Let’s face it – Nothing lasts forever. You train hard, you make good gains, and you’re happy with the results and success you are seeing. And then things change. The gains each week slow down, until they reach a standstill and you start to look and feel the same. You aren’t getting bigger, stronger, or faster each week. You’re just treading water. You’ve officially peaked, and the way down isn’t nearly as glorious. It’s time to change things up, if you’re ever going to make monster gains again. Let’s check out six systems you can employ to get your gains back on track.
Return to the basics
You know what fundamental movements got you to this point, right? Reapply them! It’s likely your training, as you have advanced, has been focused upon isolating muscle groups and targeting weak areas, while working to maintain the basic muscle mass you initially built. It may be time to step back from the iso work, and revisit the heavy bench, deadlift, pressing, curling, and squatting that built that incredible size for you in the first place. Train with these big movements 2-3 times each week for a month. You may see new size emerge in some key muscle groups, which will help all over your body with growth, symmetry and performance.
Relax your diet
Sticking to your diet religiously is a great tactic when you’re trying to grow leaner going into a show. However, if you’re in standard off-season muscle gain mode, and you are at a sticking point, you may be able to boost your results back into the positive direction by adding a little “relaxation” to your diet. Toss in a few cheat meals here and there. Boost your overall caloric intake, adding red meat and some cleat fats, from sources such as almonds or egg yolks. Employing an “all or nothing” approach to diet works when you’re trying to get ripped with a target date in mind. When you’re just trying to keep solid gains going in the off-season, it’s acceptable to cut back on the discipline – just a little bit!
Getting stuck in a rut can be a dangerous thing. Our morale drops and we no longer grow excited to face the same 4 gym walls each day, trudging to the same equipment and knocking out the same sets and reps daily. Why not taking it outside? Spend some time training outdoors. The Vitamin D you’ll enjoy from the sun will help to increase your testosterone production. Using any hanging equipment – even a playground – can deliver a great back/biceps workout. Run on a track or through neighborhoods instead of being stuck on the same treadmill watching the same reruns of “Law & Order”. Mix it up, and get some fresh air for a change!
Many of the best workouts are the ones that just “happen”. Yes, it can be very important when you’re new to lifting to follow a strict and organized training regimen in order to ensure you are following important rules for success. Always start with 1-2 compound movements. Move to a moderate lifting movement for more reps. Finally, burn out the muscle group with higher repetition training using an isolation exercise that specifically targets that muscle group. When you’re new to training, it helps to be able to learn these useful practices while following a pre-determined workout. Once you have these rules down pat, there’s nothing wrong with writing your own workout – on the fly based upon what machines are open in the gym and how you are feeling. This is known as instinctive training and is very helpful for letting the lifter “listen” to his or her body and discover some new gains as a result!
Cut them in half
Let’s say you usually train chest for an hour. Change it up by cutting it in half. If you only had 30 minutes to train chest, what would you be doing differently? Would you add more supersets? Would drop sets or “down the rack” training come into play. Boost the intensity of your workouts by allowing yourself LESS time in the gym to train. You’ll become creative and invent new ways to boost training intensity and garner similar results in half the time. Then you can shock your body by returning to the 60 minutes of training, while using the new intense methods. Results will be spectacular!
If you follow a standard bodybuilding or fitness training regiment, you mostly train for more muscle, strength, size, and lower body fat levels. If you want to shock your body into growth in some new ways, you should train for explosive athletic power, thus forcing your muscles to train outside of their familiar comfort zone, and likely leading to new muscle gains. Look at football, basketball, and hockey workouts. Use the front squat with kettlebell for strength. For power, consider the box jump after a 10 yard dash. If you want to become more durable, knock out planks and chins. Conditioning can be improved with sled pushing/pulling or plate pulls. Train like an athlete, and you will start looking like one!
Slumps happen to every lifter and fitness enthusiast from time to time. The key to getting past them is to recognize it is happening, then make adjustments to your training and other factors so that you can exit this training funk. Employ 1 or 2 or 3 of these techniques, and record your results. If you start making gains again, keep that up until the gains begin to subside and it’s time to try something new.
And when all else fails – Toss a new supplement into the mix! Nothing boosts your training & progress like a new pre-workout!