You are working up a real sweat everyday. You're blasting your cardio and powering through your weight training and not seeing any results. It is likely that you've hit that dreaded plateau!
"Yes, most people that continuously do the same type of workout with the same type of repetitions, resistance, and rate will eventually become accustomed to that workout and not make any more advances," says Dr. John Gallucchi, owner of JAG Physical Therapy. But this may not be the only reason you aren't seeing results. "The 'more is better' approach leads to injury, de-motivation, or both," says Dr. John Sullivan, clinical sport psychologist and sport scientist at Clinical and Sports Consulting Services. "Plateaus are a normal part of training, and it is how you learning and react to them that matters."
1. You're Not Assessing What You're Doing
Stop and think about it. Where did your fitness routine come from? "Often, training is not realistic or does not match to the person's capabilities," says Dr. Sullivan. If this sounds like it could be the case for you, Sullivan suggests talking to a fitness professional and having them look at your routine or having them create one that meets your goals.
2. You're Not Eating Enough
Going full tilt at the gym without eating enough can be a disaster. It could even make you go backwards. Dr. Michele Olsen, exercise physiologist at Auburn University Montgomery, explains, "Your muscles are fighting back on you and quitting on you because they're not getting proper recovery time or enough energy for them to rebuild to become leaner... If you don't eat enough, your body will hold onto fat, or even regain fat in the effort to protect your heart and body organs with a supply of needed calories." Make sure your diet matches your training!
3. You're Not Doing What Will Help You Reach Your Goals
You need to focus your workout to matching your goals. If you are training for strength, you need to focus your energies there. Adding extra cardio days may actually contribute to your plateau. Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, assistant professor in exercise science at Lehman College, explains "This is called the 'chronic interference hypothesis,' where concurrent training of cardio and weights performed frequently on a weekly basis have negative effects on strength and muscle development."
4. You're Not Getting Enough Shut-Eye
"One of the most overlooked things that can cause a plateau disaster is not getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night, which puts you in a state of stress, which can cause belly fat gain," says Dr. Olsen. Your muscles need your sleep time to recover, as well. "Often, taking a week off from exercise can help you to bust a plateau so that your sleep patterns 'recover' and normalize," Dr. Olsen explains
5. You're Not Tracking Your Progress
One of the greatest ways to see progress week to week is to keep track of it. "Patterns can be found in almost everything we do, and these can be useful for identifying our readiness for training," says Dr. Sullivan. "You can begin by tracking things like resting heart rate, sleep, and mood, using even your smartphone. If your numbers indicate low, elevated, or inconsistent patterns, it may be time to adjust training intensity or duration."
6. You're Not Hydrating Enough
Not drinking enough water can be a cause of your plateau. "The most common cause of peaking during workouts is not being fully hydrated," says Dr. Olsen. "As you change your exercise program to break out of a plateau, the changes you make in your workout routine won't be fully realized unless you feed your cells with water, water, water—plus, good carbs," she says. It is important to make sure you hydrate before, during and after your workouts.
How do you bust out of your plateaus?