Plateau: the thing that every athlete dreads witnessing. As PR’s are accomplished and progress is being made, many new athletes are unaware that a plateau may be lurking just around the corner. But how can this be? You feel that you are doing everything right. You are eating enough, training on a consistent schedule, and you are getting your mobility and rest in adequate amounts. Perhaps there are other demons lurking within your training that are keeping you from progressing.
Let’s take a look at 3 possible reasons why your progress has hit a plateau.
1. You Are Training With a Cheerleader Instead of an Objective Partner
As I have mentioned in previous articles, anyone can find a pair of clapping hands to stand behind them on a squat and tell them how much they just owned that set of half-squats. It takes an objective partner/coach to bring out the best in an athlete. Being positive is absolutely necessary, but if that’s all that your coach can offer, then you can expect to be hitting a plateau very soon. Don’t take it personally, it’s hard to be objective on yourself. This is why some of the best athletes in the world still have someone else do their programming. My powerlifting comrade Jay Stadtfield is the owner of a squat PR that I would kill to have, yet he still has someone else coach him and write his programming. Find someone who isn’t afraid to tell you that your form sucks and has the knowledge to help you fix it.
They do it because they want to see you succeed.
2.You are Playing Hot Potato With Your Programming
This is one of the more prominent problems that can quickly lead to a plateau. For brand-new athletes, bouncing around from program to program won’t really matter because doing just about anything in the gym will initially get you stronger. The more you advance in your training however, the more important it becomes to focus on your specific training cycle. If your goal is to get stronger (that should always be the goal) then you may make the mistake of reading every program available and try to combine them into one super-program. I see this happen a lot on emails I receive from folks who want to gain strength/size, but still want to hang on to that 6-pack or not lose any speed. Trying to increase strength, speed, agility, hypertrophy, and yoga skills in one program is extremely unlikely as your training advances.
The best of the best focus on one or two goals in each training phase. Any more than that, and the stress from training won’t be enough to elicit an adaptation. You won’t be able to fit every rep/set scheme and every training style into one program.
3. Getting Too Much Advice From Too Many People
When it comes to the way you train, EVERYONE has an opinion on how you should be eating, training, and the best technique. I can still walk into a gym and the kid getting big on the calf raise machine who weighs 140lbs soaking wet will come up to me and give me advice. Getting advice from everyone is a great way for new trainees to get lost and never make any real progress. Instead, listen to one or two people whose training philosophy is something you wish to aspire to. If you have someone like this to run your training, I suggest staying out of the bodybuilding forums. Nothing pisses off a trainer more than hearing “Hey I heard about this new exercise on the internet that’s supposed to really focus on X”.
Do your best to learn your coaches training philosophy so that when a buster comes along and donates his two cents, you won’t be rattled and wont stray from your course.
If you stay aware of the 3 aspects in your training, then hopefully a plateau will be a long ways off. Just remember to have an objective coach who is there to make you better, not kiss you on the forehead. Remember to have one main goal and one secondary goals during each training cycle, and remember to not get lost in the advice from multiple people. Focus on the advice of one or two people and take everything they say to heart.