Feel like you've hit a plateau in your training and wonder why you're not getting stronger?
Building muscular strength has a whole host of benefits for everyone from the Bodybuilder as a means to build muscle through progressive overload to the general gym goer who wants to be fit and healthy long in to later life, Strength training is a must for everyone and continuing to improve strength has numerous benefits.
So what do you do if you if you've reached a plateau in your Strength progression?
3 Reasons why you're being held back
- Your Form -
Spending any amount of time in the gym will highlight one of the biggest issues we have in increasing our Strength is the form used with exercises.
Not spending time improving your form on an exercise will in the long run hold you back. You're starting from a broken foundation expecting to make progress, you'll increase your risk of injury it's only a matter of time before an injury occurs and to add to that you'll likely not even lift with the Muscle you expect as others take over to compensate for the inferior movement pattern.
-What Can you do?-
- Record yourself and be critical what are you taking shortcuts on? what can you improve? or if you're still unsure work with a professional to assess your form and help correct any issues.
- Lower the weight, often poor form stems from trying to lift more weight that you can handle. Stop with the Ego drop the weight and start again, perfect that form and then slowly over weeks, months and years add the smallest weight possible to progress and keep your form intact. You'll pass the weight you've been grinding out with bad form quicker than you think, make better strength progress in the future and reduce your chance of injury. Thank me later.
- Take your time -
So many especially those new to the gym come in with there new found plan from the latest workout trend expecting immediate results or letting there ego's take control. Load up the bar with as much weight as possible and proceed to grind out those reps... for the next month! You've already begun at a disadvantage giving your body no time to actually adapt to the training stimuli and if you don't end up with terrible form or an injury then all you're doing is stunting your progress.
Training, muscle gain and strength gains are your body's adaptation to the stress you put on your body through training. If you just start with the most you can handle you give yourself no time to actually adapt to that weight, you must allow your body time to adapt to the demands placed on it and this is done through progressive overload.
-What Can you do?-
- Start light with any new training program, new exercise or returning to the gym you should start lighter than you think leave a good few reps in the tank and again maintain that form!
- Create a Diary Log your workouts it's so important for any lifter is to log what you do in the gym. Use your phone or bring an old fashioned diary. Write down each exercise you do and what Sets/Reps and rest times you use. This is how you progress and cause that adaptation to training.
- Progressive Overload Each week check your diary. As long as your form maintained and you had reps in the tank add more weight than the previous week. 2.5kg for upper body and 5kg for lower body exercises is a good starting point. Taking weeks/Months to improve will give your body time to adapt, build strength and muscle and continue to progress much quicker than your friend grinding the same weight out every week.
- Stick with a PLAN -
You've just seen another exercise routine posted by your favourite celebrity? Like the look of that Glute builder 2000 plan going round Instagram (I made that up) or just wanted to try an exercise your mate just showed you? Then don't! Stop jumping from plan to plan, and exercise to exercise; going back to the previous point you're not giving your body time to adapt to the exercise given if you're always moving between plans you can never effectively overload. You start a plan, start getting strong and seeing results with that new Squat variation and now you're bored you switch to another plan... you've just lost out on the adaptation to that exercise your body was developing, reducing your chances of building muscle and progressing your strength.
-What Can you do?-
- Stick with it a minimum of 6-10 weeks for most plans, use that time to log you progress and get stronger. It's not that long, you'll see better results and build some consistency and willpower.
- Be Accountable to someone such as a friend, a coach or just your diary. Be accountable to something and stick to the plan.
There's so much more than the above and this topic can be endless, but if you follow the 3 steps above you'll build a great base for lifelong progress with your strength and training in general.
- TENSION -
One of my favourite subjects in Strength and training in general is the importance of Tension when training and how important this is to long term strength progression, injury prevention and in turn assisting with keeping form on point. Create a strong solid base and you'll lift more while maintaining that all important form especially on larger lifts e.g. Deadlifts/Squats
Tension comes in many forms, but for training we want tension to start from the core and also to be specific for the exercise involved. You don't want arms flailing and moving around when Benching neither do you want your midsection unstable when walking out and Squatting, you'll be less optimal in working the muscle your trying to improve and increase the chance of form breakdown. This is especially important when working with maximal weights or high rep routines.
-What Can you do?-
- Scan your body are you just performing the movement with no thought and no setup?
Benching? squeeze that upper back back and together, crush the bar, engage those lats all this before you even move the bar.
Overhead Press? If you're standing tense your core(abs) and squeeze your Glutes so important for protecting your lower back. Shoulder blades together and back, build that feeling of full body tension.
Squats? Pull the bar into your upper back, tense your lats, engage and tighten your core. Take small steps don't wobble around all before even squatting the weight. Big breath and create that tension.
Below is a video of myself some time ago Squatting and if you have the volume on you can hear my terrible impersonation of a train, terrible trains aside the reason for this is to maintain as much body tension as possible after the initial lift off and creating tension the small breaths are to help stop the midsection collapsing when expelling air keeping tight throughout. Without this it'd have been a much more difficult Squat.
These are just a few examples and aren't comprehensive the main thing is you take time, every day learn and apply something new. Your progress, training and body will thank you for it.
If you're unsure of any of the steps above, need a refresher or just want to take your training to the next level. Then I can't stress enough about the benefits of working with a good PT/Coach.
Until next time.
Matt Ardron Coaching