Keep hitting plateaus in the gym? Joseph Gregorio is on hand to help you keep breaking those boundaries
When it comes to weight training, the simplest way of knowing when you’re ready to move up in weight is to perform an additional two repetitions of an exercise with a given resistance across two consecutive workouts.
This is known as the ‘rule of 2’.
For example, if you’re currently bench pressing 70kg (154lbs) for a set of eight repetitions, you should be able to complete 10 repetitions (given time) as you continue to build up your strength. If you’re able to complete two consecutive workouts for 10 repetitions, that’s your cue to begin increasing the load.
On the flip side, you can increase the resistance load when you can perform your 10RM (10 rep max) for 12 repetitions instead.
Now, you’re probably wondering – how much more weight should I load onto the bar? A tried and tested formula for working your upper body is to look at increasing the load by 5kg (11lbs) in total. That’s 2.5kg (5.5lbs) on either side of the bar. So, instead of your working set being 70kg on the bench press, it now becomes 75kg (165lbs).
As a result, you can expect your repetitions to drop back down to eight, which means you need to restart the process of building your strength up to 10 repetitions on the new load.
In terms of lower-body exercises, where you’re able to lift a bit more, increase the load by 10kg (22lbs) in total. This works out to be 5kg (11lbs) on either side of the bar. So, if you’re currently squatting 100kg (220lbs) for eight repetitions, you should look at increasing this to 110kg (242lbs) once you’re able to complete the former with good form in two consecutive workouts.
This may seem like a big jump for most, but it’s important to remember that your legs are the biggest muscle on your body, so they’re more accustomed to handling greater resistance than your upper body.
Of course, the above approach won’t last forever. Over time, you will encounter plateaus, so it’s crucial to know how you can overcome it when it does begin to creep in. You will have to get a lot more creative and utilise different training/lifestyle protocols to overcome it.
However, for building a foundation base, there’s simply no excuse for setting achievable, realistic goals and objectives, and measuring your progress over time to get you where you need to be.
If you do encounter a plateau, nonetheless, after you’ve gone as far as you can using the above protocol, below are some quick-fire solutions to get you back on track:
Increase training intensity (utilise supersets, dropsets, pre-exhaust, rest/pause and pyramid training to encourage growth);
Alternate exercises (if you’ve been performing the same bench press routine for weeks look at targeting your muscles from a different angle with different equipment);
Change the order of your exercises (when muscles get fatigued in a different order they will adapt in a different way meaning more opportunity to grow);
Get more sleep (training too long and too hard drains your central nervous system – get at least eight hours of sleep every night to improve your overall performance in the gym);
Improve your nutrition (ensure your protein intake is high every day with a minimum of 1.6g–2g of protein per kg of bodyweight; don’t forget to incorporate whole grain carbs and healthy fats in your diet also).
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