Plateaus are common in bodybuilding and you will face one sooner or later (if you haven’t yet). But you shouldn’t worry, there are always few different ways to deal with plateaus and continue to grow.
In this article we will talk only about training plateaus – which means problems in your training, and training only. In some cases people just don’t realize that they’ve grown on 5 kilograms in the last months and they must improve their diet and consume more quality calories to continue growing. As a rule of thumb – when you gained 3 kilograms or more, slightly “upgrade” your current diet.
You should always use progressive overload principle in your training (lifting slightly more with each new session), but it gets less effective reasonably quickly – sooner or later there will be a day when you cannot lift any more weight or do any more reps in a particular exercise, and then your growth starts to slow down (however you will still grow if you do your best every time). Then it’s time to spice up your training:
Here are several ways to do that:
It’s an awesome way to intensify your training. Best done with dumbbells. Basically, after your set you take significantly slower dumbbells (on ~30%) and do as much reps as you can. Then you take even smaller dumbbells and do as max as you can. If you are crazy, you can do 4 continuous sets in a single drop-set, but usually 3 are more than enough. You can do that in barbell exercises too, but you need a partner to unload the plates quickly. There should be no rest in a drop-set. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep few set of dumbbells around, so you can proceed lifting smaller ones immediately. Biceps drop-sets are quite popular.
In supersets/tri-sets you do 2/3 different exercises without rest. It’s best to perform exercises for the same muscle group, for example – dumbbell bench presses and then dumbbell fly’s. Or military presses, Arnold presses and shoulder fly’s for tri-sets. Of course you must prepare the weights before you start doing first exercise, because the whole point of superset/tri-set is to provide maximum intensity (that’s why you can’t rest between exercises, only after a complete “set”).
Combining “opposite” muscle groups together.
Arnold was the first who thought that training chest and back on the same day could be really beneficial. He tried his theory out and was surprised by the results – back exercises allowed him to really stretch chest muscles which were very tight after heavy presses. That also improved flexibility. So combining opposite muscle groups works pretty well. Chest-back, biceps-triceps, quads-hamstrings.
If you did 2-minute rest between exercises, cut it to 1minute 30 seconds. If you have no idea how much do you rest, just start 1-30minute rests and you will be shocked with new intensity. For bigger exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses it’s wise to rest a bit more (2 minutes), and for smaller isolation movements 1 minute is more than enough. Just make sure you monitor your rest time with a clock.
Be careful with these, it’s one of the methods which could lead to injury, if you are not very well prepared. And we are not talking about proper warm-up, which is mandatory anyways. We’re talking about your tendon strength and muscle flexibility. And that is not obtained in first months of training. You need at least 6-9 months of intense regular training before trying these. Basically, you take a weight slightly bigger than your max for 1 rep and your partner helps you to lift it, but on the negative phase (lowering weight) you are doing it yourself. Bench press is certainly the most popular exercise for negative reps. But you can do these reps with any exercise, as long as your partner can help you properly (so deadlifts, rows, triceps dips and few other exercises cannot be done with negative reps).
Simple and straightforward. In the last 1-2 sets when you can’t lift the weight any more your partner helps you a little and you do 1-2 additional reps with his help. As with negative reps, it’s not usable with all exercises. Chest presses, most bicep/tricep exercises and most leg exercises are perfect for this.
This will help you to push through your plateaus and start to grow again! If you are a beginner, just avoid these methods, because in the first few months you will be absolutely fine with progressive overload method. And don’t try to stuff your training with more than 1 of these tactics at first – you will over-train.