Plateau Protection


By: Christine King Contributing Writer

Both new exercisers and those who have been hitting the gym for years eventually run into a brick wall. Weight loss and muscle gain were steady and then bam, weeks without a change in body composition.

A plateau occurs for a few reasons. Muscle has memory, and if your weekly routine becomes just that, a routine, the neuromuscular system becomes lazy and less likely to respond with results. Also, if your food intake has been less than stellar (Ahem…Holiday Parties), your metabolism may be growing sluggish, causing fewer calories burned, reduced energy and curbed physical results.

Avoiding the dreaded plateau can be simple with proper planning and perhaps a little guidance. Varying weekly exercises is critical. Don’t allow the body to get comfortable in a “routine.”

For strength training, seek professional guidance to safely learn new moves. If you typically use weight machines ask your Fitness Professional to teach you compound and body weight movements. Learn proper use of the tools like the warrior ropes, TRX, stability and medicine balls, BOSU and other foreign-looking objects you see at the gym. Fear not, this equipment gives the workout of a lifetime, and it’s fun! I always tell our clients “Give me a stability ball, and I’ll whip your butt for an hour!”

If you’re stuck on the hamster wheel of three sets, 10 reps per set, stop. Play with the amount of weight used and increase or decrease the reps. Breakdown training is another highly effective method of shaking things up. For example, select a medium weight (not your heaviest used) pair of dumbbells. Maintaining proper form through this exercise is critical. Perform as many biceps curls as you can. Once fatigued pick up the next lightest pair and repeat. Continue until your arms feel like silly putty. This method isn’t appropriate for new exercisers; however, it’s a remarkable technique for a “regular’ and can be implemented for most exercises.

Stop taking rests in between sets. Maintain blood flow and improve metabolism by implementing a lower body exercise immediately after an upper body set. Another option is to throw in a plyometric activity like jump roping, burpees or jumping jacks.

Cardio sessions also need a remodel. Ditch the 30-minute mindless treadmill, bike or elliptical. Instead, try 10 minutes on each machine. If you’re married to a favorite cardio device incorporate interval training. Every five minutes increase the speed for 30 seconds. Soon your overall cardio response will improve and your average pace will seem slow!

These measures significantly improve metabolic response and catapult you right out of the dreaded plateau.

Please consult your physician prior to beginning any type of exercise program.

Christine King is a Medical Exercise Specialist, Fitness Expert, and Founder of YourBestFit. The health and wellness company has helped thousands of clients recover from injuries, look and feel better and improve their overall well-being.