Everyone hits a plateau at some point in their training. This does not mean you are not working hard enough, or not doing enough, but it means that your training needs a change so it delivers a new stimulus to your body. As the saying goes, “you need to make a change to see a change”
1: Focus on movement and exercise quality:
Far too many people in the gym feel that doing more is better. Completing more reps in the gym, or logging more and more miles every time they marathon train or triathlon train. These are just useless, if not regressive repetitions if you are not moving/lifting correctly. Lifting with improper technique is asking for injury, running miles and miles with a hip dysfunction is asking for injury. Building reps on reps with improper technique is extremely detrimental. As a coach, I would not accept my client to squat or deadlift incorrectly for r 4 sets of 12 reps if they are doing it badly. This is drilling in bad habits, bad repetitions, trying to learn a movement the wrong way. “Gaining mileage on incorrect technique” is teaching your body how to move incorrectly. The complete opposite to what you are trying to achieve.
Some of you may be 100% strict on technique and making sure you give the highest quality effort you can muster every single repetition, but losing form towards the end of a set just to ‘get it done’ is failing. Before trying to do more reps, try doing less reps with better work quality.
Movement/Mobility: I see a lot of Personal Trainers asking their clients to do something they can’t actually do. ‘Sit back into a Squat, keep a neutral spine, lock out the elbow, keep your core on’. Continuously shouting at your client to do these things thinking they are just not listening? Maybe you haven’t corrected muscle tightness and strength, maybe you haven’t noticed dysfunctions in there body that are not allowing them to move exactly how you want them to. You haven’t taught them how to move. It’s not your clients fault. How is a trainee going to develop strength and move out of a training plateau if they can’t even move/lift properly.
2: Focus on the fundamental exercises:
Structure and progression is key to any training program so have some fundamentals in which you are looking to improve I.e. Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press, Rows etc. People that spend too long trying to ‘fire up the Glutes’ with bands and kick backs and isolation glute exercises are unfortunately wasting their time as they are not actually strengthening.
Too many people pack out their training session with 10+ exercises and specifically focus on none. How are you going to improve an exercises if it only take up 1/10+ of your session. Most of my sessions myself, or I give my clients have only 4-6 exercises where the specificity is high, the quality is high and the total volume per exercise is enough to elicit a strength response. Not just doing 2-3 sets at 12-15 repetitions of the exercise and then moving on because you have to get everything else in. Focus the session on one main lift, build quality and strength in that lift, use accessories to further the development of that lift and actually start to see a plateau busting training program.
3: Focus on ‘Bang for your buck’ exercises:
Some people may only have 45 minutes up to an hour to train. With some mobilisation and warm up sets, this can cut 20 minutes off your total session time. So we need to be focusing on big compound exercises to deliver the most stimulus for a greater response. Again, Deadlifts, Squats, Lunges Pull Ups, Rows, Bench Press, overhead pressing are all bang for your buck exercises that will get you get you the best results. Wasting time on isolation exercises, or ‘fun’ exercises you have come up with because you don’t want your client to get ‘bored’ will not deliver what your client is paying for - results!
In my own experience, clients that get on board with the programming and love coming in to see if they can lift heavier than last week is all the motivation you need to enjoy your training, but also program the right exercises to stimulate strength, postural, aesthetic and energy system development. Giving your client sit ups or bicep curls at the end of a session because that’s what is ‘fun’ is just not giving your client the value they pay for.