensible with alcohol, and the weight will just fall away.

      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 4:47PM

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