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A Billion Ways To Bust Through A Muscle, Strength, Or Weight-Loss Plateau

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Think for a minute about your training and progress — does it feel like your muscle growth, strength gains, or weight-loss have slowed, or even stopped altogether?

If so, you’re stuck in the belly of a big, black, fitness abyss known as a plateau. You might be thinking: “I’ve busted my butt in the gym day-in and day-out, but the results just aren’t coming — what’s going on!?” Plateaus are unbelievably discouraging and frustrating, and for a lot of people they cause a complete drop off from fitness altogether.

What exactly is a muscle plateau? It’s the body adapting to a given stimulus — in this case a workout routine — becoming proficient, and ultimately resisting future progress. Muscle growth is all about challenging the body and pushing it beyond what it’s used to. If you’re not pushing yourself, well, then you’re not growing. 

It’s the same theory for education, any career, life. Challenge = new growth.

Luckily I’ve got about billion potential solutions for the problem — reinvigorated muscle growth awaits on the other side.

 

Techniques to Bust Through a Muscle Growth Plateau 


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1. Vary training schedule.


Most people follow a set workout schedule, for example:

  • Monday – Chest/Triceps
  • Tuesday – Back/Biceps
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Shoulders/Abs
  • Friday – Cardio
  • Saturday – Off
  • Sunday- Off

Switch up your workout routine once every two months. It’s important to change the order of workouts in your routine, the body parts that you group together, and even the days of the week in which you work a given body part. The body will adapt if you work chest & triceps every single Monday for a year straight.

A new schedule could look like (there are a bazillion potential variations):

  • Monday – Quads/Hamstrings
  • Tuesday – Abs/Cardio
  • Wednesday – Shoulders/Calves
  • Thursday – Back/Biceps
  • Friday – Off
  • Saturday – Chest/Triceps/Abs
  • Sunday – Off

 

2. Vary exercise types.


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Varying exercises in a routine is the single easiest way to prevent a muscle plateau. It’s smart to choose a few compound exercises for each body part as staples (i.e. squats, deadlifts, pull-ups), and switch the supporting exercises you do every workout. Instead of doing lat pulldowns, try pull-ups. Instead of bent-over barbell rows, try one-arm dumbbell rows. Do the same for every body part.

 

3. Change the order of exercises.


If your chest routine looks something like this: barbell bench press –> incline dumbbell bench press –> dumbbell flies, switch it up to: incline dumbbell bench press > barbell bench press > dumbbell flies. The exercises at the beginning of your workout are ALWAYS the strongest because your body has the most stored-up energy.

 

4. Use different equipment.


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Look around the gym, there are a TON of different types of equipment. Get creative and use it all. Different types include:

  • Dumbbells
  • Barbells
  • Cables
  • Kettlebells
  • Machines
  • Medicine Balls, Exercise Balls
  • Steps
  • TRX
  • Body weight
  • Balance boards

Switch up the equipment you use for particular exercises. If you typically bench with a barbell, try using dumbbells. If you typically do dumbbell chest flies, instead do cable crossovers or use the chest fly machine.

 

5. Work in different rep ranges.


Different rep schemes build different aspects of muscular fitness:

  • The 2-6 rep range is best for building muscle strength
  • The 8-12 rep range is optimal for building muscle size (hypertrophy)
  • The 12-20 rep range is best for developing muscular endurance and stamina

Regardless of your goal, it’s smart to vary rep ranges on major lifts once every month. I recommend spending one month in the 8-12 rep range, the next month in the 2-6 rep range, and then the third month in the 12-20 rep range. This cycling of rep schemes is known as periodization.

Besides preventing adaptation, it’ll allow your muscles muscles to develop a nice balance of size, strength, and endurance. Additionally, the 8-12 rep range tends to give muscles a larger, puffier look, while the 3-6 rep range creates a denser, saran-wrapped look (it’s also called density training).

Build up some size by doing 8-12 reps, and then wrap it up with 3-6 reps. Ripppppppppppppped!

**Important – Low rep ranges ALWAYS means using heavier weights. 

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Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto

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