Morning! Time for our little weekly fitness chat!

Sunday Sweat Talk

Let’s talk about…

Strength training plateaus

This is a topic that I receive questions on all the time, especially from people who have strength trained for a while but have hit a wall with their progress. Welcome to the fun fitness world of plateaus, my friends!

It’s definitely NOT unusual for workouts to become stale and for fitness gains to level off after a while. In fact, it’s actually expected. When you first start a workout regimen, your body has to work pretty hard. It has to figure out how to grow accustomed to the new stimuli being placed on it, and results can be pretty immediate. But after a while, your body adapts. As you gain strength with a specific movement or routine, your body won’t feel as challenged as much as it probably felt at the beginning. This is because you are achieving higher fitness levels, and your body is looking for new stimulus to grow. Basically, you just need a change!

Without constant challenge, nothing will change. I’m sure you all can picture someone at your gym that you see doing the same exercises, on the same machines, day in and day out. Likely in plateau land. Boredom land. Blah land. “Why do I still look the same” land.

If this resonates with you, here are some tips for breaking through the boredom:

Change the moves
Do you always stick to the same exercises? Consider changing them up by choosing other exercises that work the same muscle groups or  adding a stabilizing or plyometric components. Even if you enjoy sticking to the basics such as squats, deadlifts, and pushups, try choosing different variations of the same moves (front squats, sumo deadlifts, decline pushups). Basic exercises have been around forever because they WORK, so don’t eliminate them all together, just find ways to make them harder.

Move of the Week:  Alternating Medicine Ball Pushups

Change the order
Changing the order of the exercises in your workout will allow your muscles to tire at different times than your body is used to. Last weekend during my upper body workout, I did bench presses during my second mini circuit instead of doing them during my first. Holy crap! I couldn’t lift nearly as much weight as I normally can when I start my upper body routine with bench presses. Just keep in mind that when changing the order, as a general rule of thumb you should always try to work larger muscle groups before smaller ones.

Increase the resistance
One of the easiest way to break out of a plateau is to just make your muscles work HARDER instead of LONGER. That being said, up the weight! If you have lifted the same five and eight pound weights for months, STOP. I remember using the same five, eight, and ten pound weights in group exercise classes for YEARS. Then I joined Best Body Bootcamp, and Tina motivated me to try lifting heavier (ten, twelve, and fifteen pounds). My most recent plateau was with the fifteen pound weights, when I decided to start lifting heavier than that. Now I can’t get enough of the weight room, and my muscles appreciate me dropping back down to fifteens when I’m teaching.

Barbell Row

Vary sets and reps
You don’t always have to stick to three sets of ten-twelve reps. If increasing the weight used, try dropping down to more sets of less reps. Your sets and reps should be based on what your fitness goals are, whether strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, as outlined in this post. You can also try different rep schemes, such as pyramid sets, drop sets, and more.

Embrace different styles
I could write a whole separate post on this, but are you always using the same format and same style of strength training? What type of splits are you using? Maybe instead of upper and lower splits, you shoot for push and pull splits instead. If you always train with straight sets, maybe it’s time to give supersets or circuits a try.

Change your rest periods
Pay attention to how you treat your rest time in between sets. Are you meandering around the gym, taking your time with your water break? Try decreasing the rest period, and you’ll notice a difference in your muscle endurance.

A couple other things that could potentially be causing a plateau include:

  • Poor diet: It doesn’t matter how much you exercise if you don’t fuel your body correctly with a well-balanced diet
  • Over-exercising/not getting enough rest: To make any progress, it’s so important to give your muscles and body time to rest and recover.
  • Not getting enough sleep: The amount of sleep you get has a direct effect on your energy levels when training. Also, the body regenerates and repairs muscle tissue the fastest when asleep.


At the end of the day, if you find yourself hitting a wall in your strength training routine, try not to get too frustrated. Perhaps try tracking your workouts to pinpoint different areas that you might be able to change. Just challenge yourself, and keep on keeping on.

Time to talk! Have you ever hit a strength training plateau? What was causing it? How did you break out of it? Do you have any other tips for how to make changes to a training program? Feel free to also leave a comment checking in about anything fitness oriented that might be on your mind.

For previous Sunday Sweat Talk posts, browse through:

Catch you later!