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The Dreaded Plateau

What happened? You were making so much progress, but you haven’t seen any noticeable gains, as of late.

Guess what-- this happens to everybody, so there is no need to become demoralized. The cause of the plateau can be related to a number of reasons, such as diet, workout routine, training form, intensity, genetics, etc. Whether you are looking to increase muscular strength or size, or lose weight, a plateau should be anticipated a time or two, so a well-developed strategy and planning ahead is a smart approach to prevent or minimize the plateau.

One of the most common misconceptions from those who work out recreationally is that their gains will come linearly; in other words, for the weight loss individual, it is very possible to lose a certain amount of weight one week, slightly less for the next week, slightly more on the following week, and maybe even gain weight somewhere along the line. One approach to take for this person is to look at the diet. Let us say this person started her weight loss journey on New Year’s and has lost 15 pounds in the first two weeks, but only one pound on the third week. Since this individual weighs quite a bit less, her estimated energy requirement (a rough estimate of a person’s required daily caloric intake related to age, gender, height, weight and activity level) has become less in comparison to that of pre-New Year’s.

For the individual looking to gain muscular strength or size, periodically changing up the workout routine is an effective strategy to minimize the likelihood of hitting a plateau. For example, this person may want to alternate periods of hypertrophy (muscle building), endurance, strength and circuit training in the long-term plan. If this person wants to compete in a bodybuilding competition, he may not want to spend too much time on the endurance and circuit training workouts because that may hinder muscular growth gains.

Avoiding or getting out of a plateau requires a lot of playing around with one’s approach; recall that I had mentioned that genetics might play a big role in a person’s result. The best advice that I can give is to maintain focus and do not be discouraged.

As always, if you have encountered your own fitness plateau or have any questions, feel free to email me at or tweet me at @showdownfitness.


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