Did this ever happen to you before? You trained really hard, workout 6-7 times a week, 1 to 2 hours each session, you did your cardio workout religiously and pump the weights until you want too puke out, but still you are not losing weight. You get really frustrated and want to give up because you can't seem to lose that fat to get your six-pack.
Well, you most probably have hit your exercise plateau.
Well hitting the weight loss exercise plateau is a very common thing because most of us do not know that it existed! Weight loss don't occur in a linear form, meaning that if you initially get on to an weight loss exercise program and see good results, losing 1 pound of body fat a week, and if you continue doing the same thing month over month, your weight loss progress will slow down, even though you do the exact thing. Well, this because you body have adapted to the exercise routine and its intensity.
I have this client that came to me asked " How to get abs? I have done literally everything by the book for months and I can still see my abs! For six months I have been doing 5 times a week running for 4 km and weight training 3 times a week doing a 3-day per week body split, doing 3 sets per exercise, crunches every day!"
Simple, change your exercise routine! You get results from exercising in the first place because your body is adapting to the intensity and stress that you have given to it, it will respond the same way if you don't change the routine, by not changing at all! Get what I mean? If you keep doing the same thing everyday, your body is adapted to the routine and finds no reason what so ever to change. It likes to stay comfortable. In order to over come the weight loss exercise plateau, you have to keep to body guessing by changing the exercise mode, changing the exercise intensity, changing the exercise its self and also changing the body part combination. It is advised that you change your routine at least every 4 weeks if your beginner, for advanced exercisers, to overcome exercise plateau, changing it more often is better. It takes time for a beginner exerciser to master the particular exercise and exercise plateau is unlikely to happen to beginners because the body is not used to exercising.
Here are some fantastic tips to help you get out of your exercise plateau.
Overcome exercise plateau with different exercise. There is no just one best exercise for a muscle. There are a variety of exercises for any single muscle. Take the chest muscle for example, just to work the upper chest muscle, you can do incline dumbbell chest press, incline bench press, incline machine cheat press, incline dumbbell flye, incline cable chest flye and push up with feet on a bench. You can also use a fit ball and place your upper back on the top of the fit ball and perform your incline presses and flyes. Use a combination of cable, machine and free weights to compliment the benefit of each other.
Beat exercise plateau with different reps and intensities. Don't get to hang up on the 3 set, 8 - 12 reps stuff. No doubt, according to your own fitness goals, the rep range have to be set but try different rep range occasionally to shock the muscle and drive them crazy! Try high reps like 18-20 reps, super low reps with heavy weights 3-6 reps or use this all time favorite of mine, rep it out until failure and use a spotter to help you complete 5 more reps. By hitting the muscle differently, you can over come exercise plateau because the body will feel some new stress and then respond to it. So, if you have been doing 10- 15 reps for months, try doing 8-12 rep with heavy weights for 2 weeks, using 70% of your one rep max. Then get back on to the 10-15-rep range again for 3 weeks.
Changing the intensity of your workout routine can also help you defeat exercise plateau. Decrease your rest time between sets from 1 min to 30 seconds. My all time favorite method of changing my workout intensity is by using high intensity weight training methods like superset, Triset, giant set and circuit training. Superset is doing 2 exercises back to back with no rest. The exercise can be for opposing muscle or within the same muscle group, for example, biceps and triceps, upper chest and middle chest or hamstrings and quads.
An example of a bicep and triceps superset exercise:
Standing bicep barbell curls.
Standing cable triceps press down.
Triset is a combination of 3 exercises for a particular muscle group with no rest in between. A good muscle group that you can use Triset for is triceps, legs and shoulders. The muscles involved in this set should be different. An example of a shoulder Triset is:
Bent over dumbbell rear delt flyes
Standing dumbbell lateral raises
Standing dumbbell front delt raises.
A giant set would be a combo of 4 exercises with no rest in between. Use this for large muscle groups only like legs, chest and back. An example of a leg giant set would be:
Straight leg dead lift
The rep range for these combinations would be 8, 10 and 12. Do 3 of each.
Circuit training is a routine where cardio and weight training is combined to increase intensity. It's a very good routine for defeating exercise plateau. In a program that consists of 10 intervals, one interval will consist of 2-weight training exercises and one high intensity cardio for 2-3 mins as a mark. The circuit is fast moving keeping the heart rate elevated at 80% of the targeted heart rate. The targeted heart rate can be calculated by taking 220 minus your age and then minus your resting heart rate. With the final figure, you add back on your resting heart rate. That is your targeted heart rate. Another excellent way to overcome weight loss exercise plateau is by doing different form of cardio machine, with different terrains and of course with different intensity. If you find just jogging constantly for 1 hour is boring, then include some higher intensity training like HIIT cardio training, Fartlek training, or pyramid style running. This will give some twist to your cardio workout and you will be looking forward to the next session. Using different cardio machines occasionally can help your overcome exercise plateau as well. Different cardio equipment uses different muscle group like for example the treadmill use a lot of quad, hamstring and calf muscles but using the stepper or the stair climber, you can incorporate the butt muscles more, where else with the rower, you include the upper body as well. By using different muscle groups for your cardio, the body is kept guessing and this will help you break down that exercise plateau.
Changing the combination of muscle groups to workout can also help you get past that weight loss plateau. It's not necessary that chest have to be trained with biceps or back muscles with triceps. For one month you can do a push and pull combination, for example training chest (push) and back (pull) or shoulder (pull) and legs (push) or training one muscle group a day. Take an active rest for increased effectiveness in overcoming exercise plateau. Too much of a good thing is not good. For one week, stay active to keep the calories down but stay away from the gym! Go for sports and outdoor activities. This will give your muscles and joints a good full rest, and your mind too. Then when you make a comeback, it will be explosive.
The key for a successful weight loss program is to keep trying new workouts and ideas. Keep the body guessing!