Beast mode, wheelhouse, cardio, core. These are words and phrases thrown around by almost everyone, and they are words that never fail to get my dander up. However, none of these words perturb me as much as the word “plateau” does. Much like “overtraining”, this word seems to be used by newer athletes more than any other group when the PRs slow down or stop rolling in. This short post is going to discuss my personal feelings on plateauing and what I feel that the actual problem is: combining or jumping programs. If you have have been on my site for any length of time, you know how how important I think it is that an athlete strictly adhere to a program’s design. Call me a control freak, but I feel that when a program is designed, it is designed to be followed as written, not supplemented with other programs. I am beginning to lose track of how many times I have been told something along the lines of “I took your Weightlifting program and combined it with some Westside Conjugate Method and added on some Crossfit, but I am not really seeing results. Why?” Well the answer is pretty simple: if you try to take three 4 week programs and try to follow all of them at the same time, you will probably see negligible results from all of them.
Programs are designed for you to hit certain lifts on certain days, with rest days also being part of the design. When you take the program’s rest days and use them to insert another program that is meant to be done by itself, what you are doing is diminishing the return you will get from both programs. Let’s say you are a 150lb female who has been lifting for two years and you have been stuck at a 165lb back squat and a 200lb deadlift for 6 month. Your programming is Crossfit supplemented with 5/3/1 and some conjugate method, leaving you with 8-11 workouts a week. Do you honestly think that a 165lb squat that you have hit a plateau? Or, are you trying to accomplish everything at once, thus accomplishing nothing? It is comparable to going in for a deep tissue massage, but the masseuse tries to massage your whole body, spending about 1-2 minutes on each part of your body. Your time has been wasted and you don’t really feel any better for it. It can no longer be argued that there aren’t strong Crossfitters out there, and the best Crossfitters follow a structured program with the occasional random or Hero WOD thrown in for gits and shiggles. Even when they are coming up on a competition, the program still has structure to prepare them for it. I think that anyone who has been training for less than 5-7 years should not even think about using the word “plateau” and instead work on addressing sleeping and eating issues, and weak parts of the body (upper back, knees, hips). A plateau means that all of your weaknesses have been addressed and you simply do not possess the raw strength to move the weight, even with years and years of training under your belt.
Some of those who think they are plateauing are the same people who spend 2-3 weeks on a program, don’t notice immediate results, and switch to another program. By doing this, they are almost guaranteeing that they will be sitting at the kid’s table for the remainder of their lifting journey. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain ways that programs can be integrated together when it is a planned event by the program designers. For example, I am working with a few Crossfit athletes that are using my Strongman programming along with their gymnastic Crossfit Wods. By planning ahead of time, and taking out the barbell work from their metcons, we have been able to see fat loss, strength gains, and cardiovascular endurance all improve because the separate programs have been altered to be integrated with each other. We did not take two full programs and simply mash them together, that is the mistake I think some athletes make. If you want to become talented in a large field of events, you need to either accomplish them one at a time or work on properly integrating programs into each other, instead of just copying and pasting them together. I will bet $100 that you aren’t plateauing, you are just playing hot potato with your programming.
What are your thoughts? Let us know.