Break through the plateau

Break through the plateau

Take your training up a notch and do things a little differently to continue to see progress, writes Swetha Subbiah

After training for a few months and being on a high from the progress, you can now feel all of a sudden that you’re in a place where you stop to see changes and you start running low on motivation as a result of it. Welcome! You have just hit a training plateau. Rather than throwing in the towel and calling it a day on your fitness regime, now is when you need to take your training up a notch and do things a little differently to continue to see progress.

A training plateau is when you stop seeing progress despite doing all the “right things” which typically includes exercising regularly, eating right, and getting adequate rest. One usually hits a plateau when they continue to do the same activity over a period of time. This is because one of the goals of the human body is to conserve energy/calories. When we perform a task for the first time, the body is not adequately equipped and ends up expending a lot of energy/calories in order to perform the task (eg., lifting a heavy object off the ground). Over time if we continue to engage in the same activity, the body adapts (by building muscle in this example) in order to perform that activity with less effort and also conserves calories. However, the body develops lean muscle only to the point that is absolutely required and no more. This would be your point of a plateau if you continue to place the same demand on your body. Further, if the demand on the body is reduced over time, the body’s response to this would be to get rid of that lean muscle, since it is no longer required.

How do you break through the plateau and continue to see progress?

Mix it up: Given that one of the primary goals of the body is to conserve calories, one of the ways the body goes about achieving this is by becoming more efficient. Therefore, if we place the same demand on the body, over time the body becomes more and more efficient and the marginal gains from the activity/workout start to reduce. Shocking the body by doing different activities on a regular basis is one of the best ways to overcome this hurdle.

Use the principle of progressive overload: Simply put, this principle basically says that over time, the intensity of your training needs to increase in order to continue to see progress. Intensity can be manipulated in the following ways — lift heavier weights, do more repetitions, take shorter breaks between exercises, increase the overall volume of exercises performed, etc.

Adjust your diet: The body can also become quite efficient over time with the number of calories it burns. As we start to lose weight, the body starts to need a lesser number of calories simply because there is just less of you! Therefore, adjusting your calorie intake in line with your weight loss is important in order for one to continue to see change.

Rest: Rather than worrying about overtraining, what you should really be concerned with is under-recovering. Post-training, while the body is at rest is when adaptations take place. Without appropriate rest, we are overstressing our body and this is counterproductive to our goals. Remember, we only progress from the point of recovery.

In conclusion, when you are at a higher body fat percentage, or just getting started with training, you can make a lot of progress quickly due to there being more to lose, or more gains to be made. As you start to make progress, fine-tune your training programme by mixing it up and making it more challenging for you to see consistent improvement in your body and fitness.

(The author has over a decade of experience in the fitness industry. She is certified in various areas of fitness such as Posture Analysis, Suspension Training, Kettlebell, Advance Personal Training and Pre-Post Natal Training from one of the top institutes in the UK. In 2018, she became one of the few Sports Performance Coaches in the country.)

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